TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—Active COVID-19 cases are reaching levels never before seen in Tompkins County, as there are currently 428 active cases in the county.

The number has skyrocketed in the last week, growing from 186 active cases on Aug. 26 to 428 on Sept. 2. During that time, one person died from the coronavirus, bringing the local death toll to 34 people.

On Thursday, another 79 positive cases were reported, the second highest number ever reported in a single day in Tompkins County, well behind the peak single-day positive tests reported earlier this week. However, that makes three days in the last week that have either tied or been higher than the previous single-day peaks, which were seen when the pandemic was at its worst at the very beginning of 2021.

The silver lining, as it has been during most of the last month or so of the case spike, is that hospitalizations remain low. There are six people currently hospitalized, and the health department’s last update stated that the “vast majority” of college students who have tested positive for COVID-19 are asymptomatic. During the pandemic’s previous highs, there were 32 people hospitalized.

The lack of severe cases seems to be a testament to relatively high vaccination levels locally, as Tompkins County does have a high vaccination rate relative to the state, and all local colleges have implemented a vaccination mandate. The vaccine, as has always been said, will not prevent a COVID-19 case from occurring, but it does help mitigate spread and seems very effective at lessening the impacts of COVID-19 even if someone does test positive.

Cornell has seen 263 people test positive over the last week, according to its internal COVID-19 tracker. Last year, that would have easily surpassed former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s threshold for a two-week shutdown and mandatory online classes that he announced in 2020; Cornell itself, before Cuomo’s decree was handed down, had indicated it would take drastic action if it saw 250 cases in a week during the Fall 2020 semester, which it has also now passed. But those same thresholds have not been widely discussed locally or statewide this year, and other than raising the campus’ alert level to Yellow, Cornell appears to be moving forward with its previously established safety precautions and 95 percent of the campus community 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