DiBella’s continues Pay It Forward program

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous local businesses have stepped up to help each other and the underserved population in Rochester. DiBella’s Old Fashioned Submarines Inc. has donated more than $365,000 to food banks in more than a dozen cities across the five states the restaurant serves.

Foodlink Inc. this month received a $100,000 donation from DiBella’s Subs, which will help provide more than 300,000 meals to those in need in the region. Foodlink is the regional food bank that provides donated food to local pantries, among other things.

DiBella’s has begun a Pay It Forward program in which any customer who wants to donate a tray of subs to first responders, health care workers, military and other essential workers will receive 50 percent off that order. DiBella’s will match the rest and deliver the food. More than 100 trays had been delivered by the first week in May, officials said.

The restaurant also offers 50 percent off all subs to first responders. More than 1,500 orders fed more than 6,000 first responders in Rochester as of May 6, and the program continues. The essential worker program has led to more than $50,000 in discounts for “local heroes,” company officials said.

DiBella’s on Saturday concluded its National Nurses Week program, which expanded its Pay It Forward program to include boxed lunches for local nurses. For each customer purchase of a boxed lunch at full price that was donated to an essential worker, the restaurant matched the donation and sent the same number of boxed lunches to nurses in the community.

Finally, DiBella’s reached out to PepsiCo Inc. and Frito-Lay Inc., which came through with tractor-trailers full of packaged snacks to supplement the lunches that DiBella’s has donated. Some recent deliveries have been made to Strong Memorial Hospital, Highland Hospital and Edna Tina Wilson Living Center.

DiBella’s was founded in Rochester nearly a century ago as an Italian import store and deli. The restaurant has more than 40 stores in five states, including seven in the Rochester area.

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Professional consultants to hold pro-bono clinic

The Rochester Professional Consultants Network plans to host a Business Drop-In Clinic next month for small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The clinic will be held online via Zoom.

RPCN will hold the clinic on June 1 as a way for members to share their expertise by offering pro-bono consulting services to small businesses. For small business owners and leaders unable to attend the clinic, RPCN has a request for consulting services form on the clinic registration page. Officials said a consultant will reach out to those individuals within 48 hours.

“Our goal is to assist struggling businesses by offering the expertise of our RPCN consultants,” said David Powe, founder and CEO of AIOPX Management Consulting and RPCN board member. “We truly believe in supporting other small, local businesses.

RPCN held its first Drop-In Clinic on May 11.

“I felt very welcome by everyone in the group,” said attendee Deborah Smith, owner of Deborah Jean & Co. “They made me feel like they were there to help me with any current struggles.”

More information can be found at www.rochesterconsultants.org.

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Funds available for MWBEs during pandemic

The Urban League of Rochester N.Y. Inc. has been selected to administer a $100,000 small business stabilization fund provided by the KeyBank Business Boost & Build Program powered by JumpStart.

The Small Business Relief and Retooling Grant Program will support minority- and women-owned businesses in Monroe County and is part of a $500,000 commitment by KeyBank and Jumpstart to provide relief to small business communities throughout Upstate New York in response to the economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

The Small Business Relief & Retooling Grant program will augment the city of Rochester’s successful Business Emergency Retention Grant (BERG) by providing targeted assistance to MWBE businesses. The BERG grants, averaging $2,000, may be used for working capital, business expenses to continue operations and to retain employees. Together, the two grants can provide qualified city businesses with as much as $7,000 in grant funding, officials said.

“I applaud KeyBank and the Urban League of Rochester for creating the Small Business Relief and Retooling Grant to help minority- and women-owned businesses survive the economic storm brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren in a statement. “This grant will complement the success of the city’s Business Emergency Retention Grant and help keep minority- and women-owned businesses viable through this challenge. Public-private partnerships like this play a vital role in our efforts to create more jobs, safer and more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities.”

Vulnerable communities including communities of color have been particularly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Small business owners are facing challenges in sustaining their business during this period and many are ineligible or not positioned to receive federal relief funding, officials noted in the statement. The funding is intended to fill identified gaps in relief funding while also providing technical assistance and one-on-one business consultation, including financial resiliency training classes provided by the Urban League in partnership with TruFund Financial Inc., a New York City-based Community Development Financial Institution.

