TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—As feared, the Thanksgiving holiday has brought about a continued wave of COVID-19 cases in Tompkins County, according to the Tompkins County Health Department. In response, the department has republished its regulations regarding isolation and quarantine rules, which can be found at the bottom of this article.

The county has seen a rash of cases over the last several weeks, primarily blaming private gatherings for the spread. Wednesday’s results have not yet been released, but Tuesday’s included 34 new cases, a single day number that would have appeared unthinkable in the county just six weeks ago.

Though several government agencies discouraged travel, Public Health Director Frank Kruppa said the contact investigations in the new cases shows people still traveled and gathered for Thanksgiving.

“We are seeing our highest numbers of cases since the start of this pandemic,” Kruppa said. “Is it not even a week since Thanksgiving and we are already seeing evidence of spread due to small gatherings and people visiting friends and family for the holiday. More than half of our 34 cases on December 1 are connected to Thanksgiving gatherings and related travel.”

He continued on to detail the capacity of contact tracing in Tompkins County.

“Health Department nurses and contact tracers are working through unprecedented numbers of cases, and continue to maintain excellent turn-around time in notifying all positive cases and close contacts. However, due to the high volumes of cases in surrounding areas, we are seeing delays in our Health Department being notified of positive cases in those counties who may have close contacts or exposures here in Tompkins County. This has a ripple effect, causing delays in Tompkins County residents being notified to begin quarantine.”

A general update on the coronavirus pandemic will be broadcast on the county’s YouTube channel and questions can be submitted at drecckio@tompkins-co.org.

More information on quarantine and isolation as follows:

Close contacts of an individual with a positive test result must quarantine for 14 days past the last date of exposure, and should get tested for COVID-19. A negative diagnostic COVID-19 test does not end or shorten the quarantine period.

Key actions to take if you have been in close contact with a confirmed case and need to quarantine:

  • Stay home for 14 days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19.
  • Watch for fever (100°F), cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Stay away from others in a separate bedroom and use a separate bathroom, if possible
  • The Health Department will call with further instructions. If you have difficulty continuing to quarantine, discuss your situation with the contact tracer.

Key actions to take if you test positive for COVID-19 and need to Isolate:

The Health Department nurses contact all individuals who test positive for COVID-19 once the result is received. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate for 10 days past the onset of symptoms or 10 days past the date of their positive test sample collection or as instructed by the Health Department.

  • Stay away from others in a separate bedroom and use a separate bathroom.
  • Wait for a call from the Health Department for further instructions and daily monitoring.
  • If you develop new symptoms or need medical care, call your primary care provider first. Do not go to the ER or Urgent Care without speaking to your primary care provider. In case of emergency, call 911 and state that you are under isolation for COVID-19.
  • Stay isolated in a separate room from other household members at all times.
  • Use a separate bathroom, if possible. If this is not possible you must sanitize bathroom fixtures and surfaces immediately after use.
  • Have all meals and other needs—medicines, personal items—brought to your bedroom door.
  • You cannot go to work, school, public places, or social gatherings.
  • Avoid all contact with other members of the household and pets.
  • Don’t share personal household items, like cups, towels, and utensils.
  • Wear a mask if you need to be around other people, if medically tolerable.

Matt Butler

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