Zoe Yang/Sun Contributor

A COVID-19 sign on campus on Oct. 18th. A case spike in Tompkins County has health officials concerned.

October 21, 2020

Tompkins County Reports 16 New Cases as COVID-19 Surges Across Southern Tier

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The Tompkins County Health Department reported 16 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, totalling 76 active cases in the highest spike since the start of Cornell’s semester.

But unlike the early September spike, the recent case jump is occurring without a known source or cluster, meaning COVID-19 is likely spreading throughout the community, the health department said.

“We share the community’s concern with another increase in cases not associated with a clear cluster,” said Tompkins County public health director Frank Kruppa in an Oct. 16 press release.

The majority of the cases do not appear to be connected to Cornell: The University’s dashboard shows only 10 new positives from Oct. 13 to Oct. 19, while the county reported 56 positive cases over that same period. The University has not updated its dashboard since Oct. 19 and remains at the green alert status as of Wednesday.

On Saturday, the health department announced that nearly 100 people were quarantined after an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 traveled to an out-of-state hockey tournament. The Rink in Lansing was contacted in potential association with the exposure, The Ithaca Voice reported.

In the Oct. 16 release, the health department warned of several potential exposure events. A COVID-19 positive individual had dined at both the Ithaca Ale House and Liquid State Brewing Company on Oct. 9 and Oct. 10, and an Ithaca Wegmans cashier worked four shifts from Oct. 7 to Oct 11.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) noted an uptick in cases along the New York–Pennsylvania border at a Wednesday news conference, restricting school openings and nonessential business operations in one county bordering Tompkins County and another just to the west.

In the Southern Tier, COVID-19 cases have climbed throughout October. Politico reported that if the Southern Tier was a state, it would have met the criteria (10 cases per 100,000 residents) for New York State’s travel advisory list.

In a Wednesday email to the Cornell community, Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi reiterated that visitors are “strongly discouraged” from coming to campus and implored students to avoid traveling outside Ithaca.

“The prevalence of COVID-19 cases has increased substantially within and around Tompkins County in recent weeks,” Lombardi wrote. “It is more critical than ever that we remain diligent in following the Behavioral Compact, the Daily Check requirements, travel restrictions, and all university public health guidelines.”