“The COVID-19 crisis has presented unprecedented challenges to small businesses in our region and they need our collective support,” said Phil Muscato, KeyBank Rochester Market president. “We are proud to partner with JumpStart to provide crucial funding, assistance and hope that will help our community move forward and recover.”

Eligible minority- and women-owned businesses in the industries of service and hospitality, lifestyle or health and wellness, can receive grants of up to $7,000 per business while funds last. Grants will be prioritized for those who could not receive or who were not eligible for emergency relief funding through the SBA.

“Now, more than ever, small business owners need the support of the Urban League to help pivot during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Urban League President and CEO Seanelle Hawkins. “We are grateful to KeyBank for its continued commitment in supporting our community with a keen focus on small businesses. The program will help business owners implement resiliency and retooling strategies to help their businesses move forward and grow.”

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Golisano Foundation awards COVID-19 grants

The Golisano Foundation has awarded nearly $430,000 in its first round of COVID-19 Response Grants.

Grants totaling $403,000 will help organizations serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities with urgent needs stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. Grants totaling $23,300 from the foundation’s new Bailey and Friends Fund will go to organizations dedicated to animal welfare that are experiencing unexpected costs due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The foundation will redirect roughly $2 million in grant funding to assist organizations in Western New York and Southwest Florida due to the coronavirus crisis.

The grant application process was announced and opened on April 24, and the first round of grants was turned around in 10 days from application receipt to checks in the mail, officials said. Some 50 organizations that the foundation has supported over the last three years were invited to submit applications. Since the agencies are known to the Foundation, due diligence had already been done, allowing the process to be streamlined and as fast as possible.

“These organizations are supporting some of our most vulnerable citizens and are experiencing tremendous pressures,” said Ann Costello, executive director of the foundation. “As we launched this grant process, our objective was to be flexible, give some peace of mind and pay some very needed expenses. We are so impressed with the creativity being used to keep as many services as possible going, to maintain safety and quality of services, stay in touch with people and put programs online and in homes. We appreciate and admire their commitment, dedication and creativity as they work hard under new and difficult circumstances to continue to help those in need.”

The next round of grant decisions will be made by May 27 and may help cover items such as short-term operating expenses for essential programs, safety net and specialty services; the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies/equipment; new technology and technical assistance for virtual commuting and telemedicine; cleaning supplies for health and hygiene; efforts to ensure safe distancing in group homes and facilities, among others.

Golisano Foundation first-round grant recipients were:
• The Arc of Steuben – $50,000
• AutismUp – $100,000
• Best Buddies WNY – $20,000
• Best Buddies South West Florida – $30,000
• Heritage Christian Services – $75,000
• Mary Cariola Children’s Center – $64,000
• Special Olympics New York – $64,000

Bailey and Fiends first-round grant recipients included:
• Beverly Animal Shelter – $5,000
• The Humane Society of Yates County – $1,000
• Mr. Grey’s Strays Inc. – $2,000
• Pet Pride of NY – $4,800
• Rochester Hope for Pets – $3,000
• SNIP Collier – $5,000
• Wyoming County SPCA – $2,500

“The Golisano Foundation has consistently been here for Special Olympics New York. We are so grateful for their continuing partnership and dedication to our athletes,” said Special Olympics New York President and CEO Stacey Hengsterman. “This funding is going to help ensure that when we are able to bring back live training and programs, our athletes, coaches and volunteers will have everything they need to compete in a safe and healthy environment.”

Founded in 1985 by philanthropist and Paychex Inc. founder Tom Golisano, the foundation “imagines the possibilities,” advocating for families, fighting for their dignity and giving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity to thrive in their communities. With more than $45 million in gross assets, the foundation awards roughly $2 million annually to non-profit organizations in Western New York and Southwest Florida.

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Survey: Genesee County businesses prioritize safe reopening for customers

More than 100 businesses in Genesee County responded to a recent economic survey, with nearly two-thirds indicating they had applied for financial assistance during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Genesee County Economic Development Center, Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, the Batavia Development Corp. and the Batavia Business Improvement District conducted the online survey last week with businesses in various sectors, including dining/hospitality, entertainment, fitness, medical services, non-profit, professional services and retail.

“Governor Cuomo’s NY Forward plan provides a path for Genesee County and the Finger Lakes Region to reopen intelligently and safely,” said GCEDC President and CEO Steve Hyde in a statement. “The input of our small business community, manufacturers and local leaders shows that re-opening safely is a shared priority, and our economic development team supports that mission.”

