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Tompkins County Officials Host COVID-19 Town Hall Update, Guidance Shared on Rise in Cases, Upcoming Holidays

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Tompkins County Officials Host COVID-19 Town Hall Update, Guidance Shared on Rise in Cases, Upcoming Holidays

Friday, October 30, 2020

Tompkins County officials held a live streamed COVID-19 update on Monday. The update featured reactions to the recent increase in cases in Tompkins County and throughout the Southern Tier and clarifying guidance to help stop the spread of the disease.

Tompkins County Legislator Deborah Dawson moderated the update and started by sharing her reflection on the recent increase, “While we’re seeing an increase in cases, it’s important to recognize how cautious and vigilant our Tompkins County residents have been throughout this pandemic. Wearing masks, reducing density, managing and adapting during lockdown have all helped to keep the number of cases we’ve had relatively low, and kept each other safe.” Dawson continued, “It’s critical that we continue to do these things moving forward as we see this recent increase.”

Tompkins County Public Health Director Frank Kruppa shared that the increase in cases seen locally and in surrounding counties is partly attributed to small gatherings with people spending a significant amount of time as close contacts. Kruppa also acknowledged that there are a large number of people who live in neighboring counties and work in Tompkins County and visa versa, sharing guidance that “monitoring yourself closely for symptoms before going to work and staying home if you are symptomatic can help stop the spread of the disease.”

Kruppa and County Administrator Jason Molino spoke to the County’s close collaboration with local school districts since the beginning of the pandemic. Kruppa tied the recent shifts to virtual operations at local districts to “the schools’ ability to give us [the Health Department] time to complete our contact investigation … [the decision to go virtual] is more around the amount of adults [staff] who need to quarantine following an investigation.”

Guidance was shared on how to celebrate upcoming fall and winter holidays safely. For Halloween, Kruppa recommended that neighbors set up a table outside their home with individually wrapped candy, and welcome trick or treaters from6 feet away. He also clarified that “trunk or treats,” a tradition where people give out candy in a parking lot or neighborhood from their cars, are not recommended due to the current limit of 50 people at any non-essential gatherings. Halloween guidance by the Health Department can be found on their website.

Regarding the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, Kruppa discouraged gathering with family stating, “It’s not uncommon for us when we do contact tracing to find an entire family infected. Sitting together at a table close to each other for extended periods of time is what we don’t want to see happen.” Kruppa continued, “Thanksgiving typically brings generations together.… The risks of that are too much.”

When asked about community needs exacerbated by the pandemic, Deputy County Administrator Amie Hendrix referenced the childcare sector, stating “Unfortunately 7 out of 16 (44%) of afterschool spots are closed for the semester. Costs for childcare are rising. Childcare centers have lost income for preschool and school age programs due to group size restrictions from New York State, and stand to reduce their income by $1,500 to $2,000 per month per classroom, while maintaining pre-COVID staffing patterns and site requirements.” Hendrix also referenced housing as an ongoing community issue, sharing details about a local COVID-19 Rental Assistance Program. The program is designed to provide rent relief for up to 3 months to eligible households who have experienced a loss of income related to the public health crisis.

Hendrix urged endurance, thanking community members for “following the 4 key pillars: distance, density, face masks, and handwashing.… It’s that endurance piece, we must continue to do these 4 things to stop the spread.”