TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—The last week of COVID-19 testing has resulted in 31 total new positive cases, with the Tompkins County Health Department now reporting that there are 27 active cases locally. That is the highest number of concurrent active cases since the beginning of June.

The rise in cases is not unique to Tompkins County, as it appears the notorious Delta variant is leading to a wave of new positive cases despite the vaccination roll-out all across the United States. The county said that cases are appearing in vaccinated and unvaccinated populations—the vaccine does not necessarily fully prevent contracting COVID-19, but has been proven to be effective at mitigating the virus’ worst impacts in the vast majority of cases.

Despite the uptick in cases, there is one active hospitalization for coronavirus.

“This uptick in local cases follows statewide and national trends and is predominantly attributed to clusters related to domestic travel and large gatherings,” according to a health department announcement. No specific gatherings were named.

The health department does not yet know how many of the cases are the Delta variant, as that is determined through a sequencing process that takes place at Cornell University. Delta has been found in at least two cases in Tompkins County, though that was several weeks ago and updated information has not been released.

“TCHD is anticipating the sequencing data from Cornell researchers in the coming weeks,” said Dominick Recckio, Tompkins County’s Communications Director. “The local sequencing is being done as part of a study and we’re grateful for Cornell’s partnership and efforts on this. Once we have the data and are able to share, we will do so. We anticipate that the delta variant will be a more prevalent strain, as it is across the state and country. This is one of many reasons we are continuing to encourage the community to get vaccinated and encourage others including friends and family to do so as well. The vaccines continue to prove to be safe and effective.”

Further, the health department stated that there is no updated mask guidance for fully vaccinated people, despite yesterday’s announcement from the CDC—the CDC’s new guidelines only apply to places where community spread is high because of COVID-19’s prevalence in those areas, and Tompkins County’s numbers do not pass that threshold. Unvaccinated people should still wear masks indoors and socially distance.

The health department is still urging everyone in the community to get vaccinated if they can, calling it the best way to stop and prevent symptomatic illness. A list of available clinics is here, as the percentage of people vaccinated who are over 18 sits at 76.4 percent in the county—a decent number, but one that falls lower once people who are under 18 are factored in. The Pfizer vaccine is the only one that is available for people between 15-18.

 “What we’re seeing locally is part of the larger trend across the state and country. While this is an increase in cases, the protection offered by all of our vaccines is excellent and vaccinated individuals are highly protected against symptomatic disease and hospitalization, including from variants,” said Tompkins County Medical Director Dr. William Klepack. “While our community has reached high levels of vaccination, that is not true for areas that surround us and for other parts of the country. For those who have not yet received the vaccine, please consider the part you can play in reducing the spread of the disease and keeping our community healthy by getting vaccinated.”

Matt Butler

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