The survey found that businesses see getting customers back into their doors, access to personal protective equipment and developing a safe re-opening plan as their biggest challenges to re-opening.

The survey also found that 63 percent of businesses had applied for either the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) or Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) assistance. Of those that applied, 50 percent had received EIDLs, and 82 percent had received PPP help.

Respondents support a coordinated Genesee County Shop Local campaign and expressed interest in safety plan development and training.

The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce will host a Zoom webinar on Thursday, May 14th from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. featuring Paul Pettit, public health director for Genesee County. Topics of the webinar include the status of the county’s reopening; formulating a reopening plan for business; sanitation and social distancing tips for the workplace; and reopening guidance from the Genesee County and Orleans County Health Departments.

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Girl Scouts cancel summer day, resident camps

The Girl Scouts of Western New York has made the decision not to open its day and resident camps for more than 2,000 girls this summer due to safety concerns surrounding the COVID-19 virus, officials said Tuesday.

The decision also affects some 160 seasonal staff that will not be hired. Families, staff and Girl Scout members were notified of the decision earlier today. Girl Scouts of Western New York plans to offer virtual and alternative camping and Girl Scout programming instead.

“While this is obviously a hard decision, we doubt this comes as a surprise to most people,” Girl Scouts CEO Alison Wilcox said in a statement. “We must put the safety of girls, families, volunteers and staff first, and there’s no way we can see accommodating campers in proximity to each other and staff in camp settings safely during this time.”

GSWNY operates day camps at Camp Piperwood in Fairport, as well as three other day and resident camps in Western New York. Last summer, more than 2,000 Girl Scouts attended those camps through various summer sessions. Piperwood served 338 girls.

All camp property rentals have been canceled through Aug. 31, 2020, and pre-registration fees for campers and rentals will be refunded within 30 days. In addition, the suspension of all in-person Girl Scout activities is extended until at least June 30.

Camp staff last summer included 58 at Piperwood. Camp directors will continue to work this summer, assisting with virtual and other programming GSWNY plans to offer. GSWNY is surveying families to determine what type of summer programming they seek.

“We made the decision now so seasonal camp staff has as much notice as possible to help them make alternate plans for summer jobs, and parents have notice to find alternative child care for the summer,” Wilcox said. “We also understand the disappointment our Girl Scouts and their families will feel without these opportunities. We want them to know Girl Scouting has remained strong for over 100 years and our camp programs will still be here for future summers.”

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Rural hospitals, health systems receive CARES funding

More than $264 million in federal funding has been made for rural hospitals, health systems and community health centers across New York, including several in the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region.

U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand on Friday said the funding, allocated by Health and Human Services, would be used to combat COVID-19 in rural areas. Schumer previously had announced more than $1.4 billion in the second round of CARES Act hospital funding.

“This funding is good news for our rural hospitals and health centers throughout Upstate New York that have been fighting to save lives and simultaneously struggling to make ends meet during the ongoing public health crisis. Our rural Upstate hospitals and providers have been New York’s heroes in the battle against COVID-19 and these critical dollars will help keep the fight against the virus going strong,” Schumer said in a statement. “I will continue to fight tirelessly to make sure New York’s world-class health care workforce and our hospitals get all the federal support they need to beat back this pandemic and get on the road to recovery.”

Funding for local hospitals and health systems include:
 Geneva General Hospital/Finger Lakes Health, $5.4 million
 Jones Memorial Hospital/University of Rochester Medicine, $3.84 million
 Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital/Finger Lakes Health, $3.57 million
 St. James Hospital/UR Medicine, $3.67 million
 Newark-Wayne Community Hospital/Rochester Regional Health, $5.04 million
 Nicholas H. Noyes Memorial Hospital/UR Medicine, $4.19 million
 Orleans Community Health, $3.49 million
 United Memorial Medical Center/RRH, $5.06 million

“Even before this pandemic rural health care providers were struggling to stay afloat and it’s critical that they have immediate access to capital, grant and loan programs as they combat COVID-19 in New York’s most affected areas,” Gillibrand said. “Rural hospitals, clinics and community health centers provide a wide range of services to some of our most vulnerable populations and they ensure every community has access to quality health care, especially in times of public health emergencies. I will continue to fight for the resources needed to support our rural hospitals and CHCs providing this essential care.”

