Tompkins County Health Department Mask Advisory for Local Businesses and Organizations (8/2)

Tompkins County Health Department Health Advisory Guidance for Local Businesses

Thank you for your tireless efforts to ensure the health and safety of the Tompkins County community.

It is due in-part to your efforts that we have been able to navigate this pandemic thus far, and your flexibility has been critical in being able to adjust to the presence of the virus and get to such a high level of community vaccination.  

We are sharing with you the health advisory that was issued on Friday July 30 regarding mask-wearing for residents regardless of vaccination status (see at above link or in text below) as well as a series of clarifications for your consideration: 

  • This is an advisory and includes no mandates or requirements outside of the current state mandate for unvaccinated individuals to continue to wear a mask while indoors and around others.  
  • This advisory is not meant to directly alter your business operations or supersede previous New York State guidance, such as patrons removing masks while seated at a restaurant or when workers are in their own offices or distanced from other individuals.  
  • TCHD issued this advisory following the number of local new positive cases reaching the CDC’s threshold of “substantial spread” (50 cases/100,000 residents in 7 days). In absence of further New York State guidance, and with the increase in local cases, TCHD decided to encourage mask-wearing by members of the public.  
  • Tompkins County shared this message with our 700+ employees, encouraging (but not requiring) masking when indoors and around others. The encouragement to wear masks is an effort to stop the potential for spread of the disease while density has increased at businesses, offices, and indoor spaces across the community. 
  • Tompkins County is not enforcing the guidance in this advisory. It is incumbent on each resident, business, and organization to take actions that they feel appropriate based on the information provided.  

According to New York State’s previous (June 15) lifting of COVID-19 restrictions:

  • With the removal of the State’s minimum standard for reopening, businesses are free to choose to lift all or some restrictions, continue to adhere to the State’s archived guidance, or implement other health precautions for their employees and patrons.  
  • Businesses are also authorized to require masks and six feet of social distancing for employees and patrons within their establishments, regardless of vaccination status. 
  • Any mask requirements that businesses choose to implement must adhere to applicable federal and state laws and regulations, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

The following may be best practices for businesses related to this advisory and the current state of the pandemic – please note that at this time these are not requirements or mandates: 

  • Consider encouraging or requiring mask-wearing by employees and patrons regardless of vaccination status.  

TCHD is committed to continuing to provide timely and accurate information to the public regarding COVID-19. 

The Tompkins County Health Department is your partner for a healthy community. Find us online at TompkinsCountyNY.gov/health, and follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/TompkinsPublicHealth and on Twitter at @TompkinsHealth.  

COVID-19 Update: Health Advisory Issued for Tompkins County  

(Ithaca, N.Y., July 30, 2021) — The Tompkins County Health Department reported 15 new positive COVID-19 cases today, bringing the total number of new positive cases over the past seven days to 59. This rise in cases is primarily attributed to several clusters related to large indoor gatherings and domestic travel. Out of an abundance of caution, TCHD is issuing a Health Advisory encouraging all residents, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask while indoors around others.  

Following the increased transmission across the U.S. of the more contagious Delta variant, this week the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance stating that fully vaccinated individuals in communities with spread above 50 cases per 100,000 residents should consider wearing a mask while indoors. Tompkins County is currently at 59 cases per 100,000 over the last seven days. New York State has announced that they are reviewing the CDC guidance and will issue guidance following that review. Tompkins County has historically mirrored New York State Department of Health guidance and at this time is not issuing any additional guidance beyond this health advisory. 

Following this advisory, Tompkins County is asking all County employees to wear a mask while indoors regardless of vaccination status (though it is not required at this time), and is encouraging other local organizations to do the same for their employees & patrons. Printable signage from TCHD related to mask-wearing and other resources can be found here.  

Local cases continue to be from both the unvaccinated and vaccinated populations. A breakdown of positive cases by vaccination status will be available in the coming week following analysis by TCHD. Vaccinated individuals, both locally and nationally, continue to have very high levels of protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death.  

Tompkins County Medical Director Dr. William Klepack stated, “As we await more information and guidance, one of the best things we can all do is proceed with caution. We know that the vaccines are proving effective in keeping people from getting severely ill or hospitalized, and that masks work very well to prevent the spread of the disease.”  

Dr. Klepack continued, “Fully vaccinated individuals are encouraged to wear a mask as an extra layer of protection for the community, and unvaccinated individuals must continue to wear a mask when indoors and around others to stop the spread. Those who have not yet been vaccinated should strongly consider getting vaccinated as soon as they are able. By wearing a mask at work and around friends and family, you help prevent the most vulnerable of them from becoming infected and you help stop the pandemic.” For information of where to go to get vaccinated, please visit the TCHD website or call 2-1-1 for assistance. 

Interim Tompkins County Administrator Lisa Holmes stated, “Based on the information that we have at this time, and the science we have available, asking people to wear a mask is the best guidance for our community. We’re continuing to encourage our employees to get vaccinated, and asking everyone to wear a mask following this advisory out of an abundance of caution.” Holmes continued, “Taking these steps helps us keep one another healthy and safe. As we have more information and guidance we will share it with the community. Thank you to everyone for doing their part as we continue to increase our vaccination rate and stop the spread of COVID-19.”  

TCHD recently published a frequently asked questions web page on the Delta variant. Based on sequencing data of positive cases through July 15, there were no new positive cases of the Delta variant in Tompkins County, though other common variants were present. The Health Department previously reported two cases of the Delta variant. Sequencing is done as part of a research project at Cornell University and is available as researchers are able to process it. As TCHD receives additional information on the prevalence of Delta variant cases, details will be shared with the community. Note that individual sequencing results from this research study are not available as the sequencing is done in a research laboratory rather than a clinical one. The treatment for a positive case remains the same regardless of sequencing determination.  

The Tompkins County Health Department is your partner for a healthy community. Find us online at TompkinsCountyNY.gov/health, and follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/TompkinsPublicHealth and on Twitter at @TompkinsHealth. 

-end- 

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