RECAP: The Tompkins County Legislature voted unanimously (14-0) to appropriate funds to ongoing community surveillance testing contracted with Cayuga Health System (CHS) on Aug. 18.
The vote is a response recent pressure placed on CHS by insurance companies that have agreed to cover essential medical testing. The legislature's decision will effectively make wide-scale testing available to all Tompkins County residents at the CHS sampling site at the Ithaca Mall at no cost. As it stands now, testing deemed non-essential (performed on a person not exhibiting symptoms, having been in contact with someone exhibiting symptoms, recently visiting a state on New York's advisory list or employed in an essential field) costs up to $99.
As part of the agreement, the county will seek a reimbursement from FEMA’s disaster relief program to make up for the cost to patients and CHS. According to Tompkins County Administrator Jason Molino, the legislature originally approached the state for funding but was denied, the next best option was to contact FEMA.
TCDH said that it would notify the public as soon as the new surveillance testing program is operational.
It also said that employers and organizations that require regular testing from their employees in order to operate should contract independently with CHS as they would not be eligible for this County-sponsored testing. As it stands, essential workers who attend the CHS testing site incur no cost.
“Right now is one of the hardest times for our County to spend a lot of money, but we can all see the benefits of testing in our community. I’m proud of our County for being able to offer this,” Legislator Shawna Black said.
“Isolation, quarantine, and disease management are foundational, the only way we can continue to do that is through testing. We’d be taking steps backward if we were to reduce testing capacity in our community,” Tompkins County Public Health Director Frank Kruppa said.