According to HHS, recipients of the $10 billion rural distribution can include rural acute care general hospitals and Critical Access Hospitals, Rural Health Clinics and Community Health Centers located in rural areas.

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Ambrell parent reports first-quarter loss

Ambrell Corp. parent company, inTEST Corp., on Friday reported a $7 million drop in first-quarter revenue and a loss in earnings.

For the first quarter ended March 31, inTEST posted net revenues of $11.2 million, down from $18.1 million in the year-ago quarter. The company reported a net loss of $1.1 million, or 11 cents per diluted share; adjusted loss for the quarter was $800,000, or 8 cents per share.

“The first quarter presented a number of unprecedented challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, challenges which I am proud to note inTEST’s employees met head-on, and which were compounded by continued headwinds in the analog production test sector,” said inTEST President and CEO James Pelrin. “Consolidated bookings increased 24 percent sequentially, we posted a positive book-to-bill and we are receiving a good mix of orders across all of our divisions. Thermal division bookings increased 21 percent sequentially, with solid contributions from both Ambrell and iTS, each of which received a number of large orders in the quarter, and EMS bookings increased 33 percent.”

Pelrin noted that inTEST on May 5 repaid its Paycheck Protection Program loan, which the company intended to use for payroll costs, rent and utility costs, following the U.S. Small Business Administration and Treasury Department’s new guidance.

inTEST expects that net revenue for the 2020 second quarter will be in the range of $11.5 million to $13.0 million and that earnings will range from a net loss per diluted share of 9 cents to breakeven.

“Our guidance reflects the uncertainty sowed by COVID-19, which has led to industry forecasts and signals that are marked by diverse scenarios. While there is still considerable end-market uncertainty, compounded by the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, our diverse customer base remains the anchor of our business, and we believe our long-term fundamentals remain intact,” Pelrin said. “I am extremely proud of each and every inTEST employee. Individually and as an organization, we have risen to the shared challenges this pandemic has unleashed. We continue to drive forward as we always do, partnering with our customers to advance their technology roadmaps.”

Shares of company stock on Friday (NYSE: INTT) were up nearly 6 percent to $3.40 in morning trading.

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Bausch Health stocks slide as company posts earnings decline

Bausch Health Cos. Inc. this week reported a first-quarter loss of $152 million and adjusted earnings of $316 million, missing Street estimates.

For the quarter ended March 31, the Canadian company whose largest segment, Bausch & Lomb, is located in Rochester, posted revenues of $2.012 billion in the first quarter, compared with $2.016 billion in the year-ago quarter. Company officials blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for a $35 million decline in sales in the quarter.

By segment, Bausch & Lomb reported a $4 million drop in sales to $1.114 billion. The company’s Salix segment improved revenues by $32 million in the quarter; it was the only division that showed improvement during the quarter.

Operating income for the company was $248 million in the first quarter, compared with $287 million last year. Net loss for the quarter was $152 million, compared with a net loss of $52 million for the same period in 2019. Adjusted net income was $316 million, down 12 percent from $358 million last year.

On a per-share basis, the net loss was 43 cents, compared with a first-quarter earnings loss of 15 cents a year ago.

Joseph Papa
Joseph Papa

“As the COVID-19 pandemic began, our priority was to make sure that our employees were safe and that we took the necessary measures to protect our supply chain operations, which have enabled us to continue to fulfill our mission of improving people’s lives with our health care products,” said Joseph Papa, chairman and CEO of Bausch Health. “With these measures in place, we expanded our focus to also support global health care systems, frontline health care workers and the patients in their care, including advancing the science to help find solutions for COVID-19, donating medicines and health care products to assist in the fight against the virus and reinforcing our commitment to patient access.”

Bausch Health lowered its 2020 financial outlook to a range of $7.8 billion to $8.2 billion in revenue for the year.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented significant challenges to our business, Bausch Health has a global, diversified and durable business model, and we believe the company is well-positioned to return to growth after the impact of the pandemic fades,” Papa said.

Shares of company stock (NYSE: BHC) plummeted to $15.75 following the company’s earnings call Thursday and opened Friday at $16.025.

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Region rolls out online health tracker

The city of Rochester and Monroe County have partnered with Common Ground Health to roll out a new online symptom tracker for community residents. Officials on Thursday touted “ROC COVID” as a health screening tool that could help prevent the further spread of COVID-19 throughout the region.

