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Tompkins County Whole Health Unveils Mural Celebrating Public Health Efforts and Commemorating the COVID-19 Pandemic

(Ithaca, N.Y., July 9, 2024) – A new mural commemorating community public health efforts and honoring those who passed away from COVID-19 has been unveiled by Tompkins County Whole Health (TCWH), in collaboration with the Tompkins County Office for the Aging and Ithaca Murals.

The mural is located along the Albany Street side of the Human Services Annex Building, which houses the Tompkins County Office for the Aging (COFA) and Department of Veterans Services (TCDVS), at 214 W. Martin Luther King Jr./State St., Ithaca. The mural was designed by Britt Johnson and Efren Rebugio of Austin, TX., partners of Ithaca Murals who have painted several murals in the region. The mural was funded through a grant from the NYS Department of Health to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

The mural captures different visual elements of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Tompkins County community. The mural demonstrates how critical vaccinations are to prevent illness and keep one another healthy and safe, especially during public health emergencies. The mural shows people coming together in an uncertain and challenging time for our community.

Photos for media use: Tompkins County Lightroom, COVID-19 Mural on Human Services Annex 
Photo credits: Shira Evergreen, Uplifted Ithaca; Dominick Recckio, TC Director of Communications

COFA was chosen as the site for this mural due to the pandemic’s overwhelming impact on older adults. Millicent Clarke-Maynard, a retired educator and long-term member of Ithaca Rotary is featured in the mural. In February 2021, Ms. Maynard was one of the first older adults vaccinated for COVID-19 at our first pop-up vaccination clinic held at Beverly J. Martin Elementary School (Ithaca). A photo of her receiving the vaccine was featured in our local public health messaging campaign. This pop-up clinic, hosted by TCWH in collaboration with Cayuga Health and the Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC), was our first community-based vaccination effort, with over 100 residents over age 65 vaccinated.

Ms. Maynard states, “Wow, seeing this public art come together to encourage the community to support each other is just amazing. For me, I have always felt nervous about getting shots, but during COVID right away I knew the importance of getting this one to protect myself and my family. For most of my life here in Ithaca I’ve been blessed to educate people, this is one part of that journey. I hope this mural gets people to think of the pandemic, both as a time of people coming together and a time where we lost many loved ones in our community. I’m proud to be a part of this project.”

Lisa Monroe, Director of COFA, reflects, “Older adults bore the brunt of the pandemic in a lot of ways, so it’s really meaningful for our community to see this mural at our COFA offices. There are so many opportunities to take care of one another, whether it’s getting vaccinated or reaching out to the older adults in our lives to reduce isolation; support and care go a long way. COFA is here for the older adults and caregivers in our community; we support aging in Tompkins County helping people find resources and inspiration – this mural is a wonderful part of our goals.”

Frank Kruppa, Whole Health Commissioner, states, “For many of us, this was the most difficult period of our lives. Even when facing incredible challenges, our community came together in a way that is well worth honoring and remembering. There are more unsung heroes from the pandemic than we can count, this is one way to say that we got through this together, while remembering the tragedy of those we lost.” Kruppa continued, “This is an important moment to again thank local education partners, front line workers, businesses, and others who kept the community “moving forward” throughout the course of the pandemic. Above all, during public health emergencies, from a pandemic to a heat wave, it is the connections and relationships we have with each other that can make the difference.”

Caleb Thomas, of Ithaca Murals, states, “I love walking by and seeing Ms. Millie Maynard’s beautiful face gazing out with that hopeful look, reminding us to stay steady, stay connected, and stay healthy. Working on this project with COFA and Whole Health was inspiring; the County takes care of us in a lot of ways we don’t always recognize, so it’s amazing to showcase those efforts through art. Kudos to Britt and Efren for painting something absolutely beautiful for Tompkins County.”

J.R. Clairborne, Director of TCDVS, states, “Many of the elders in our county served in the U.S. military. As a Veteran’s spouse who also has family with military connections, Ms. Millie is part of our Veterans community. By including Ms. Millie in this uplifting example of community coming together, the County also salutes its Veterans through this amazing installment of public art. The elements in this mural give us all hope that by coming together we can get past whatever challenges we face, including the devastating COVID pandemic.”

According to New York State, since September 2023, 22.5% of the Tompkins County population has been vaccinated with the updated COVID-19 vaccine. Tompkins County Whole Health Commissioner Frank Kruppa shared that his goal “is a much higher percentage of people getting vaccinated. Vaccination is a proven, safe way to protect one another and reduce illness in the community. Staying up to date on current vaccination recommendations is essential to maintaining protection against current COVID-19 strains.”

COVID-19 vaccine is available at local healthcare providers and local pharmacies. To find a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, go online to vaccines.gov or speak to your healthcare provider. If you need assistance with finding or scheduling a vaccine appointment, please contact 211 (1-877-211-8667). People aged 65 years and older who received 1 dose of any updated 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Novavax) should receive 1 additional dose of an updated COVID-19 vaccine at least 4 months after their last updated dose. People who are moderately or severely immunocompromised may get additional doses of updated COVID-19 vaccine.

Tompkins County Whole Health envisions a future where every person in Tompkins County can achieve wellness. Find us online at TompkinsCountyNY.gov/health, and follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/TompkinsWholeHealth and on Twitter at @TCWholeHealth. Get Whole Health updates or other county announcements via email or text, sign up here.

Media contact: Shannon Alvord, salvord@tompkins-co.org

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