TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—The Tompkins County Legislature received its regular COVID-19 status update from Deputy County Administrator Amie Hendrix and Public Health Director Frank Kruppa, revealing new information about the coronavirus in schools and community spread.

The overall picture was fairly rosy, as much as it can be for such a topic. After a severe spike during the end of August and beginning of September, much of that attributed to breakthrough infections among returning college students, cases have steadily fallen over the last 2-3 weeks. View the entire COVID-19 presentation here. See the full legislature recap here.

“I’m happy to report that our active cases are down since the last time we spoke, and our hospitalizations have remained pretty consistent between the 5-10 range,” Hendrix said.

Hendrix mentioned that the county has hired two new people to help with the increased testing burden introduced by the county’s mandatory vaccination/weekly testing program for employees.

Subsequently, Kruppa said that despite far more students being in classrooms this year than last, preventative measures like masking, distancing, etc. seem to be working to combat spread within classrooms—at least as far as the health department can tell. There have still been several cases among students, however, but schools have been less likely to opt for distance learning due to their safety measures’ impact on close contact identification.

“Good news on the transmission front, particularly related to pre-K through [12th grade],” Kruppa said. “We’re now a month into the school year and all of our districts have been touched with cases, but we’re not seeing transmission in the schools that we can definitively say is [in-school] transmission.”

Of the positive cases the health department has found recently, Kruppa said it continues to be about half-and-half between vaccinated and unvaccinated—with some fluctuations. Again, since the number of vaccinated people is much higher locally than unvaccinated people, this does indicate higher overall incidence in the unvaccinated population, something the health department has emphasized. He said it’s just further indication that the vaccine is effective at preventing the worst outcomes of COVID-19, but that spread is still possible.

He also ended his presentation with an extended thank you to the staff that has worked on COVID-19 from the beginning and through today.

“At the health department, the COVID response is still a seven-day-a-week activity, we have staff there every day doing case investigation and contact tracing,” Kruppa said. “I just wanted to thank all of them for that continued effort and remind the community that there are still people working every day to limit the spread and keep our community as safe as it can be.”

Matt Butler

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