TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—For the first time, the Tompkins County Health Department has announced that individuals who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 have been hospitalized with the virus. All local deaths have still been people who are unvaccinated, and most cases among vaccinated individuals who are hospitalized do not require ICU trips.

Of the 32 people who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since July 1, TCHD said that 19 of them were unvaccinated and 13 were vaccinated—though the health department claims mitigating circumstances for some of the vaccinated hospitalizations. About 70 percent of the county is vaccinated. There have still been no hospitalizations of children, according to the health department.

“Vaccinated individuals admitted to the hospital continue to be rare and often result from underlying health conditions or enter the hospital for other reasons,” said the health department’s update. “Cayuga Health also reports that 90 percent of patients requiring ICU treatment have been unvaccinated.”

The press release did not specify an exact number of ICU stays each population, vaccinated and unvaccinated, have undergone. The Ithaca Voice is awaiting a request for clarification.

The health department also dove into some of the details of the recent wave of infections, which has included 177 positive cases over the last seven days. Officials blamed the Delta variant’s increased contagiousness, random community spread (50 percent of new cases are from unknown contact with a positive case), this week’s GIAC cluster, household spread, indoor gatherings/places without wearing a mask, as well as a natural increase from surveillance testing of college students.

With the recent wave of cases, Tompkins County officials are planning another COVID-19 Virtual Update, being held on Thursday, Sept. 2, at 4:30 p.m. and viewable at this YouTube link. Further, in response to the coronavirus’ revitalized presence in the community, the health department is encouraging masking when indoors, vaccinations (upcoming clinic info here) and get tested if they have symptoms at the Ithaca Mall site location, open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“We know from the start of the pandemic that hospitalizations are an important indicator of the severity of disease in our community. Although hospitalizations are currently low, the increase in total hospitalizations during August is concerning and we’re continuing to monitor the disease closely. As a community, we have done an excellent job maintaining low numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations. Cayuga Medical Center is prepared and has capacity. They continue to be a great partner in this response,” Kruppa said. “With the fall college semester beginning there are more people in our community and we’re excited to have everyone back. Along with welcoming the new activity in our community, we are urging everyone to take steps to limit spread of the virus: wear masks when indoors around others not in your household, get vaccinated to protect yourself and others from severe illness, and monitor yourself for symptoms and get tested.”

Matt Butler

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