TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—The Tompkins County Health Department has issued another warning about the local increase in COVID-19 cases, as the number of active cases in Tompkins County has nearly doubled in the last three weeks. The health department is also informing the public of the discovery of three variants of COVID-19 in local positive cases, including two that have not been seen locally before.

Once again, travel and social gatherings were blamed for the increasing number of cases, which have grown to 150 active cases from a low of 76 active cases on March 2. The health department also stated that the UK variant, which had been seen before, as well as the New York City variant and the Southern California variant are all present in the active cases. They did not specify how many cases of each variant have been detected.

“We’re concerned with this recent rise in cases,” said Public Health Director Frank Kruppa. “While we’ve vaccinated nearly one-third of our residents, the disease is still present. We have to do what we know works to stop the spread. While more people are allowed to gather under new guidance, it doesn’t mean that you can stop wearing masks and keeping distance. We’re seeing COVID-19 spread at private gatherings.” 

Vaccine rate aside, Kruppa continued to warn that the presence of the variants locally could lead to more outbreaks and faster spread.

“These variants are concerning because they may spread faster or could result in more severe disease,” Kruppa said. “At this time, we are not asking the community to do anything beyond the current guidance to respond to the presence of these variants. Vaccination, mask-wearing, hand washing, and distancing are still our most important tools to ensure less opportunity for variants and mutations to occur and spread.” 

TCHD is reminding Tompkins County residents that COVID-19 testing continues to be a critical component to stop the spread of the disease. Individuals who are symptomatic or have a concern about a potential exposure should seek a test. Testing is free for Tompkins County residents, for more information on COVID-19 testing, visit the TCHD website 

TCHD continues to urge everyone who is eligible for a vaccination to sign up for the Tompkins County COVID-19 Vaccine Registry. Starting tomorrow, all New Yorkers over the age of 50 will be eligible to receive the vaccine, though it’s unclear if the health department has the vaccine supply to begin administering shots at the local mass vaccination site at the Shops at Ithaca Mall. Those interested in receiving a vaccination should also check out the state’s scheduling website for state sites

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com