TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—The Tompkins County Health Department has announced two additional deaths from COVID-19, bringing the county’s death toll to 37.

The two deaths were both of fully vaccinated people, and the health department stated that both were “elders,” though it does not specify their ages. The county had announced on Monday the first death of a fully vaccinated person from COVID-19, which they said occurred over the weekend, on Sept. 11. That person was 93 years old.

Of the total death toll in Tompkins County since the pandemic began, 34 have been unvaccinated, while three—the three most recent deaths—have been fully vaccinated. The health department stated that “a majority of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 in Tompkins County have been of unvaccinated older adults.” It also pointed out that severe illness is far more likely in people over the age of 65, as well as listing a host of other contributing factors assembled by the CDC.

“Our thoughts are with the families and caregivers of these individuals who have passed,” said Public Health Director Frank Kruppa. “COVID-19 has touched the lives of so many people in our community. We continue to grieve for all who we have lost during this pandemic. We’re sharing this information on the recent passing of fully vaccinated individuals to continue our commitment to transparency as we monitor the severity of disease in our community, and to share who is most vulnerable and negatively impacted by COVID-19.”

There were 44 new positive cases Wednesday, which would’ve raised eyebrows as recently as a month or so ago but seems like the new norm since the end of August—though hospitalizations have generally been far lower during that time period than previous peaks. There are now 218 active cases of the coronavirus in Tompkins County, down from a peak of 488 on Sept. 5. There are nine people hospitalized with the illness.

Kruppa said the continued spread is a result of the reopening community and social gatherings, accompanied by the prevalence of the Delta variant.

“We know that the Delta variant continues to spread even among those who are fully vaccinated,” he said. Despite this, the vaccine is protecting a vast majority of people against severe illness. With our majority-vaccinated population and the prevalence of the Delta variant, we are likely to continue to see positive cases in those who are vaccinated. The health department will continue to monitor severe symptoms and illness from COVID-19 in our population, and work to protect those who are most vulnerable to the disease.”

Continuing, Kruppa said the best way to protect the vulnerable is to wear a mask while indoors around others, getting tested if symptomatic and encouraging others to get 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