ITHACA, N.Y.—Two employees at the Town of Ithaca’s Public Works Department have tested positive for coronavirus, leading the facility to close for two days. The facility reopened Wednesday. Public Works had planned a training day on Friday but closed as a precaution, and remained closed Tuesday after the long weekend in reaction to the positive tests.

Town Supervisor Rod Howe and Town of Ithaca Human Resources Manager Judy Drake confirmed the cases on Wednesday to the Ithaca Voice after an email was sent out to town officials on Tuesday. They said the two cases appear to be related to a non-work event that both employees attended last week, bolstering Howe’s and Drake’s feeling that the cases did not spread at work (the two work in different crews, so they wouldn’t have had close contact while at work) but was instead the result of wider community spread. Town trucks and the DPW facility were cleaned and sanitized during the closed period.

At least one of the employees was symptomatic, prompting them to get tested. No other employees have tested positive, although nine additional workers have been sent to quarantine after a contact investigation identified them as close contacts.

As a result of a remodeling project taking place at the Public Works facility, no public has been welcomed inside, leading Howe and Drake to believe there’s little chance of any public exposure to the people who tested positive.

“Neither group were working [in public],” Drake said. “One group had been working right there at Public Works, which we don’t have any public in due to our remodel right now, we’re closed to the public completely. The other was on a park (job), it’s not a created park yet, we’re in the midst of creating it, so there was no public there either.”

The remaining 25 employees were allowed to return to work Wednesday, though Drake noted that some are taking a few more days away from the facility as a precaution. No major projects have been stopped or paused as a result of the cases or closure.

“We kept the facility closed (Tuesday),” Howe said. “At this time, we’ve encouraged all the employees down at Public Works to get tested. Many of them have, we’re getting results back and there’s no other positive cases so far.”

The positive cases at public works are the latest in a growing list of places experiencing service interruptions as a result of a recent rise in cases in Tompkins County, which is located in the center of a wider second wave of cases in the Southern Tier region of New York State.

The Dryden Central School District closed for a day after a single positive case led to the quarantining of dozens of staff members and students, and Kendal at Ithaca recently reported that it was ending visitation at its campus because of four positive tests among its community. The Cayuga Addiction Rehabilitation Services facility in Trumansburg also ended new patient in-take until late October.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com