The Tompkins County Health Department is alerting the public of a potential COVID-19 exposure at the Walmart in Ithaca. The exposure occurred on Monday, December 14, 2020, from 8:30am–6:30pm, and Tuesday, December 15, 2:00pm–12:00am.

The health department recommends anyone who may have been exposed to the virus to monitor their health for any COVID-19 symptoms.

Another resident at the Oak Hill Nursing Home has died from COVID-19 - the 12th to pass away due to the outbreak at the facility. The Tompkins County health department is reporting that as of Wednesday there are 30 additional cases of COVID-19 in the county and 26 people released from quarantine. According to the County Health Department, that leaves 216 active cases of COVID-19 in Tompkins. There is 1 more hospitalization in Tompkins, bringing the total to 14.

It was reported by the Schuyler Health Department that a 9th County resident has passed away due to COVID-19. The individual was a female in her 80s. As of Wednesday there are 11 new cases of COVID-19 in Schuyler, leaving 58 active cases. 4 people remain hospitalized due to the virus.

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At Cayuga Medical Center, or CMC , a number of workers received their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine today, the Ithaca Voice reports.

CMC management announced today that the CMC employees initially started getting vaccinated at the Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmira, which received the first shipment of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.  Among the CMC workers to receive the first round of vaccines were an Emergency Room Physician, nurse, and pulmonologist and critical care specialist. Further vaccinations will continue throughout this week.

Cayuga Health is heading up distribution of the vaccine in Tompkins County.  However, United Health System in Binghamton is the group leading the effort in the Southern Tier.

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The Seneca View Skilled Nursing Facility is experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases, as announced by Schuyler Hospital officials this week. As of Monday, there were 18 known positive cases at Seneca View. 4 of these residents are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, reports the Odessa File.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Schuyler Hospital has been conducting rigorous testing. All Seneca View employees are tested at least twice a week when active cases are found in a specific hospital unit.

Residents that test positive are separated from others. They are then placed in rooms with special air filters. All Seneca View employees are in full PPE at all times.

The hospital has also restricted visitation, installed plexiglass shields in key areas, in addition to enhanced hand sanitizing stations.

The New York State Department of Health has conducted five on-site visits at the facility and found no deficiencies by the hospital’s team.

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In related news, a second assisted living facility in Tompkins County is seeing a COVID-19 outbreak. Currently, 4 staff members and 1 resident at Bridges Cornell Heights have the virus, according to the Ithaca Voice.

The resident who tested positive is receiving therapeutic monoclonal antibody infusions at Cayuga Medical Center. This individual qualifies for this treatment because of their age and relatively mild symptoms. Notably, others have used this same method and each have seen positive results.

The majority of the Bridges staff members are doing well. However, according to Bridges ownership one staff member is at home quote "struggling with symptoms" unquote, but has not been hospitalized.

Sadly, one Bridges Cornell Heights resident passed away after contracting the virus over a month ago. That individual was reportedly in poor health before catching COVID-19.

The COVID-19 vaccine is prioritized for people in nursing homes and medical facilities. Bridges owner Elizabeth Classen Ambrose says her business has been approved to be a vaccination site and shots will likely be administered soon. In the meantime, all visits are suspended at the facility.

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A new COVID-19 saliva test is now available at the drive-through testing center at Schuyler Hospital in Montour Falls.  The Odessa File reports that county residents can now pre-register to take either test at the center by appointment

The Schuyler Hospital sampling site is only open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and individuals can arrive only at the time of their appointment.  If a person is taking the saliva test, they cannot eat, drink or use tobacco products 30 minutes before their appointment.

Any person that would like to register for a test should visit cayugahealth.org.  For more information, listeners can call the Schuyler COVID-19 hotline at 607-535-8602.

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At the Tompkins County legislature’s December 15 meeting, County Administrator Jason Molino presented a report from the Emergency Operations Center regarding the status of the county’s COVID-19 response. Molino commented on the large spike in cases following the Thanksgiving holiday. Public Health Director Frank Kruppa discussed the success of local contact tracing efforts. Moreover, the county continues to urge its residents not to travel during the holiday season and instead celebrate virtually, or with people in the same household.

According to Kruppa, the Tompkins County Health Department is shifting how it reports COVID-19 data to more closely track with state systems. The county will also be receiving batches of the Moderna vaccine in coming months. Kruppa says that the state will be using pharmacies to contract with long-term facilities for distribution of the vaccine.

Contributing writing by WRFI Volunteers Esther Racoosin, Antonio Ferme, and News Director Michayla Savitt