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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.

This page is no longer being updated.

Updates Related to Reopening and Mask Guidance

Effective May 19, New York State and Tompkins County will adopt CDC guidance stating that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in most settings. Consistent with the CDC guidance, Pre-K to 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and healthcare settings will continue to follow State's existing COVID-19 health guidelines including distancing and mask wearing until more New Yorkers are fully vaccinated.

Private businesses may still require masks for everyone in their establishments, consistent with the CDC guidance. Unvaccinated people should still wear masks in all settings while around others.

Additional guidance is available here.

How to file a complaint related to reopening guidelines

If you are concerned about individual or group behaviors related to COVID-19 prevention guidance, or about a business who you believe is not in compliance with phased reopening guidelines, you may file a complaint. Issues may include use of face coverings, gatherings over the allowable limit, failure to practice proper distancing.

NYS Reporting System
  • The New York State PAUSE Enforcement Assistance Task Force's 24/7 complaint hotline and webform that collected complaints has been discontinued by NYS, effective July 7, 2021.
LOCAL CONTACTS for public complaints

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

Community Social Distancing

Illustration of question marks with the words Frequently Asked QuestionsIt is important to continue social distancing even as more of us get vaccinated. 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 mask when you are in public places. When in indoor public spaces (e.g., retail stores) you should wear a mask 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 mask


When gatherings, groups, or crowds form, especially in a limited or confined space, it is important to position yourself so you can continue to maintain six feet of distance from others on all sides. If others continue to come into an area with limited space so you are unable to maintain 6-feet of distance, it is best to move to an exit or remove yourself entirely from the area. Keep an eye on things so you don't get trapped. 

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 get tested and begin self-quarantine for 14 days.

NYSDOH web resource.

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Use of face masks or cloth covering

Face mask icon -- Use a Face CoveringNYS 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, 2020.

Why Use a Face Mask
  • A simple cloth face mask or covering slows the spread of the virus by people who are contagious and do not know it.
  • The virus spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice. Loud talking, shouting, and singing can increase the distance the virus spreads beyond 6 feet. This can be limited by wearing a cloth face covering. (CDC)
  • Cloth face coverings are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings.
  • Use of face coverings is mandatory in NYS by Executive Order.

Remember: My mask protects you, your mask protects me. (Click here to find out how.)

What is Acceptable as a Face Mask
  • A face covering should fit over your nose, mouth, and chin.
  • Acceptable face-coverings include cloth masks, surgical masks, and N-95 respirators.
  • Face shields are no longer an acceptable face-covering. Note that face shields may be used in addition to another face covering.
  • Face coverings with one-way valves that facilitate breathing out are not acceptable.
How to Wear a Cloth Face Mask

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

Putting on and taking off a face covering (donning and doffing) —

  • 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 mask.

  • Watch a short video (just 90 seconds) about how to put on and take off a face covering. 
    If you don't see the video in the box, click here to watch it on YouTube
  • Watch a longer video (just over 5 minutes) about how to properly store a mask so you can use it again.
    If you don't see the video in the box, click here to watch it on YouTube.
  • 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
    If you don't see the video in the box, click here to watch it on YouTube.
  • Image of a flyer about how to wear a face covering. NYSDOH
  • How my mask protects you, and your mask protects me. Click here to open a letter-size PDF in a new tab. Or click the image for a larger image.
    Image of a Poster showing how wearing a mask reduces COVID spread

How to make your own cloth face covering
CDC References and resources

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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. See also COVID-19 Emergency Regulations SubPart 66-3Section 66-3.2

An individual is required to wear a face covering if

  • over the age of two
  • within six feet of distance from other individuals
  • 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 (except household members)
  • using public transportation or in a private for-hire vehicle.


  • the individual is younger than age two (2) 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.
  • NOTE: Business operators and building owners, their agents and authorized users shall deny admittance to any person who fails to comply, and shall require or compel such persons’ removal. (Actions must be consistent with the federal American with Disabilities Act, New York State or New York City Human Rights Law, and any other applicable provision of law. See Section 66-3.2 (d).

Use of face coverings by employees
  • Employees must wear face coverings when in direct contact with customers or the public
  • Business must provide face coverings at their expense, per Executive Order 202.16 and COVID-19 Emergency Regulations Section 66-3.2 (c) and (d).
    • The County's face mask distribution program has ended.
    • Cloth face covers are available at many local retailers. For locally made masks, you may contact Tompkins Mask Makers.  
    • Letter to business partners from Public Health Dir. Frank Kruppa regarding EO 202.16 (4/14/20).

Penalties for Violation

A violation of any provision of COVID-19 Emergency Regulations SubPart 66-3 is subject to all civil and criminal penalties as provided for by law (see Section 66-3.5 - Penalties). Individuals who violate any Section of these Regulations are subject to a maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation. Enforcement agencies include NY State Police, NY State Liquor Authority, Tompkins County Environmental Health. Info about how to file a complaint.


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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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