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Tompkins County Officials Coordinate with Local Higher Education Institutions on Reopening and Reactivation Planning

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Tompkins County Officials Coordinate with Local Higher Education Institutions on Reopening and Reactivation Planning

Thursday, July 23, 2020

In recent weeks, local higher education institutions announced plans to welcome students for in-person instruction for the fall semester. Each reopening or reactivation plan has been developed with consistent and ongoing communications that began early in the pandemic among Cornell University, Ithaca College, and Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3).

Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) will continue to work closely with all three institutions and will urge returning students and all Tompkins County residents to stay vigilant to stop the spread of COVID-19. TCHD will continue contact tracing operations, issuing isolation and quarantine orders, and sharing public health messaging consistent with up-to-date federal and state guidance.

“We understand the concerns of many Tompkins County residents and the uncertainties associated with planning for the upcoming semester as we see cases rise locally and across the U.S.” stated Frank Kruppa, Tompkins County Public Health Director. “Careful and thoughtful consideration is being taken by the County and all three institutions to ensure that our community will work together to reduce the spread of the disease. Collective decision-making by all three institutions has been crucial to planning for reopening. As part of the Emergency Operations Center, we have held weekly calls with the higher education institutions to ensure coordination throughout the COVID crisis.”

Each institution’s plan adheres to New York State and TCHD guidance. The plans are responsive to the specific operational and educational needs of each campus. Each institution will continue to adjust their plans as new guidance becomes available from New York State. Furthermore, Cornell, Ithaca College, and TC3 are aligned with TCHD and have incorporated the following in their COVID-19 response plans:

Ongoing Testing and Health Screening

  • Implementing protocols for surveillance and diagnostic testing to identify and isolate positive cases, including partnerships with Cayuga Health System and developing internal capacity where possible.
  • Instituting ongoing systems for health screening of students and employees for COVID symptoms on a regular basis.

Contact Tracing and Monitoring

  • Partnering with TCHD to support all contact tracing efforts and orders for isolation and mandatory quarantine.
  • Providing appropriate isolation accommodations for students, if necessary.

Setting Expectations for Community Behavior and Social Responsibility

  • Encouraging students and all Tompkins County residents to follow the latest guidance from the CDC, NYS Department of Health, and TCHD on mask wearing, physical distancing, density, and hygiene.
  • Using community agreements to emphasize a shared responsibility to protect the health and safety of all members of the community.
  • Implementing sustained education and communication with students, faculty and staff to create new social norms on- and off-campus.
  • Creating accountability measures to deter non-compliance with the expected social norms.

Engaging in the Tompkins County Community

  • Recognizing that higher education is a critical employer and economic driver in Tompkins County and the Southern Tier region and working to maintain that role in the community.
  • Fostering safe and consistent opportunities for students, faculty and staff to engage in the local community.

On and Off Campus Operations

  • Modifying traditional academic and campus life activities to comply with health and safety guidelines, considering mental health and well-being needs.
  • Increasing collaboration with off-campus housing and private landlords
  • Proactive collection of local addresses of students to aid in any needed contact tracing.
  • Reducing density in on-campus spaces and restricting access to campus spaces by the general public.
  • Planning potential future alterations to in-person operations based on an ongoing assessment of the pandemic and state and regional metrics.

“Our higher education institutions have been important partners throughout the COVID emergency and have carefully followed guidance putting public health at the forefront since the beginning,” stated Jason Molino, Tompkins County Administrator. “We look forward to a safe return of students and will work diligently with the schools so that both campus affiliates and the wider community have the information they need to stay healthy and stop the spread.”

“Cornell, IC, and TC3 are vital to our local community and economy. While each campus is unique and has different considerations, the campus communities interact with each other and in the community, so it is necessary that measures are put in place to keep our community healthy and safe,” stated Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, Chairwoman of the Tompkins County Legislature.

For more information about higher education planning:

For ongoing information and updates about COVID-19, see the Health Department website:



Dominick Recckio

Communications Director

Tompkins County Administration
125 E. Court St

Ithaca, NY 14850

Cell: 315-730-1189