ITHACA, N.Y. –– As public health officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to update the public on the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus and reported outbreaks in other countries beyond China are causing concern for a potential pandemic, the Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) wants to reassure residents that their risk of infection remains low.

“There is low risk of coronavirus infection in Tompkins County because individual risk is dependent on exposure, and there are currently no confirmed cases in New York State,” the TCHD said in a statement. “The best ways to slow the spread of illness are to take everyday actions, including stay home from work and school if you are sick, cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue, and wash your hands often.”

The county reminds residents to take the proper precautions to help prevent the spread of disease.

For individuals:

  • Stay home from school and work if you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (60-95% alcohol)
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces and objects
  • Get the flu vaccination if you have not done so already
  • Talk to your employer about plans for working from home

For employers:

A reminder that COVID-19 may cause symptoms including:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Trouble breathing
  • Pneumonia

If you returned from an affected area in the past 14 days and feel sick with fever, cough or trouble breathing, you should:

  • Seek medical care. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Stay home and avoid contact with others until you are well.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Disinfect surfaces

Suspected cases of the novel coronavirus at Cornell earlier this month both tested negative.

The TCHD says they will continue to work with guidance from the NYS Department of Health and the CDC — creating a plan that is focused on containment of the virus and preparation for any emergent situations that may arise in the future.

TCHD continues to be notified of any travelers from China returning to Tompkins County. Community health nurses are contacting, evaluating travel itineraries, and determining if quarantine is necessary for travelers. Anyone who is quarantined is monitored daily for the 14-day period. To date, none of these individuals have developed symptoms.

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at