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> COVID19 Social Distancing to Stop the Spread

2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Social Distancing

THE HEALTH AND WELL-BEING of our community is our top priority. Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) is working closely with community partners to prevent and respond to the evolving novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Community Social Distancing

Illustration of question marks with the words Frequently Asked QuestionsIt is important to continue social distancing as we reopen. This is a community effort and everyone plays a part. Encourage friends and family to follow these guidelines:

  • Proper distancing is still one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Continue to see your household as a unit: if one person is exposed, everyone in your household is at risk.
  • Social Distancing does not mean emotional distancing or isolation. Check on friends, coworkers, neighbors through phone and text.

When in public

  • Keep 6 feet distance between yourself and others (that's about 2 arm lengths).
  • Wear a cloth face covering when you are not able to keep 6 feet of distance. When you are in indoor public spaces (e.g., retail stores) you should wear a facecovering at all times. Always follow proprietor’s requirements when in an office or other workplace.
  • Use hand sanitizer when you enter a store or other business, and when you exit. Wash or sanitize your hands immediately after you remove your face covering


Gatherings of up to 50 individuals are allowed in Phase 4 regions, effective 6/26/20. When gatherings, groups, or crowds form, continue to maintain six feet of distance between individuals. Wearing a face coverings is required.

  • Religious services allowed up to 33% of posted occupancy in Phase 4.
  • Sports and Recreation, please follow state guidelines, available here.
  • After being outside or participating in group activities, wash your hands well and often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Higher risk individuals

  • Higher risk means a greater chance of a more severe case of COVID-19 if the individual gets sick, and a better chance of having complications from the disease
  • Higher risk individuals include older adults (age 60+), those who are immune-compromised, or have a chronic medical condition, especially heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes
  • Higher risk individuals should avoid any in-person contact with others.

Anyone who may have been exposed to the coronavirus, and who are at risk for coming down with COVID-19 should consider being tested and going into self-quarantine for 14 days.

NYS DOH web resource.

How to file a complaint related to Phased Re-opening guidelines

  • Complaints about Public Gatherings: Call County Dispatch, 607-273-8000
  • Public Complaints about Businesses: Call 2-1-1
  • Public Complaints about Construction Sites: Call 2-1-1
  • Business Safe Operation or Re-opening Inquiries: Call Tompkins County Environmental Health 607-274-6688,  
  • Travel Advisory: To report an individual failing to adhere to the quarantine requirement for those coming to NYS from a restricted state, please call the NYS Hotline 1-833-789-0470, or go to
  • Worker Complaints about Working Conditions: NYS Dept of Labor COVID Complaint Hotline 1-888-364-3065, or file using the form at

PLEASE NOTE: Calls to 9-1-1 should be for emergencies only.

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Use of face masks or cloth covering

NYS Governor Cuomo has signed executive orders that requires wearing a cloth face mask or covering when you go out in public, or if you are a worker who has contact with customers or members of the public. The requirement for employees went into effect April 15. The requirement for the general public went into effect April 17.
  • NYS Interim Guidance on these executive orders. 

Important points:
  • Use simple cloth face masks or coverings to slow the spread of the virus.
  • Do not seek out surgical masks or N-95 respirators. These must still be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.
  • The simple cloth masks will help slow the spread of the virus by people who are contagious and do not know it.
  • Even people who don’t have symptoms can spread the virus just by talking, which can be limited by wearing a cloth face covering.
  • The very best way to help slow the spread is to stay home and do social distancing. Washing hands often, disinfecting surfaces, and all other recommendations are still very important, and must continue even if a cloth face covering is used when you have to go out for essential supplies.
  • Wash your cloth mask or covering everyday with your laundry, and dry in your dryer.
  • Do not touch your face, eyes, nose, or mouth when you take off your mask, and wash your hands with soap and water immediately after you take it off.
  • Children age 3 years and younger should not wear a face covering 
  • Some individuals are medically unable to wear a face covering, based on advise by their healt care provider. In NYS, these individuals are not required to provide documentation for this.  

Remember: My mask protects you, your mask protects me.

How to Wear a Cloth Face Covering (donning and doffing)

Cloth face coverings should—

  • fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • be secured with ties or ear loops
  • include multiple layers of fabric
  • allow for breathing without restriction
  • be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape
  • Remove a face mask carefully so you do not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Wash or sanitize hands immediately after removing your face covering.
  • Watch a short video (just 90 seconds) about how to put on and take off a face covering. 
  • Watch a longer video (just over 5 minutes) about how to properly store a mask so you can use it again.
  • Watch a 30-second video promoting use of face coverings
    Masks are Gorges, sponsored by the City of Ithaca, Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, the Health Department, and others
  • Image of a flyer about how to wear a face covering. NYSDOH
  • CDC Web page about face coverings

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Use of face coverings by anyone out in public places

Executive Order 202.18, issued on April 16, 2020, states that individuals must have and wear some kind of face covering when they are in a public place.

An individual is required to wear a face covering if

  • within six feet of distance from other individuals; or
  • in a situation or setting where they are, or may be, unable to maintain a social distance of six feet or more from other individuals; or
  • using public transportation or in a private for-hire vehicle.

An individual is not required to wear or use a face covering if

  • that individual is younger than age three (3) years.
  • a face covering would inhibit or otherwise impair an individual’s health and they could not medically tolerate wearing one
  • Note that anyone who is not wearing a face covering due to a health or medical condition does not have to show documentation for why they can't wear one.

