ITHACA, N.Y.—Six more people have died as a result of an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak at the Oak Hill Manor nursing home in Ithaca. That brings the total number of deaths to 11 from the Oak Hill outbreak, which was first reported in late November. Overall, 12 people have died from the coronavirus in Tompkins County.

It is without question the deadliest period of the pandemic recorded in Tompkins County, and comes during a winter wave that has seen record numbers of positive tests for COVID-19 locally. The deaths, according to the county, occurred between Dec. 12 and Dec. 21, but were announced Monday. It has not been released how many of the 12 people hospitalized currently in Tompkins County for COVID-19 are related to the Oak Hill outbreak.

“Every death from COVID-19 in our community is heartbreaking, and our thoughts are with the families of those we lost and with those battling the disease,” said Tompkins County Public Health Director Frank Kruppa. “We continue to see those at highest risk having the most adverse health outcomes from COVID-19. We’re looking forward to having our seniors vaccinated in the coming months, but while we await the vaccines, we can’t stop doing what we know works — wearing masks, keeping distance from one another, and being patient before we visit with loved ones. It’s important to remember that our health department handles each new positive case and manages contact investigations in every case except those in nursing homes. Our contact tracing continues to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Tompkins County.”

The facility’s administration has yet to respond to numerous requests for comment since the first cases were reported.

In November, the outbreak was initially reported to have infected 39 of the facility’s 50 residents, as well as 13 staff members. At that time, two people had died, though additional deaths have slowly been reported over the last month. It is unclear how the virus first made its way into the facility.

Contact investigations and tracing from positive tests at nursing homes are being handled by the New York State Department of Health, which confirmed the existence of a response at Oak Hill Manor on Dec. 1. At that time, Jeffrey Hammond, a Department of Health spokesperson, offered the following comment.

“DOH continues to actively respond to the situation at Oak Hill Rehabilitation and Nursing Center,” he wrote. “On Nov. 30, DOH conducted an unannounced COVID-19 Focus Infection Control inspection at Oak Hill to ensure compliance with infection control practices and CDC-supported guidelines issued by New York State. The facility has sufficient PPE and have tested residents and staff. As this is an ongoing investigation, we cannot comment further.”

The department did not answer a further request for comment on Monday. If they do, the comments will be added to this story.

Matt Butler

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