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello called the tool a “game-changer.”

Adam Bello
Adam Bello

“This groundbreaking daily health screening tool will be a frontline defense in the fight to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in Monroe County and across the Finger Lakes Region,” Bello said in Thursday’s briefing. “The data collected will not only help increase the understanding of the virus and measure effects to slow its progression but will also help determine where to focus testing and how to adjust stay at home and physical distancing.”

Bello said the online tool, found at roccovid.org, will only work if a critical mass signs up. The survey consists of a few questions that residents are encouraged to answer daily, even when they have no symptoms. Questions include whether they have a fever, a cough, chills or other primary coronavirus symptoms, as well as basic demographic information, including their ZIP code. Residents who participate will receive daily email reminders to take the survey, and a text version of the daily survey will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

Lovely Warren
Lovely Warren

“We know that the best way to deal with the fear and uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis is with precise and accurate information, and that is exactly what the ROC COVID daily survey provides — a simple and easy way to share information about health. This data will allow us to understand where the virus may be in our community, and to quickly provide guidance to help us make sure that we are responding to the needs of our community,” said Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren. “Help us help you by taking the survey every day. We need you and you need us and we need to get through this together.”

Collected data will be securely housed and analyzed by Common Ground Health, a regional health planning organization that serves the Rochester-Finger Lakes region.

Common Ground Health CEO Wade Norwood said the data will help the local government track hot spots and identify at-risk populations.

Wade Norwood
Wade Norwood

“We all can, and we all must participate because it can provide the data that can bring focus to our region’s efforts to pursue the path to recovery from the COVID-19 crisis,” Norwood said.

County Public Health Commissioner Michael Mendoza M.D. said the data that has been collected in the recent path such as hospitalizations and positive tests only speaks to the past. The surveys could help officials determine when the local economy can reopen.

“Our goal with this is to identify more of what’s happening today and yesterday,” Mendoza said. “I would be looking at this (new data) in a couple of ways. One is more of a way to know when we need to turn on the brakes. So if we start to see something blossoming in a particular part of the county and we do some focused testing, we do some outreach and we see some concerns there through contact tracing, that would be my indication to want to slow down potentially slow down the process (of reopening) or to make some recommendation to slow down the process.

Michael Mendoza M.D.
Michael Mendoza M.D.

“I view it more as brakes, rather than a gas pedal,” he said. “But certainly you can see it the other way; if things continue to be quiet with regard to the symptom tracker, and that correlates to what we’re seeing in terms of new cases and hospitalizations, then it would be further impetus to say we are ready. We are heeding the advice of maintaining physical distancing and all the other things we’ve been talking about.”

Scientists and information technology staff from the University of Rochester Medical Center and Rochester Regional Health developed ROC COVID.

“With a low rate of COVID-19 infection across our region, most people are still potentially susceptible to the virus, and therefore we want to do everything we can to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases that places additional demands on health care resources and threatens our economic recovery,” URMC CEO Mark Taubman said. “ROC COVID uses a simple web-based tool that will allow our community to see if there are upticks in symptoms to identify potential COVID-19 hot spots, direct resources and ultimately help the community stay healthy and recover together.”

Added Rochester Regional Health CEO Eric Bieber: “One of the most important tools in the fight against any pandemic is timely access to data that allows for quick action to mitigate the spread and, ultimately, keep our communities healthy and safe. The ROC COVID health screening tool is another example of the region working together to harness the power of data to maintain vigilance in our shared response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.”

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Transit system gets $36 million in federal funding

Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority is slated to receive $36.3 million in federal funding allocated by the Federal Transit Administration as part of the CARES Act.

“As upstate communities like the Rochester Finger Lakes region battle the coronavirus pandemic, it’s imperative that they get all the federal tools they need to respond and recover,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer in a statement this week. “This federal funding will offset the devastating financial impacts of COVID-19 on transit operations throughout the region and allow the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority to recover — and help stave off pressure for fare hikes.”

In mid-March, just ahead of the state’s PAUSE, RGRTA waived all bus fares and enacted a new procedure for entering and exiting buses. The waiving of fares was meant to make critical travel to work or grocery stores easier, while also limiting the time spent at the closest point of contact between bus operators and customers, officials said at the time.

“Every day the dedicated men and women of our transportation industry do critically important work to ensure our community continues to run during this crisis, and we are eternally grateful for all that they do,” said U.S. Rep. Joseph Morelle. “It’s vital that our transit systems have the tools and resources they need to operate fully and continue getting frontline workers to their jobs every day.”

RGRTA, which marked its 50th anniversary last year, was scheduled to implement this summer Reimagine RTS, its new routing system that was several years in the making. That implementation has been put on hold until the pandemic has eased.

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Schools, colleges statewide to remain closed until end of academic year

Schools and colleges across New York state will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.

Schools will continue to provide distance learning during that time, Cuomo said, and also will be required to continue meal programs and childcare services for essential workers. The state will make a decision about summer school programming by the end of May.

Cuomo also is directing all schools and colleges to create reopening plans that reimagine school facilities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The plans are expected to consider how schools can monitor the spread of the virus; how to reinforce student safety; when and how to resume extracurricular activities; protocols for special student populations; steps to ensure student mental health; alternative academic calendars; and more. All plans will be reviewed by the state before being approved.

The state will partner with the Kate Spade New York Foundation and Crisis Text Line to provide 24/7 emotional support service for frontline health care workers, officials said. And Cuomo said the state Department of Financial Services will require New York state-regulated health insurers to waive cost-sharing, including deductibles, copayments and coinsurance for in-network mental health services for the state’s frontline essential workers during COVID-19.

DFS also will issue an emergency regulation to prohibit insurers from imposing cost-sharing for telehealth and in-person mental health services rendered by in-network providers on an outpatient basis to frontline essential workers eligible to be tested at one of the state’s drive-through or walk-in COVID-19 testing sites. In Monroe County, the drive-through site is at Monroe Community College’s East Henrietta Road campus.

“It’s critical that we protect our students from this virus, and given the current circumstances we are in we do not think it is possible to put the necessary precautions in place that would allow us to reopen schools this academic year,” Cuomo said in a statement. “All schools and colleges will continue to provide distance learning, meal delivery and child care services for the remainder of the school year. And in the meantime, we want schools to start developing a plan to re-open with new protocols that incorporate everything that we are now doing in society and everything that we have learned from this pandemic. This has been a hardship on everyone, but our educators across the state have done a phenomenal job stepping up to make the best of this situation.”

Some 3,942 additional cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed statewide, bringing the total confirmed cases to 308,314. Monroe County accounts for nearly 1,500 of those cases and has had more than 110 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

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Report: Manufacturing output bottoms out

Manufacturing data from April shows the sharpest nationwide contraction in output in the history of IHS Markit collecting the information.

ihs-markit-pmi-resizedDriving the headline figure down was the steepest decline in output in the series’ history, widely attributed to factory closures following COVID-19 related emergency public health measures.

“April saw the manufacturing sector struck hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with output falling to an extent surpassing that seen even at the height of the global financial crisis,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit. “With orders collapsing at a rate not seen for over a decade, supply chains disrupted to a record degree and pessimism about the outlook hitting a new survey high, rising numbers of firms are culling payroll numbers.”

New orders decreased at the most marked pace since January 2009, as customers reportedly canceled or postponed orders amid a broad-based contraction in consumer and business spending. Domestic and foreign client demand declined, with new export orders falling at the quickest rate in the series history.

Ongoing uncertainty and fear surrounding the longevity of lockdown procedures led business confidence to slump to a series low in April. Firms were pessimistic regarding the outlook for output over the coming year on average for the first time in the series history, with companies reportedly struggling to plan for their short-term futures, according to the report.

Additionally, the report noted a steep decline in jobs. The fall in employment was the steepest since March 2009.

“Smaller firms are being hit the hardest, and also reporting the highest job losses, but large firms are also seeing the sharpest downturn on record,” Williamson said.

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Area businesses switch things up for pandemic

As the pandemic continues to clamp down on numerous industries, more local manufacturers find ways to stay relevant and help those in need.

BeOn devices
BeOn devices

L3Harris Technologies this month began offering its BeOn software application for free to healthcare and public safety workers, allowing users to turn their smartphones, laptops and other devices into an encrypted public safety radio. This enables immediate communications to individuals or large talk groups.

L3Harris has made the service available for free for 90 days to agencies responding to COVID-19 operations.

