WEOS Finger Lakes Public Radio

Karen DeWitt

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.

She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers. 

Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.

She is a past recipient of the prestigious Walter T. Brown Memorial award for excellence in journalism, from the Legislative Correspondents Association, and was named Media Person of the Year for 2009 by the Women’s Press Club of New York State.

Karen is a graduate of the State University of New York at Geneseo.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has declared more regions as microcluster coronavirus hot zones as the rate of COVID-19 continues to climb in New York.

The new designations come as New York City’s mayor closed the city’s schools effective Thursday, as the virus rate there reached 3%.

Cuomo is changing some yellow zones in western New York to orange zones. Effective Friday, there will be new restrictions on religious gatherings, along with some business closures, including gyms, hair salons and tattoo parlors. Indoor dining is banned.

Now that elections are over, leaders of the New York State Legislature are facing pressure from a wide range of groups to reconvene and deal with pandemic-related economic problems. Legislative leaders say they are not ruling it out.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in a speech at a Black church in Manhattan, vowed to sue the administration of President Donald Trump for violating the constitutional rights of African-American and Hispanic New Yorkers, if it does not make changes to its COVID-19 vaccination plan.

In New York, absentee ballot counting is just getting underway in many counties, more than a week after Election Day.

Because so many more people voted by mail, eight close State Senate seats are undecided until the ballots are processed and it’s possible the new legislative session could begin in January before some of the races are decided.

There are about 1 million more ballots to count than in any previous year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order allowing any registered voter to cast their ballot by mail this year.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is imposing new restrictions on bars and restaurants and limiting the number of people at a home gathering to 10 or fewer, effective on Friday.

The governor said that it’s due to climbing rates of COVID-19 in New York as the nation breaks another record for the number of cases.

In New York, 2.9% of coronavirus tests were positive Tuesday, a rate that is nearly three times what it was for most of the summer and much of the fall. There are 1,628 people in the hospital for COVID-19, and 21 died of the disease on Tuesday.

Overnight on Friday, the New York State Thruway will make the switch to all cashless tolling. By Saturday morning, cameras mounted on steel gantries above the roadway will extract the tolls from E-ZPass accounts or send bills to motorist without one.

Cameras on 70 gantries at 58 locations on the Thruway will be turned on simultaneously early Saturday morning, and all of the remaining toll booths will shut down.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he’d wait until after the general election before deciding how to close the state’s multibillion-dollar budget gap, hoping that Democratic wins for president and the U.S. Senate might lead to a larger federal relief package for blue states.

Now that Election Day has come and gone, and with the most likely scenario a President Biden but a Republican-led U.S. Senate, the governor and the State Legislature will have to soon make some big decisions.

Election Day brought mixed results for Democrats and Republicans in New York’s congressional and legislative races. Republicans were quick to claim victory, but Democrats -- who will remain in the majority no matter the outcomes of contested races -- say the record number of absentee ballots needs to be counted first, and it might take weeks.

Voters in New York who have not cast their ballots early in person or by mail go to the polls Tuesday.

While Democrat Joe Biden is heavily favored to win the state over President Donald Trump, there is plenty of action in congressional and state races for voters to weigh in on. 

The 2020 election is the first major one in New York where voters had the choice of casting their ballots early. Polls were open from Oct. 24 through Nov. 1. According to the state Board of Elections, over 2.5 million people took advantage of that option, many waiting in long lines.  

A small band of protesters gathered Wednesday outside the State Capitol to demand that Gov. Andrew Cuomo loosen restrictions for visiting residents at nursing homes. But so far, the governor shows no sign of changing the rules. 

The 50 or so protesters include family members of those who died in the nursing homes during the height of the first wave of the pandemic in New York in the spring.

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