Where to get a cloth face covering for individuals

  • Tompkins Mask Makers is a local collective making and selling non-medical masks
  • Masks are $10 each from Tompkins Mask Makers
  • To order from Tompkins Mask Makers, click here for their website, scroll down to the order form.
  • Some styles may be available for same day pick-up. Be sure to read the info and instructions above the order form
  • Other sources may be available now or in the future
  • Essential Businesses please see information below.

Use of face coverings by employees
  • Business must provide face coverings at their expense
  • Employees must wear face coverings when in direct contact with customers or the public
  • Local government or law enforcement may enforce this order
  • More about NYS directives and executive orders.

How to make your own cloth face covering
Request masks for a business or organization in Tompkins County
(6/3/20) The supply of cloth masks is currently limited. Use the form to request only the quantity of cloth masks needed for your employees.

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Tips for Shopping

Shopping for essential items such as food, medicines, and cleaning supplies is the only time you should be out in public areas where you will be close to people other than those in your household. Here are some tips to follow:

Before you go

  • Make a list of what you need and stick to the list. This will help you keep from lingering in one place while you think about what you need, and shorten the overall time you spend in the store

While you are shopping

  • Wear disposable gloves
  • Wipe down cart handle and child seat, or basket handle
  • Limit your contact with frequently used surfaces in the checkout area, such as candy racks, counter areas, and credit card readers
  • Make sure the store staff sanitize the checkout area between every customer, including conveyor belts and card reader areas. At self-checkout areas, make sure all surfaces are sanitized between every customer.
  • Some stores are requiring you to keep and fill your reusable bags in your cart, and not on store counters.

When you get home

  • Put all your bags in one area before you unpack them
  • Wipe down cans, jars, bottles, boxes
  • Wash produce
  • Wipe down counter tops, fridge and door handles, other surfaces in the area you unloaded and put away your groceries.
  • Clean your phone if you used it while you were out
  • Some sources suggest immediately washing the clothes you wore to the store, and taking a shower when you get home from shopping.

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Guidance for Outdoor Sports and Recreation Activities

  • All health and safety icons together--Distance, Density, Face cover, Hand hygiene, Symptoms, Mental healthUniversal Requirements: In all cases related to outdoor activities, the standard protocols for health and safety should always be followed:
    • Distance: Maintain physical distance of 6 feet at all times, including outdoors.
    • Density: Avoid entering crowded areas, or areas that may become crowded. Follow any one-way modifications to trails or paths.
    • Face covering: Wear a face covering outdoors whenever the 6-foot distance cannot be maintained. Carry a face covering with you, and put it on when you come within 6 feet of another individual.
    • Hand Hygiene: Wash hands well with soap when you return from outdoor activities. Carry sanitizer with you and use it after touching frequently touched surfaces. While State guidance for venue operators includes frequent cleaning/ disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces, individuals should also be responsible for the safety of themselves and their household members.
    • Symptoms: Stay home if you feel ill, or if you have recently been with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Public Gatherings: Gatherings of up to 25 people are allowed in Phase 3 regions.
  • Day Camps: Summer day camps statewide can open on June 29. (Documents)
  • Boys foot kicking a soccer ballYouth Sports: Lower and moderate risk youth sports and activities are open in Phase 3 regions. Maximum of two spectators are allowed per child. Protocols for distance, density, face coverings, and hygiene must be followed. Travel sports competitions and tournaments are not allowed. (Documents)
  • State Parks: State Parks are open and entrance fees have been waived. There are certain parking and trail restrictions. See NYS Parks COVID-19 page for more details.
  • Golf at State Parks: Golf courses operated by State Parks may be open. Operating schedules will differ across the state. Call the course directly for current information.
  • Camping & Pavilion/Shelters: Campgrounds and RV parks opened statewide May 25. Visit the NYS Parks camping page for details.
  • Marinas, boatyards: Allowed to open for personal use as long as strict social distancing and sanitization protocols are followed.
  • Lake Beaches: (Documents)
  • Horse Race Tracks and Watkins Glen: Horse racing tracks across the state and Watkins Glen International Racetrack are open without fans as of June 1. (Documents)

Sources: NY Forward Statewide Guidelines (6/18/20), NY Forward Reopening (6/18/20), ESD Guidance (6/17/20),

Recommended signage for outdoor recreation areas


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Additional Prevention Measures

Image of the PDF poster you can download

Infection Prevention Measures On the Jobsite
  • Standard workplace guidance applies, such as stay home if sick, wash hands often, cover coughs and sneezes, practice social distancing.
  • Additional measures include reduce crew size to the extent possible while maintaining safety, minimize ride sharing, avoid sharing tools, clean and disinfect frequently all frequently touched surfaces, minimize dust and airborne contaminants, use proper PPE.
  • Click here to download a posting sign with this information (letter-size PDF, 148KB).


Delivery of goods and services to a home


  • If possible, switch all transactions to online payment options.
  • Avoid situations that increase direct contact. Leave items at door.
  • If items cannot be left unattended, notify resident of arrival, leave delivery at door and step back to ensure separation distance.


  • Avoid entering home if possible.
  • If an emergency situation requires entering a home, ask whether any resident is showing signs of illness and determine whether the service can be provided with available personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • In situations where a resident is under quarantine or isolation, contact the local health department for guidance before entering the home.

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