May 20, 2020: The Tompkins County Board Administration released the following highlights from Tuesday's meeting.
Legislature Unanimously Passes Resolution to Purchase Rheonix Testing Equipment, Increasing Cayuga Health Systems Local Testing Capacity
A resolution brought forward by Legislator Shawna Black (D-Ithaca) and seconded by Deborah Dawson (D-Lansing) to approve the purchase of equipment to run tests for COVID-19 locally at Cayuga Medical Center passed unanimously (14-0). Tompkins County officials expect the purchase to be reimbursable by FEMA disaster relief aid.
Dr. Martin Stallone, CEO of Cayuga Health System joined the meeting to answer questions. Dr. Stallone shared that with the procurement of additional machines, Cayuga Health System will be able to increase the daily capacity to thousands of COVID-19 tests. This purchase is part of a larger vision to support the eventual wide-scale community reopening and will allow Cayuga Health System to accurately and rapidly detect prevalence of the disease in Tompkins County.
Legislator Black thanked Cayuga Health System, adding that they have “done an amazing job with testing in our County.” She shared that she receives “daily feedback on the process, friendly staff and how easy it is to get the test. The only way to continue flattening the curve is to increase accessibility to testing.”
The new equipment will allow for the pooling of samples to increase daily testing numbers – a method possible because of the low prevalence of COVID-19 in Tompkins County. Cayuga Health System has committed to sharing techniques with other regional partners who also have Rheonix equipment. Rheonix Inc., is an Ithaca-based company offering equipment for rapid, sensitive and specific molecular testing across a variety of markets.
Regarding the purchase Legislator Anne Koreman (D-Ulysses) shared, “This is a small thing we can do compared to all the great things Cayuga Health has done for our community.” Legislature Chairwoman Leslyn McBean-Clairborne (D-Ithaca) added, “Tompkins County is safer because of our government and health system working together.” Contact, Shawna Black, Chair, Health and Human Services Committee, 607-351-7855, Jason Molino 607-274-5551
Redistricting and Legislative Terms Discussed in Light of Delayed 2020 Census Results
Legislator Amanda Champion (D-Ithaca) reported from the Government Operations committee that as the 2020 Census data reporting will be delayed, the Legislature is considering making adjustments to terms to allow for a more accurate future reflection of constituent numbers. Champion shared, “This impacts our County, our residents, and anyone else who wants to run for office” and encouraged legislators to look at the bigger picture of representation.
The committee narrowed down options for adjusted terms to either maintaining the current election cycles or changing the upcoming 2021 elections from four-year to two-year terms with a return to four-year terms in 2023. Options will be discussed at the next committee meeting on June 4th before a recommendation moves to the full Legislature.
The public was urged to weigh in and share opinions with legislators, as well as to complete the census to ensure an accurate count. Contact, Amanda Champion, Chair Government Operations Committee, 607-351-2828
Among other business
The Legislature heard a report from County Administrator Jason Molino including updates on County operations, Health Department messaging on stopping the spread of COVID-19, and regional reopening. The full COVID-19 timeline document can be found here. Administrator Molino shared that open businesses will be required to ensure that their patrons are wearing masks in their facilities and to enforce appropriately, more clarity on this will be part of upcoming guidance from the State. Included in the report were details on how Tompkins County is managing communication and enforcement of state and local guidelines. In almost every case of a complaint the Environmental Health team from the Tompkins County Health Department has achieved compliance by educating businesses and individuals, offering resources, and encouraging respectful engagement with others.
Legislator Amanda Champion shared that registered voters eligible to vote in June primaries recently received postage-paid absentee ballot applications that should be filled out and returned by June 16th so that voters can receive an absentee ballot. Absentee ballots are more widely encouraged as social distancing continues over the coming months. Individuals are encouraged to select “temporary illness” as the reason for filling out the application in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Legislature Chairwoman Leslyn McBean-Clairborne (D-Ithaca) read two proclamations, recognizing Older Americans Month and Asian American Heritage Month. Legislators recognized contributions to our community and reflected on the loss of community leader and Ithaca College Professor Sue-Je Gage. Chairwoman McBean-Clairborne encouraged the public to be mindful and manage mental health during this difficult time for many people in the community.