TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—With COVID-19 cases at record highs and climbing in Tompkins County, officials held another town hall to discuss the immediate future of the pandemic and the actions being taken to mitigate its impacts locally, including touching upon vaccination timelines, travel guidelines and the impact the holidays will likely have on the coronavirus situation here.

The forum was hosted by Tompkins County Chair Leslyn McBean-Clairborne and featured Public Health Director Frank Kruppa, County Administrator Jason Molino and Deputy County Administrator Amie Hendrix. It primarily covered and reiterated information that has been reported or released over the last two weeks since their previous public update. Watch the full town hall here.

McBean-Clairborne began with an impassioned plea for local help from the higher levels of government, specifically excoriating President Donald Trump and others in the federal government for failing to pass another round of stimulus help during a time of such widespread crisis as COVID-19 has wrought.

“We just can’t wring our hands and say ‘Oh there’s nothing we can do,’” she said during an extended introduction monologue asking for those watching to contact federal elected representatives, particularly those contributing to the gridlock preventing a second COVID-19 relief package. “We can let people know that our citizens in this country need help. When we can work and support ourselves, we do. And when we can’t, we look to our government to help us.”

She then segued to the normal question and answer period, which largely focused on the above mentioned topics. Kruppa once again undertook the unenviable task of urging people not to travel or gather with friends or family for the holidays, a sentiment the health department has been pushing for several weeks.

“A vaccine is on the horizon,” Kruppa said. “Again, travel is discouraged. I know it’s a big time of year for travel, but we want folks to stay home. If you do have to travel, please follow the state quarantine guidelines so we can limit exposures.”

Whether or not this messaging has had an impact or not is unclear: though the county, state and federal governments all discouraged people from traveling over Thanksgiving, the Tompkins County Health Department has attributed much of the recent spike in cases to travel and gatherings related to the holiday, with entire households even testing positive.

As for the vaccine, it’s still unknown when exactly it will be available for anyone who wants it. The county found out earlier this week that 4,500 doses will be delivered during the first wave of deliveries, with priority given to healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents and workers.

The county has set up a part of its website dedicated to the vaccine with updating information as it’s available.

Matt Butler

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