It Takes a Village – Partnering to Support our Return to South Hill

By Christina Moylan, November 6, 2020
A message from Christina Moylan, Director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness.

Public Health Column introduction video. 

One of the true highlights of navigating the COVID-19 pandemic has been the supportive partners that we have in the Tompkins County area. Our regional health system, the county’s public health department and the nearby institutions of higher education have all been tremendous sources of support through the fall and will play important roles in our return to South Hill this spring.  

Cayuga Health System (CHS) is a regional, integrated health system that spans Tompkins and Schuyler Counties. In Ithaca, its Cayuga Medical Center is a 212-bed hospital that employs over 1,500 health professionals and has 200 affiliated physicians.  

Testing site.

Testing site at Ithaca College.

In response to the pandemic, CHS stepped into the void created by the lack of a national strategy for testing. It is now a regional leader in testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This fall, we have worked with CHS to extend its testing infrastructure to the Ithaca College campus. This includes leveraging its patient registration and patient portal systems,  medical personnel and laboratory capacity to support a robust testing program for our campus community. It also recently expanded its sample collection methods to include both nasopharyngeal swab and saliva. 

We are poised to add telehealth services with CHS providers for employees, who need support addressing COVID-19 symptoms or questions. This will complement the support already in place for students via providers at the Hammond Health Center.  

As a public health crisis, the pandemic also requires that we work closely with the Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) – and particularly its public health nurses. CHS reports any positive cases that result from its testing process directly to TCHD. Public health nurses reach out to the COVID-19 positive individual to provide guidance regarding isolation. They also initiate the very important process of contact tracing.  

As I am hoping you are all now aware, contact tracing is key to separating those who have had close contact with someone who is infected from the rest of the population to minimize spread. The use of this public health tool will be vital to keeping students on South Hill and in classes throughout the spring. 

TCHD also offers a wealth of informational resources for public consumption. They maintain a Daily Data Table, to keep the community informed, which you may want to bookmark to track the spread of COVID-19 within Tompkins County. While not as visible, but truly vital, they serve as a helpful sounding board for us regarding public health concerns as we make operational decisions while navigating this pandemic.    

In wrapping up, I also want to recognize the role of the other higher education institutions in the area – Cornell University and Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3) – as decisions by one institution impact us all. During the pandemic, we have not always made the same decisions, because what is right for one institution is not always a good fit for the other. However, we have committed to an ongoing working relationship with one another, meeting once a week to discuss challenges, successes, scientific advancements, policy changes, and public health guidelines. This opportunity for information exchange has been invaluable and is helping us be as prepared as possible so that all of our students are able to enjoy spring in Ithaca.  

Let’s keep our numbers low, and our spirits high!        


Christina Moylan, Ph.D.       
Director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness