ITHACA, N.Y.—With the public health emergency declaration ending this week after over three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, related funding changes will likely have some impact as the world hopes the virus is held at bay going forward.

Tompkins County Whole Health announced a few rather subtle changes to its COVID-19 response because of the ending emergency declaration, as people will have to check with their insurance carriers more often now to check if anything has changed in terms of financial responsibility for tests or vaccinations. That information can be found in full here or at the bottom of this article.

Additionally, the Cayuga Health System announced that the mask mandate that had been in place for all patients and visitors to their hospitals, including Cayuga Medical Center, will end thanks to “reduced COVID community and transmission rates.” There will still be screening at building entrances, asking if people have had symptoms or contact with someone else with COVID-19 in the past 10 days. Masking is still recommended for all patients, visitors and staff, but no longer obligated.

The announcement from the hospital stated that Cayuga Health employees will continue to wear N95 masks and eye protection when caring for patients who may be or are suspected to be COVID positive.

The following is the full announcement from Tompkins County Whole Health:


Access to COVID-19 vaccinations will generally not be affected. When this transition to traditional health care coverage occurs this May, many Americans will not have out-of-pocket expenses for the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) are a preventive health service for most private insurance plans and will be fully covered without a co-pay. Currently, COVID-19 vaccinations are covered under Medicare Part B without cost sharing, and this will continue. Medicaid will continue to cover all COVID-19 vaccinations without a co-pay or cost sharing through September 30, 2024, and will cover ACIP-recommended vaccines for most beneficiaries thereafter.

It is essential to receive the COVID-19 bivalent booster. Everyone ages 6mos+ can receive the bivalent booster. The vaccine is readily available at healthcare providers and local pharmacies. Find an appointment time near you online at: or dial 211 for assistance.

Tompkins County Whole Health continues to provide COVID-19 vaccination for children and adults who are eligible through our New York State funded vaccination programs. Those under age 19 may be eligible for if they:

  • Are currently enrolled in Medicaid
  • Have Child Health Plus
  • Are underinsured: your insurance does not cover the vaccine
  • Do not have insurance
  • Are Native American or Alaska Native

Adults ages 19+ may be eligible if they:

  • Are underinsured: your insurance does not cover the vaccine
  • Do not have insurance

Learn more about these options online at: or call our office at 607-274-6604.

Whole Health Medical Director Dr. William Klepack stated, “Nationwide, persons dying of COVID-19 are mostly those who have not been vaccinated and boosted. Too few individuals in Tompkins County have been boosted (only 3 out of every 10 who are eligible have received their updated boosters). The COVID-19 bivalent vaccine is proven to be safe and effective. Vaccination is essential to reducing negative health outcomes associated with the COVID-19 virus. We encourage everyone ages 6 months and older to get boosted.”


The Federal Emergency Declaration supported quick production of vaccines and self-test supplies that would otherwise go through a longer process to receive FDA approval. At this point in time, more thorough studies of these products have been conducted and the standard FDA approval process can be resumed, without delaying urgent, time-sensitive product development and distribution. Please note that these additional studies have shown antigen test kits remain effective beyond the expiration date printed on their box. To find the updated expiration date of the specific test kits you have at home, go to the FDA’s website: This data is being updated frequently. 

Tompkins County Whole Health and the Department of Emergency Response are continuing to work collaboratively with the state to provide COVID-19 self-test kits, free of cost, to community members. We will continue to provide self-test kits while supplies are available and we do not anticipate the ending of the Federal Emergency Declaration will impact these efforts. These supplies are available at local libraries and municipal centers; please contact your local organization first before arriving as supplies may be limited. Learn more online: or dial 211 for assistance. 


Access to certain COVID-19 treatments, such as Paxlovid and Lagevrio, will generally not be affected by the ending of the Emergency Declaration. Changes will primarily be reflected in what your health insurance covers, such as co-pays. Most provisions for telehealth access will still be covered, as telehealth has been deemed an effective method of treatment. It is best to speak with your insurance provider to find out what the cost of treatment would be, or what provisions for telehealth will be covered, as different insurances will offer different options.


The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will be discontinuing their “Community Level” metric, as authorizations to collect certain public health data will expire with the end of the Public Health Emergency. Moving forward, COVID-19–associated hospital admission levels will be the primary indicator of COVID-19 trends to help guide community and personal decisions related to risk and prevention behaviors. Additionally, vaccination data will be updated on a monthly basis, instead of weekly. Whole Health’s dashboard will be updated to reflect these changes.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Editor in Chief at The Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at