ITHACA, N.Y. –– The Tompkins County Health Department on Wednesday reported that a resident living in a Racker Center home has died of COVID-19 complications. This is the latest of now 14 deaths as a result of the virus county-wide.

According to the Racker Center, “a cluster of cases” was reported to TCHD on Dec. 7, though it is unclear how many residents have been infected.

A letter to the Racker community from Executive Director Dan Brown and Associate Executive Director Cris Donovan goes on to say that, “this is the first resident case in any Racker’s 26 homes since the onset of the pandemic in March” but that, “two additional residents are currently hospitalized and are critically ill.” 

The identity of the deceased person is not being released for privacy reasons though Brown and Donovan’s letter expresses that, “everyone in our Racker community is saddened and heartbroken at the loss of this amazing woman. We send our deepest condolences to her family, friends and all the people who have worked with her over the years.”

“Our condolences to the Racker community and the family of the individual,” said Frank Kruppa, Tompkins County public health director.

The Racker Center, which provides residential housing for more than 140 people with disabilities across three counties, says that they have been vigilant in regards to preventing an outbreak due to the fatal impacts the disease could have on members of its community.

“We have known about the increased mortality risk to people with disabilities who often have underlying health conditions and comorbidities and have learned a great deal from colleagues across the state and country who tackled outbreaks in group homes this year. As a result, we ensured that we stayed up to date and followed all protocols and guidance provided by health officials and medical personnel with regard to screening, cleaning and disinfection, mask wearing, and handwashing, implemented filtration systems in our homes, developed procedures to limit staff exposure in the community, and created cohorts to minimize potential spread,” the letter from Racker leadership states.

The outbreak comes just as the first wave of vaccinations are becoming available in New York State. Racker staff and families that are eligible have been strongly encouraged to get the vaccine as soon as possible.

“If you are eligible for the vaccine, please make an appointment to receive it. It takes a community to break this trend and we count on our neighbors to do their part,” the letter from Brown and Donovan says. 

Photo via the Racker Center on YouTube.

Anna Lamb

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