ITHACA, N.Y.—Officials from Cayuga Health System (CHS) announced Wednesday all its facilities will begin requiring staff, patients and visitors to wear masks again, effective September 7. 

The decision to reinstate mandatory masking policies was prompted by the emergence of a new COVID-19 subvariant, EG.5, that is currently circulating in New York, according to a statement from CHS officials. 

CHS officials wrote that the subvariant has led to an increase in SARS-CoV-2 detected in community wastewater testing, as well as a “notable” increase in staff members testing positive for the virus. 

Infection rates have been on the rise in the county this summer, and in mid-August, Tompkins County Whole Health (TCWH) issued a health alert warning residents of the noted increase. The county reported an average of three positive cases per day over the course of the four weeks prior to releasing the alert. 

There have been 59 positive cases reported in the county in the seven days prior to Aug. 30, which is the last date New York State Department of Health (NYSDH) updated COVID dashboard data. 

Hospitalizations in the county remain low. The state dashboard data shows 4 cases as of Sept. 1, which has not changed since The Ithaca Voice reported the data last month

Surgical masks will be available at the entrances to all CHS facilities and screening procedures and plexiglass barriers will not be implemented along with the mask mandate. 

Judy Lucas is a General Assignment Reporter for The Ithaca Voice. Have a story idea? Comment or question? You can reach me at or on Twitter @judy__lucas.