ITHACA, N.Y. –– As new funding for COVID-19 surveillance testing for local residents is made available through the county legislature, the Tompkins County Health Department is now asking that the community do their part to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and taking an opportunity to remind the people of Tompkins that the virus continues to be a major focus and point of concern.

“Alongside this commitment made by our local elected officials, it’s on all of us to make compassionate decisions and investments towards the wellbeing of our neighbors,” TCHD Public Health Director Frank Kruppa said in a letter addressed to residents Thursday night.

The letter touches on three topics –– broadening the definition of a “public health response” and looking to provide neighbors with equitable human services as the pandemic continues, considering what higher education institutions returning will mean for the broader community and the impact of K-12 education being interrupted, incorporating diverse voices in the county’s health response and lastly asking everyone to continue to abide by safety protocols in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In terms of supporting the community facing increased equity problems Kruppa said, “we’re seeing amplified needs for childcare so people can get back to work to support their families, increased calls reporting tragedies of domestic violence, and the exacerbation of health concerns and disparate outcomes based on race and socioeconomic status.”

“I’m asking you to join me in broadening our definitions of what it means to protect the public’s health, and to reflect carefully on the challenges in front of us. We all must ask ourselves what role we play in caring for those around us, whether they be a friend, family member, neighbor, or stranger,” he said.

Another major issue on the minds of many Ithacans as the coronavirus pandemic continues is school and what gathering large numbers of students together could mean in terms of disease spread.

In his letter, Kruppa reminds the community that, “we will do everything we can to support districts and their students and staffs, and to recognize and address the additional public and mental health consequences that come with not having students back in our classrooms full time,” he said. “No plan can account for all variables, but as our legislature pointed out in a recent letter to the community, the only constant is our responsibility to one another.”

Kruppa also said in his letter that the community will continue to gather digitally in order to strategize the best ways to move forward together.

“We will be bringing additional voices and expertise to our virtual community town halls, showcasing the compassionate work that our partners do, and strategizing ways to make that work more sustainable and effective,” he said.

As well, the health department is emphasizing that residents must remain vigilant and continue to take the virus seriously. TCHD promises to uphold their commitment to stopping the spread of COVID-19.

“In conjunction with our County’s commitment to ongoing surveillance testing, we will continue and strengthen our commitments to contact tracing, supporting quarantine and isolation, and communicating closely with our local institutions as they navigate this crisis and make decisions,” Kruppa said.

“We are asking everyone to join us in investing our energy into caring for one another and leveraging our resources to help meet the needs of our community. We are your partner in this work.”

Read the full letter below:

8.20.20 Letter_Statement_Re… by Anna Lamb on Scribd

Anna Lamb

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