COVID vaccine

The Tompkins County Health Department announced changes to the COVID-19 case investigation and contact tracing process based on recently updated information from the New York State Department of Health. The changes include prioritizing populations who are at high-risk of severe illness due to COVID-19, shifting case investigation to the state, suspending contact tracing operations, and re-focusing the local Health Department’s efforts on vaccination and educational outreach.

As of January 14, 2022, Tompkins County Health Department has adopted the following changes:

Case Investigation and Isolation – for positive cases, regardless of vaccination status:

  • If you are sick or test positive through a self-test or PCR test, isolate at home for five days and continue to wear a well-fitting mask for five days following your isolation.
  • If you test positive, you may receive a text message and phone call from NYS Case Investigators but will not receive a follow up call from TCHD. Follow isolation guidance on our website and access a self-affirmation form for employer and school documentation from the NYS DOH website.
  • Notify close contacts, especially those who live with you, that they may have been exposed during your contagious period and they should follow quarantine guidance.
  • Attempt to use the resources located on the Health Department's website website or call 2-1-1 (1.877.211.8667) during regular business hours before calling the Health Department. Due to the high volume of calls, there may be a delay in response.

Quarantine – known exposure to a positive case:

  • If you are a close contact of someone who has tested positive with COVID-19, you will not receive a call from the Health Department or NYS. Review quarantine guidance on our website and access a self-affirmation form for documentation on the NYS DOH website.
  • Individuals who are close contacts, and not fully vaccinated or fully vaccinated and eligible for a booster but not yet boosted, should quarantine for five days after exposure and wear a well-fitting mask around others for an additional five days.
  • TCHD will continue to support certain congregate settings to utilize contact tracing to communicate information to close contacts. These settings include senior living settings, and other settings at high-risk for rapid spread of disease.
  • TCHD will not conduct contact tracing in preK-12 school settings and is not expecting schools to complete contact tracing following an identified positive case. Refer to frequently asked questions for the preK-12 setting on the TCHD website for more information.

Tompkins County Public Health Director Frank Kruppa stated, “Changes in priorities are in response to the increased transmissibility of COVID-19 and the shortened isolation and quarantine periods. As a result, contact tracing and case investigation have become less effective in stopping the spread for the general population. TCHD will shift our nursing and administrative resources to focus on testing, educational outreach and vaccination, tools that continue to have a big impact on keeping our community healthy. I want to be clear that this this change is not simply a resource issue. Throughout the pandemic, the support from our local Legislature and community partners has allowed us to find and use resources when needed.”

Kruppa continued, “Our case investigation and monitoring team has done an incredible job over the past two years, and I commend them for their commitment to keeping our community safe. We are looking to the public once again to take responsibility and do your best to self-manage if you are positive, but please remember that there are resources available if you are in need (contact 2-1-1 for more information), or if you become severely ill with COVID-19, call 9-1-1. Vaccines continue to protect the most vulnerable among us, and our high vaccination rates are a testament to how our residents have responded to this pandemic and protected our community.”

Regarding the change in approach, Kruppa added, “As vaccines and testing have become widely available, the risk of severe illness to the general public has decreased. It is still critical for individuals who are positive for COVID to isolate from others and mask, especially from those in their household and away from those who are unvaccinated or over 65 years of age. TCHD will continue to adapt as we learn new information to keep the public safe and healthy.”

Tools to prevent, and limit spread of disease:

  • Getting vaccinated and boosted continue to be safe ways to protect yourself from severe illness. Upcoming clinic: https://tompkinscountyny.gov/health/covid19popup#booster-jan15
  • Get children vaccinated and boosted as they become eligible. Upcoming youth booster clinic: https://tompkinscountyny.gov/health/covid19popup#youthbooster-jan15
  • Wear a well-fitting mask in public and around others especially during and after isolation or quarantine. Refer to the TCHD website and CDC as there are multiple ways to achieve a well-fitting mask. Use a mask that is most appropriate for your setting.
  • If you are not feeling well, get tested and stay home.
  • Testing, especially for those who have symptoms, is free for Tompkins County residents at the Cayuga Health Sampling Site at the Ithaca Mall. The Mall site is an important resource for those who are experiencing symptoms and need to confirm COVID-19. Consider a self-test if you are traveling or attending a gathering or event.

As shipments of self-tests and additional masks are received by the County, the distribution process will be communicated to the public. If you receive a positive self-test, report your result to TCHD using the online reporting form. Once submitted, you will receive an automated email letter as documentation of your isolation period. Additionally, you may use the NYS self-attestation form as documentation for work or school. Please do not call the Health Department to report a positive self-test.

TCHD is holding two COVID-19 vaccine booster clinics Saturday, January 15 from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

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