Ellen Abbott

Reporter, Syracuse

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County.  Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered. 

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Voters in New York have until Friday to register to vote in time for the state's June 23rd Primary. This year, voters will be able to either go to the polls, or vote by absentee ballot.

The state has mailed out absentee ballot applications to everyone eligible to vote in the primary. Onondaga County Democratic Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny said more than 15,000 thousand voters have asked for an absentee ballot in Onondaga County.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO Public Media

Onondaga County is preparing for phase two of the restart of the central New York economy. County Executive Ryan McMahon said Tuesday the numbers are good 10 days into phase one of reopening. He admitted, opening up things like law firms and downtown offices makes this one of the most aggressive moves into higher density situations. 

Jason Smith / WRVO News (file photo)

Following a yearlong review, plans to merge five Catholic churches into one parish in Oswego will move ahead. But an historic church in the city Oswego will also continue to operate under different rules.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

New York will allow religious gatherings of up to 10 people starting Thursday, but that size restriction makes it unlikely many services will get underway.

Pastor Darren Jaime of the People's A.M.E Zion Church in Syracuse isn't aware of any parishes that would fit the size requirement. It's nothing a church his size could do.

"Maybe you do ten only for three services. I don't know what the answer would be for those who have that threshold," Jaime said. "Certainly it's a start, but before we can embrace that, it's going to have to open up bigger than that."

St. Joseph's Hospital

St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center in Syracuse is one of 16 hospitals across the state taking part in a pilot program to determine the best way to reopen hospitals to visitors. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday the pilot program will allow limited visitors in hospitals.

"It is terrible to have someone in the hospital, and that person is isolated, not able to see family and friends. I understand the health reasons, you're afraid of the virus spread," Cuomo said.

Cuomo hopes this two-week pilot program can assess ways to bring visitors into the hospital safely.

Amazon is at the center of what is arguably the biggest economic development project in central New York in decades. An Amazon executive made the announcement via video Monday during Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon's daily coronavirus news conference.

Anand Mehta, Amazon's regional director of operations, let everyone in on what's been a closely guarded secret since a distribution project was announced last fall, from a video monitor rolled onto the stage.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO Public Media

Economists are taking a closer look at unemployment numbers that are the worst since the Great Depression.

Russell Weaver is an economic geographer at the Cornell School of Industrial Relations. That means he dives into the unemployment numbers looking for trends in certain areas or populations. And so far, the numbers he's scrutinizing don't bode well for the poor and marginalized members of our society.

“A lot of the headlines in terms of this pandemic being a great equalizer, isn't necessarily so, in the way it's playing out," Weaver said.  

One thousand families will be getting boxes of dairy items and locally grown fruits and vegetables Tuesday courtesy of New York State's Nourish New York program, which provides $25 million to food banks across the state for food distribution events like the one happening at the New York State Fairgrounds

Central New York Food Bank spokeswoman Lynn Hy said the giveaway will augment current programs that are meeting an unprecedented need at the Food Bank.

When New York State hits the unpause button, manufacturers will be one of the first businesses to get working again,  and central New York and Mohawk Valley businesses are getting ready.

Many manufacturers have remained operating during the economic pause caused by COVID-19. Randy Wolken, executive director of the Manufacturer's Association of Central New York said their surveys show a majority operating in some capacity.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

Nursing homes are at the center of a couple of new issues facing Onondaga County as it fights the coronavirus.

County Executive Ryan McMahon said Thursday it was as if a "hammer dropped on my head" when he learned that 19 deaths in nursing homes in the county apparently haven't been included in the daily count of COVID-19 deaths. After those figures came in from the state, the county's death count went from 41 to 60.

"19 people I had no clue we lost," McMahon said.

McMahon said there were no new deaths Wednesday, but the total number of cases rose to 1,234. 

Justin Sewell / Flickr

Officials in Oneida and Madison counties are tracking down the movements of at least 139 employees of Green Empire Farms who have tested positive for COVID-19, the main reason for a major spike in the number of coronavirus cases in the counties in the last few days.

Jason Smith / WRVO News

Car buyers can get back into dealer showrooms in some areas of central New York. Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said Tuesday the state will allow controlled scenarios for people who want to buy a vehicle from a dealer.

Visits to any dealership will be by appointment only, and a number of safety precautions will be monitored to keep dealers and buyers safe. Everyone must wear a mask, and paperwork would be signed in open areas.

WRVO News (file photo)

As leaders in Washington continue negotiations over the next coronavirus relief package, New Yorkers are pleading for help. Tight budgets at the local and state levels could lead to tax increases and layoffs in the future.

Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) has signatures of every major leader in his district, asking that the next coronavirus relief package includes help for state and local governments.

"Without aid from Washington, I fear for the worse," Brindisi said.

Heritage Hill Brewhouse / Facebook

As New York state's coronavirus numbers improve, officials are looking towards the restart and recovery of the economy, which has been decimated by the shutdown of most businesses in the state. Local businesses are coming up with plans for restarting, but how and when they go into effect are still an unknown.

The Heritage Hill Brewery is perched at the top of a hill in the town of Pompey, in the middle of a 300-acre farm. Owner Dan Palladino says that gives them a unique opportunity to reopen his brewpub-restaurant outdoors sooner rather than later.

Onondaga Community College Facebook

Like other higher education institutions, Onondaga Community College is finding recruiting students challenging in a time of the coronavirus. 

Monash University / Flickr

For the first time since March, certain hospitals in Upstate New York will be allowed to resume limited outpatient surgeries in the coming days and weeks. State guidelines will determine which facilities can once again start performing everything from general surgery to orthopedics.

The trends of COVID-19 patients in a county and whether there is a buffer of hospital beds are two of the main criteria hospitals need to meet in order to perform outpatient surgeries. According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, central New York fits that criteria.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

Onondaga County officials reported another death from COVID-19 Monday. A woman in her 70s became the 26th person in the county to die from the disease. There are now 819 total cases in Onondaga County. 40 people are hospitalized, 10 in critical condition.

Officials in Oneida, Oswego and Wayne counties all reported new deaths from COVID-19 Monday. Statewide, the number of deaths climbed to 17,303.

WRVO News (file photo)

Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) is calling on the federal government to give New York State its fair share of funding from the Paycheck Protection Program. Businesses in the state received the second lowest percentage of funding from the first round of the Paycheck Protection Program. During a virtual press conference late last week…Brindisi said that’s not right.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO Public Media

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said Thursday he was very disappointed there was no aid to local governments included in the most recent federal stimulus package. He said while businesses and hospitals need the federal cash infusion, county and city governments need it as well.

"We provide those basic essential services we’ve talked about in recent weeks. Police, fire, the health department," Walsh said. "Think about where we would be as a community if the county was not in the position to fund the health department the way they need to. That’s what’s on the line here."

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media File Photo

Wednesday is the 50th anniversary of the world’s largest environmental movement. While the coronavirus pandemic is overshadowing Earth Day 2020, environmental activists say it’s still a good time to reflect on how we are treating the planet. 

WRVO News (file photo)

Onondaga County has had another death due to COVID-19. County Executive Ryan McMahon said Tuesday a man in his 50s with underlying health conditions is the latest victim of the disease. There have been a total of 22 deaths in the county. 667 county residents have tested positive as of Tuesday.

Onondaga County / File Photo

COVID-19 has claimed the lives of two more individuals in Onondaga County over the last day, bringing the death toll to 21. After Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon announced that Monday, he said there were nine new cases, the lowest daily total in a month.

Centerstate CEO

The COVID-19 pandemic has “profoundly touched” every corner of central New York’s economy, according to a business impact survey conducted by CenterState CEO.

Hamza Butt / Flickr

The pollen level in central New York has been rising over the last few weeks, and that means a lot of people will begin suffering the effects of seasonal allergies. Dr. Tucker Harris with St. Joseph’s Health treats patients for a wide variety of allergies. He expects his office to get busier in coming days, and one of the big questions he expects to hear?

"Is it COVID or is it allergies?," he said.

WRVO News File Photo

Blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients is currently being pumped into the veins of sick patients at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse. A pair of women are the first to donate their blood plasma. Doctors hope it can help some of the sickest victims of the coronavirus. 

Alzheimer's Association, Central New York Chapter Facebook

The isolation of quarantining during a pandemic brings a new set of challenges to families who care for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. 

Near Westside Initiative Facebook

Volunteers in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the City of Syracuse are trying to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus in their community.

Onondaga County

New York State now has over 10,000 deaths from the coronavirus. Onondaga County is up to 11 deaths after two more people died. 

WRVO News File Photo

Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse has been testing patients for the coronavirus in its own lab since last week. This means tests come back much faster than the 2-4 day turnaround time that was the standard.

Payne Horning / WRVO News (file photo)

Positive cases of COVID-19 continue to escalate in Onondaga County. As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 422, with 41 people hospitalized, and 22 in critical condition. There have been six deaths in the county.

County Executive Ryan McMahon said Wednesday following a new voluntary shelter in place order, residents are doing a better job of social distancing. But he is worried about one way of spreading the disease that continues to come up, people going to work sick.