As our higher education institutions reopen, and thousands of people from around the world arrive in Tompkins County, it is more important than ever that we work together to ensure that reopening happens safely. Transparency and responsibility to each other must be priorities, and we all must continue an active and unwavering commitment to the health, safety, and wellbeing of our community. COVID-19 is still spreading, presenting a serious threat to every community, the actions that each of us take will have an impact on stopping the spread.

As representatives of our entire County, we expect that all community partners will be transparent as their plans evolve, and that those plans continue to mark the health and safety of all community members as their number one priority. Every institution has an obligation to build and maintain trust in their community, and members of the public have the right to know that they are not being put in harm’s way.

It is our community’s expectation that all individuals traveling to Tompkins County – whether to study, live, or visit – do so responsibly. We have reopened Tompkins County as part of the Southern Tier region due to our diligence and compliance. We need everyone in our community, including newcomers, to abide by New York State Executive Orders to quarantine, wear masks, and social distance. The consequences of not following these steps are profound and could cause harm to many who call Ithaca and Tompkins County “home.”

We all share an interest in getting back to what we used to call normal, but we must accept that in an ongoing world-wide pandemic, there is no such thing as normal – these are not normal circumstances, and we can’t expect this next semester to be the same as those we’ve experienced in the past. The only constant is our responsibility to one another. Together in Tompkins County we have flattened the curve, cared for our neighbors, gone above and beyond to help those in need, and started to inch back towards the things that we love – we can’t let those incredible efforts dissolve.

The Tompkins County Health Department has been working to respond to the coronavirus since it arrived and is continuing to do so. If you have general questions about the local coronavirus response, you may go to the County Health Department website, https://tompkinscountyny.gov/health, where we have a wealth of information and resources available. If you see large social gatherings where social distancing and mask wearing are not being observed, you can make a report to non-emergency dispatch at (607) 273-8000. It is important that any response to inappropriate behavior reflect the best in our community, and we are reminding everyone to act responsibly and continue to be good neighbors.

The only way to move forward is together, and we are calling on each other and our beloved institutions to double down on our commitment to keeping Tompkins County healthy and safe.

Leslyn McBean-Clairborne

Chairperson, Tompkins County Legislature

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