Stopping the Spread in Tompkins County

By Brian Hudgins, April 17, 2020
IC Alumna helps set up drive-through testing site for COVID-19

When Anna Rosenblatt ’12 and her colleagues at the Cayuga Health System took quick action to address COVID-19, she knew cooperation from Ithaca-area residents would help slow the spread of the virus.

Rosenblatt, a practice facilitator, helped coordinate an effort by Cayuga Health that created two stand-up COVID-19 (Coronavirus) testing sites in Ithaca: the first on Craft Road, and the second at the Shops at Ithaca Mall.

“Something that Ithaca has on its side, that those in larger urban areas do not, is that people — for the most part — have cars,” Rosenblatt said. “So you can contain people in their own individual 'rooms' and have them drive up for testing. Not everyone has access to a car, and not everyone lives somewhere where drive-through testing is an option. I think that is why we were able to mobilize so quickly and get that off the ground in Ithaca.”

As testing has continued, the Tompkins County Health Department and CHS have adjusted so that those who do not have cars are able to get to the site by calling 2-1-1 and have a cab service take them through the testing site.

Within the continuous car flow, there were logistical challenges that had to be addressed. There were a lot of moving pieces that were part of mobilization. Setting up a testing site at the mall meant a bus stop needed to be moved to another spot so a public bus would not be dropping off and picking up passengers in the middle of a testing site. One other concern cropped up on day one.

“At our first site, there were multiple days when we were operating in snow,” Rosenblatt said. “We had to literally plow the parking lot and make sure our staff was warm enough outside because they couldn’t be coming in and out with their protective gear on. Even last week, our site was closed for two days because of dangerous wind storms. It's just not safe to have people outside in those conditions.”

“The town has so quickly abided by the quarantine guidelines and done a really good job.”

Anna Rosenblatt '12

The IC community has also pitched in to help out at the testing site. Bill Kerry, director of public safety and emergency management, worked with Ernie McClatchie, director for grounds and transportation in the Office of Facilities, to deliver 150 sections of fencing to the parking lot. Normally used by the college for large campus events such as Commencement, the fencing is being used to create traffic lanes and provide barriers to enhance physical distancing at the site.

Rosenblatt and a group of her colleagues meet daily to act upon the best information they have regarding the virus. That requires Rosenblatt to call on the lessons she learned at Ithaca College as a documentary film studies and production major.

woman in dog with stream

Anna Rosenblatt '12

“On any film set, you need to learn how to mobilize groups of people toward a common goal, keep people updated and keep people on task,” Rosenblatt said. “Especially in documentary film — working with many different personality types — you adjust accordingly. Those are skills I learned along with organization and timeliness. Those are things I carried with me as I transitioned into healthcare and I worked on a lot of large-scale project management.”

After graduating from Ithaca College, Rosenblatt earned her Master of Public Administration in Health Policy and Management at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service in 2016. She worked as a project manager at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City for a few years before coming back to Ithaca to work at the Ithaca College Gerontology Institute. She moved to Cayuga Health Partners last fall but remains closely connected to her colleagues at the Gerontology Institute.

Once the larger sampling center at the mall was up and running, Rosenblatt transitioned her work to address the need for follow-up calls to patients. After visiting the sampling center, patients are called daily to review isolation instructions, monitor symptoms and ensure that they have access to resources during their time in isolation. Additionally, patients are informed of their results of the test on these calls, so it is extremely important that they are consistent and well documented. Cayuga Health, working on behalf of the Health Department, has made over 8,000 phone calls to patients in three weeks. Testing and accurate follow-up are paramount to helping curb the spread of the virus.

As Rosenblatt evaluates the efforts that produced two stand-up COVID-19 test sites in a matter of days, a few moments stick with the IC graduate.

“The town has so quickly abided by the quarantine guidelines and done a really good job,” she said. “You don't see as many cars on the road. You see people stepping to the side on sidewalks. And when the Cayuga Medical Center employees went down to New York City to help at New York Presbyterian, all the roads on their way out of town were lined with people cheering them on. It was a moving experience, and that’s why I am happy to live in Ithaca, New York.”