The mayor of Ithaca, N.Y., said the city would face consequences if its local colleges don’t reopen their campuses this fall due to the coronavirus, according to a report on Monday.
“If the students don’t come back in the fall, we’re in real cataclysmic trouble,” Mayor Svante Myrick said during an interview with CNBC.
Ithaca is home to Cornell University and Ithaca College, which together have more than 26,500 students that contribute to a massive portion of its economy. The city, meanwhile, has a population of about 31,000 people.
His comments come the same day that Ithaca announced it would be reopening for students and in-person classes on Oct. 5 — a month later than normal. Both Ithaca and Cornell University closed their campuses to students in mid-March, to protect their safety amid the COVID-19 public health crisis.
Myrick, a Democrat who graduated from Cornell says the city is also facing a budget shortfall stemming from the crisis.
“Honestly, that budget deficit assumes that the students are coming back in the fall,” he added.
Ithaca is part of the Southern Tier region of New York, which among other areas began its phased reopening from coronavirus-related shutdowns last Friday.
While the economy will most likely be impacted further due to the virus and lack of activity on campus, having students back also raises questions regarding their health compared to the benefit of the city.
“If we’re not sure that our students can come back to the United States or if parents in California will feel comfortable sending their kids to Cornell in the fall, then our economy won’t get back to where it was.”
New York has 351,371 total coronavirus cases as of early Tuesday, more than any other state in the U.S.