WEOS Finger Lakes Public Radio

Veronica Volk

Veronica Volk is the Great Lakes Reporter/Producer for WXXI News, exploring environmental and economic issues, water, and wildlife throughout the region for radio, television, and the web.

Previously, she worked general assignment for the newsroom, covering everything from medical marijuana dispensaries to the photonics industry. She is currently producing and co-hosting a true-crime podcast called Finding Tammy Jo with Gary Craig of the Democrat and Chronicle.

Veronica got her start as an enterprise reporter in the Bronx for WFUV Public Radio, and later became the senior producer of their weekly public affairs show Cityscape. She holds a B.A. in Communication and Media Studies from Fordham University and is originally from the Jersey Shore, which is nothing like how it is portrayed on MTV.

Earlier this month, people around the world sat down to watch "Hamilton" -- the Broadway musical phenomenon written by Lin-Manuel Miranda about the titular founding father.

And they did so from their own homes, giving everyone with a Disney+ subscription access to a show they might not have seen otherwise.

Imagine if art was this accessible all the time.

“It’s not hard to do,” says Gregg Beratan, director of development for the Center for Disability Rights in Rochester. “We have decades of research of making venues more accessible.”

It’s been 30 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, mandating public spaces be accessible to all. But it’s still an ongoing battle.

There’s a long list of rules for people who want their hair cut these days.

Nanette Dickerson, a store manager at Supercuts in Penfield, informs clients of the laundry list of do's and don'ts as they call to make appointments: Be on time, wait in your car until you are called in, wear a face mask at all times, have your hair washed and detangled, be advised your temperature will be taken, and on and on.

Owner Tony Cortina says, "I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t stressful."

Expectant mothers already face so many questions and uncertainty about the process of giving birth -- and in the time of coronavirus, there's even more to think about.

Ellyn Keith is expecting her first baby.

"I’m 31 weeks pregnant now," she said, "which is considered the third trimester. I’m due June 8."

She said even though she had a specific plan for a hospital birth with her husband, mother, and a birth coach present, the pandemic is forcing that plan to change. She may be able to have only her husband with her when she goes into labor.

For shoreline communities along Lake Ontario, coronavirus isn’t the only thing they have to worry about this spring.

Lake Ontario is higher than average and expected to continue to rise for weeks.

The International Joint Commission is the group that oversees lake management. Throughout winter, they have been adjusting outflows at the Moses-Saunders Power Dam on the Saint Lawrence River in an attempt to keep up with the high inflows from the Upper Great Lakes.

A woman has tested positive for coronavirus in Ontario County.

Mary Beer, the county's director of public health, said the affected woman lives in Victor. She works in the Friendly Home, a nursing home in Rochester, but not directly with patients.

Beer said the woman and her husband are now under mandatory quarantine, and health officials are still looking for any people who may have come in contact with her.

After pressure from lawmakers and residents of the shoreline, the International Joint Commission is reviewing Lake Ontario regulation Plan 2014.

The plan has been controversial since its implementation. It is a set of guidelines for how high and low water levels in Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence are allowed to get before intervention. One way to mitigate these levels is letting water through a large dam across the Saint Lawrence River -- called the Moses-Saunders Power Dam.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that the state will be suing the International Joint Commission for failing to properly manage water levels on Lake Ontario.

The governor addressed reporters and local public officials on the deck of Silk O’Loughlin’s in Irondequoit, overlooking the water.

"The facts of the matter are plain and simple," Cuomo said. "The IJC's function is to manage the lake level. That is their job, to manage the lake level. They have failed to manage the lake level. Period."

Sturgeon are an iconic species of the Great Lakes -- with their long noses and whiskers, and bony plates down their backs, they can grow up to 7 feet long and their ancestors date back hundreds of millions of years.

But these days, they’re threatened.

"Lake sturgeon are kind of the aquatic version of the buffalo," said Jeff Miller, a senior conservation expert with the Center for Biological Diversity, a national nonprofit that works to save species that are threatened.

The New York Sea Grant is working with homeowners looking to repair their eroded shorelines.

Erosion is a growing concern along the southern shore of Lake Ontario, but it’s not a new problem.

"There’s always been a lot of erosion along Lake Ontario, that’s just the way it functions," said Roy Widrig.

Widrig is with the New York Sea Grant, which provides educational and outreach material to residents and business owners on the shoreline.

With harmful algal blooms posing an increasing risk to freshwater sources across the country, one group is looking for better ways to track them.

The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit that looks at environmental factors affecting public health.