ITHACA, N.Y.—The Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) is sharing its details on wastewater testing for COVID-19 throughout the county.

As of April 21, the Village of Cayuga Heights and the City of Ithaca have begun testing of wastewater as part of a New York State program. Details of that program are available here.

“In many instances in communities where other forms of testing are not as widespread, wastewater testing is used as an early warning indicator for the spread of COVID-19,” the statement said.

Due to the easy widespread availability and accessibility of COVID PCR and self-tests, the TCHD is asking the community to continue to follow the metrics published by the TCHD and the CDC, as well as use wastewater data as an additional measure for the risk of spread.

There are no changes to COVID testing guidelines at this time, and Public Health Director Frank Kruppa said “I encourage those who are interested in results from wastewater testing to monitor the New York State web page for updates, but I would caution anyone looking at this wastewater data as a local indicator of disease prevalence.”

Kruppa continued on to say that over the past week alone, several thousand PCR tests had been run and that since the beginning of the pandemic, almost 2 million had been utilized. “I hope that we will be able to use wastewater testing in the future as other testing becomes less prevalent and build from this infrastructure to identify other infectious diseases and  inform public health messaging and activities.”

Additionally, the mask mandate at the Ithaca Tompkins International Airport is still in effect, despite recent federal decisions and rulings on the mandate.

“Our airport continues to follow state and local guidance to keep our passengers and employees safe. Masks continue to be required in the airport, and we encourage passengers to look at additional local masking guidance both in Tompkins County and in the community they are flying to,” said Josh Nalley, deputy director of the Tompkins International Airport.

Zoë Freer-Hessler

Zoë Freer-Hessler is a general assignment reporter for the Ithaca Voice. She has covered a wide range of topics since joining the news organization in November 2021. She can be reached at zhessler@ithacavoice.com...