TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—The Delta variant of COVID-19 has indeed become the most prevalent strain of the coronavirus locally, representing 80 of 87 positive coronavirus cases in June and July, equaling about 93 percent. There had previously been two reported Delta variant cases in the county, disclosed by the health department in late June.

The health department noted that they had sequenced all 87 samples “that were available for sequencing,” a process that takes place at Cornell University and in partnership with Cayuga Medical Center. The Delta variant caused every positive case among fully vaccinated people locally, the health department said, at least among those samples that were sequenced. As of last week, though, there had not been a hospitalization required for anyone fully vaccinated that experienced a breakthrough infection.

“The Delta variant contains mutations that make the coronavirus spread more easily, even in fully vaccinated individuals,” said the health department’s announcement. “The Delta variant has become the predominant variant both locally and across the country.”

Treatments for the Delta variant are the same as they would be for normal coronavirus, though it has been identified as more contagious. Despite the Delta’s recent onset, the health department has remained steadfast that the most effective way to battle new variants of any kind, including those that currently exist, is to continue to vaccinate local residents—announcing four clinics in the coming days.

Additionally, the county instituted a requirement that masks be worn by anyone in a county building, including the public and county employees.

“We continue to work to provide safe spaces for our staff and community, and asking people to wear masks is the best guidance for all of us,” said Deputy County Administrator Amie Hendrix. “By wearing a mask at work and around others, you help prevent the most vulnerable from becoming infected. We’re continuing to encourage our employees and community members to get vaccinated as vaccination continues to lower the severity of infection.”

Tompkins County Medical Director Dr. William Klepack stated, “This data shows that the Delta variant is infecting both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. What the data also shows is that vaccinated individuals do have a remarkable level of protection against severe illness and hospitalization. We have to continue to take COVID-19 seriously; wearing a mask, getting tested if you are symptomatic or have been exposed to the virus, and getting as many people as possible vaccinated are critical to our success in stopping the spread and keeping one another healthy.”  

More information can be found in the county’s COVID-19 update from last week.

Matt Butler

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