Correction: The Health Department has offered a correction to their previously published statistic that the number of children who have tested positive represents 0.01 percent of the total under-12 population in Tompkins County. It actually represents 1 percent. This story has been updated to reflect the correction.

TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—As has been seen elsewhere in the country, children under 12 in Tompkins County have made up a significant chunk of the COVID-19 cases over the last three-plus months, according to a new announcement from the Tompkins County Health Department. Cases among children under 12 have accounted for 20 percent of all positive tests since May 1, 2021, according to the health department.

Perhaps for reassurance, the health department said the number of children who have tested positive for COVID-19 since May 1, 2021 represents 1 percent of the total population of children under 12 in the county.

Those cases have contributed to Tompkins County’s recent ascension to “high community transmission” status, which means there are over 100 cases per 100,000 residents. There are currently 144 active cases in the county, as of Friday’s update from the county, with nine people hospitalized. The health department’s statistics show that over the last four reported weeks, 26 children under the age of 12 have tested positive, including 22 in the last two weeks. They are the lone population that is not eligible for any of the vaccines that have been approved (at least as far as the health department categorizes them).

In accordance with the rise in cases and guidance from the New York State Education Department, the county health department is advising local K-12 school districts that they should follow guidance regarding mandatory indoor mask-wearing, whether vaccinated or not, for all faculty, students and staff.

The health department blamed the recent jump in cases, particularly the jump among children, to the more contagious Delta variant, “mixing of different cohorts and large group transportation,” as well as summer travel and gatherings. The health department has also recently identified clusters related to indoor gatherings, domestic travel, and household spread.

“It is our goal to have a healthy K-12 school year, we know that mask-wearing and vaccines are our best tools to keep anyone, including children, from testing positive with COVID-19 and spreading the disease,” said Public Health Director Frank Kruppa. “As more Delta variant cases have been seen locally, we’ve seen the numbers of positive cases in young people increase. For young people who cannot be vaccinated, wearing masks will help stop the more contagious Delta variant and help keep more students in the classroom. Our mask advisory is still in place for all community members, and paired with vaccinations, this is our best tool for stopping the spread. We know what works, and we’re a healthier community when we all work together to keep one another safe. Thanks to everyone for doing your part to stop this pandemic.”

Matt Butler

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