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Health Alert: Tompkins County COVID-19 Community Level Shifts to Medium

(Ithaca, N.Y., January 20, 2023) – The Tompkins County Health Department is alerting the community to the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in our community, that coupled with higher hospitalization numbers, shifts the local CDC Community Level from Low to Medium. TCHD is urging caution, especially for those most at risk for severe illness, though there is no change in official guidance regarding masking at this time.

As is detailed in a press release issued on January 19, 2023, the widely circulating Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 is highly contagious, resulting in an increased spread of disease. The community is urged to keep up to date on vaccinations, wear a high-quality mask when needed, and consider risks when gathering indoors with others.  

Stay Up To Date On Vaccinations To Prevent Severe Disease

  • Vaccines are safe, effective, and continue to show increased protection from severe illness.
  • Vaccine doses are currently available at local pharmacies and primary care offices.
  • Dial 211 (1-877-211-8667) for additional information or for assistance with registration.
  • COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility:
    • Everyone ages 6mos+ is eligible to be vaccinated and may receive an updated bivalent booster at least 2 months following your last vaccination, regardless of whether it was a completion of your initial series, a 1st booster or a 2nd booster dose.

Get Tested If You Experience Symptoms, Self-Test Before Gathering With Others

  • If you are feeling ill or symptomatic for COVID-19, or have had a known exposure, seek a test through Cayuga Health System or your healthcare provider. Tests are free and available for Tompkins County residents at the Cayuga Health System testing site at the Shops at Ithaca Mall (40 Catherwood Rd.). Appointments are required. Go online or call: 607-319-5708.
  • Self-tests are recommended for individuals who do not have symptoms and are seeking quick results to identify infection or increase confidence that you are not positive for COVID-19.
    • A self-test can be used as a prevention measure before gathering indoors with others who are not in your household. This is especially important before gathering with individuals who are unvaccinated, older individuals, those who are immunocompromised, or individuals at greater risk of severe disease.
    • Free self-test kits are available locally in various locations.
  • Self-test kit expiration dates have been extended by the FDA from a 9-month shelf life to 12-months. Test kit expiration dates have been extended from a 9-month expiration date to a 12-month expiration date. Before you discard a past-date kit, please check online for the new extended expiration date.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19, you must isolate at home for at least 5 days, the period when you are most likely to be infectious. After 5 days, if your symptoms are improving, your isolation period may end, but please continue to wear a high-quality mask when around others.
  • Therapeutic treatments for COVID-19 are available through pharmacies and healthcare providers in Tompkins County. Those who test positive, especially those that are an older adult or at high risk of illness, may be eligible for treatment options that can be prescribed by a doctor. Patients seeking treatment should not contact the pharmacy directly, but instead contact their primary care physician to receive a prescription. Anyone who does not currently have a primary care physician or who is uninsured and seeking a local provider should call 2-1-1 (1-877-211-8667).

High-Quality Masks Provide Protection

  • High-quality masks (KN95 or N95) continue to be one of the best ways to protect yourself and others.
  • High-quality KN95 masks are freely available to the community. Please refer to the TCHD website or dial 211 (1-877-211-8667) for information on where these masks are available.
  • For more information on how to most effectively wear a KN95 mask, TCHD has published a video with instructions.
  • Any individual may choose to wear a mask in any situation based on personal preference.
  • Individuals should wear a high-quality mask for at least 5 days post-exposure to COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19, wear a high-quality mask for 10 days from the onset of symptoms or the date of your positive test (whichever comes first), whenever you must be around others at home and in public.
  • TCHD continues to recommend that you wear a mask when you are around others:
    • Who are ill
    • Who may not be vaccinated against COVID-19
    • Who are at high risk of severe illness
    • If you are immunocompromised or at high risk of severe illness from the virus
    • When in a healthcare or congregate setting as defined by New York State where masks are required

Tompkins County Whole Health (formerly the Tompkins County Health Department): envisioning a future where every person in Tompkins County can achieve wellness. Find us online at, and follow us on Facebook at and on Twitter at @TCWholeHealth. Get Whole Health updates or other county announcements via email or text, sign up here.

Media contact: Shannon Alvord,