TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—The Tompkins County Health Department confirmed the first death from COVID-19 of a fully vaccinated person in the county on Monday. It’s the 35th COVID-19 death overall in Tompkins County since the pandemic began.

The death occurred on Sept. 11, and the patient was 93 years old with “pre-existing health conditions which contributed to their passing,” according to a statement from the county’s Public Health Director, Frank Kruppa.

“We’re saddened by this loss and every loss in our community from COVID-19,” Kruppa said. “This is the first fully vaccinated person to pass from COVID-19 in Tompkins County. We can report the patient was also impacted by pre-existing health conditions which contributed to their passing. Vaccines continue to be effective in preventing severe disease, and a majority of our hospitalizations continue to be individuals who are unvaccinated. TCHD will continue to monitor the severity of disease from COVID-19 and report information when it becomes available.”

The health department did not reveal further information about what kind of pre-existing conditions the person had accompanying COVID-19, though age has been shown to be a factor in infection severity. The department also did not state whether or not the person was a nursing home resident.

Generally speaking, fully vaccinated people have avoided severe sickness locally, as has been the case nationally as well. While the number of vaccinated people testing positive has jumped recently, likely the result of the influx of fully vaccinated college students returning to town, the vast majority of those cases among people who are vaccinated have been asymptomatic.

This is the first time the health department has acknowledged even a hospitalization of someone fully vaccinated, as well as being the first death reported among that population. Hospitalizations remain comparatively low to the last time active cases were so high—in January 2021, active cases were comfortably above 300 for several days and there were over 30 people hospitalized, while there were over 400 active cases as recently as Sept. 6 and yet there are now only 9 people hospitalized.

Matt Butler

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