Dana Mehnert
Dana Mehnert

“While first responders rely on handheld radios for their day-to-day communications, many of these healthcare heroes do not carry or have access to handheld public safety radios,” said Dana Mehnert, president of L3Harris’ Communication Systems, headquartered here. “Agencies that are currently using BeOn in their communities have called this offering a ‘game-changer’ for their COVID-19 response efforts as they are now able to connect many users from a variety of groups without having to issue, manage and sanitize handheld radios.”

Rochester-based Herogard, a health and wellness startup founded by scientists, doctors and engineers, is offering medical-grade filter face masks to the community. The masks are available for $25 for 30 and for every purchase, Herogard will donate masks to essential workers and marginalized communities who would otherwise not have access to vitally needed protection

The first beneficiary of the masks was Foodlink Inc., the regional food bank serving 10 counties in the Rochester area. Foodlink’s essential workers will receive the masks as they mobilize resources and distribute food to food-insecure households. Foodlink said the first donation of masks would be used by its kitchen workers.

Face mask produced by Century Mold (photo provided)
Face mask produced by Century Mold (photo provided)

In March, Century Mold, one of North America’s leading injection molders, began making medical face shields for local health care facilities. The arrangement was the result of a call from Rochester Regional Health and Rochester General Hospital, said Terry Hodge, Century Mold’s executive vice president.

“I could not be more proud of our team,” Hodge said in a statement at the time. “By working 20-plus hours a day … our team was able to apply our engineering, tooling and manufacturing expertise and fill a critical need for a very important new partner. We have always been willing to help others, but now we are helping our entire community better face the health challenge in front of us.”

BigSky Technologies LLC is a materials science company that manufactures textile finishes inspired by nature. The company recently said its GreenShield Co. division is responding to the global coronavirus pandemic by evaluating its products’ effectiveness in reducing the ability of the virus to contaminate and transmit on different surfaces.

20-0421-greenshield-logo-resizedA small amount of fluorochemical used in the GreenShield finish provides a surface that repels oil-based materials such as viruses. Because COVID-19 has an oily lipid outer layer, breaking the layer causes the virus to fall apart. Company officials said that when coming into contact with materials treated with GreenShield viruses do not adhere to the surface but rather roll off the surface structure, making the product particularly attractive for lab coats, surgical gowns and other protective clothing.

“The little bit of fluorochemical-based GreenShield C6XL goes a long way towards clean, safe surfaces on personal protective materials,” said Cathy Fleischer, managing partner and co-founder of BigSky Technologies. “In the crisis that we are dealing with, GreenShield treated fabrics are easy to clean, reduce their impact on the environment and increase health and safety.”

Xerox hand sanitizer (photo provided)
Xerox hand sanitizer (photo provided)

Xerox Holdings Corp. joins a list of local companies switching things up and manufacturing hand sanitizer from frontline healthcare workers. The document company expects to produce some 140,000 gallons of hand sanitizer by June 2020 at its facilities in Webster and in Toronto.

“This is a time for every company, every person, to look at what they can do to help society,” Xerox Vice Chairman and CEO John Visentin said in a statement last week. “Essentials like hand sanitizer will continue to be in high demand. The team moved fast, figured out how to get over the hurdles and are starting to deliver product — all in under a month.”

Xerox, in a partnership with Vortran Medical Technology, is helping to speed and scale the production of the GO2Vent ventilator and related Airway Pressure Monitor for hospitals and emergency response units fighting the virus.

Carestream Health has increased production of its portable diagnostic imaging systems, noting that as unlikely facilities begin to function as urgent care units, the Rochester company’s DRX-Revolution Mobile X-ray System and DRX-Revolution Nano Mobile X-ray System bring the X-ray exam to the patient’s bedside.

“Our manufacturing plans and warehouses are operating at full capacity with employees putting in long hours and extra days to support the healthcare professionals who are on the front line of this exhausting fight,” said Charlie Hicks, Carestream’s general manager for premium tier solutions. “Likewise, Carestream suppliers and partners are ramping up production to help support this humanitarian crisis.”

Similarly, L-Tron Corp., a Victor firm that offers technology products and solutions to automate data capture, has tripled its mobile X-ray components, based on increased customer demand. L-Tron engineers supply custom-configured components for seamless integration into mobile X-ray machines and antibody blood analyzing tests, both of which are used for COVID-19 diagnosis, treatment and study by medical professionals.

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