TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—The Tompkins County Health Department has detailed the current COVID-19 cases in Tompkins County, which have climbed to an unprecedented number locally. There are currently 2,589 active cases in the county, a continuation of the concerning recent rise in positive tests among the community both inside and outside the Cornell community.

There are 19 hospitalizations related to COVID-19 currently at Cayuga Medical Center. While this is not yet threatening the hospital’s capacity, it is the highest figure since Jan. 25, 2021. Four of those 19 people are in the ICU, and one is on a ventilator. It is unclear if any of those hospitalized have been confirmed to have the Omicron variant—Tompkins County Director of Communications Dominick Recckio said that information is not yet available.

The health department stated that of the 19, eleven of them are unvaccinated versus eight who are fully vaccinated. The ages range from one person in their early 30s to “several individuals in their 80s and 90s.” Currently, the ages of the current patients “aligns with previously published data,” which likely indicates that the vaccinated individuals who are hospitalized are also older. Eleven of the 19 people in the hospital are Tompkins County residents (while this indicates that the remaining eight may be from out of town, like a college student, the age range largely negates that chance).

That point is reinforced by the health department’s data on the local death toll. With one person dying from COVID-19 reported Tuesday morning, that brings the total number of COVID deaths in the county to 47. Since Feb. 1, according to the health department, “11 deaths have been of unvaccinated individuals, while 10 have been fully vaccinated.” However, the health department additionally stated that “all fully vaccinated deaths have occurred in adults over the age of 60.”

Data presented by the health department continues to show that COVID-19 hospitalizations are far more likely to come from the unvaccinated population in Tompkins County than the vaccinated population, especially considering that around 80 percent of the county’s population has received at least their first dose.

As college students, who spurred many of the cases in the county since mid-December as an Omicron outbreak unfolded at Cornell University, begin to return home (presenting its own risks), the health department reiterated that the primary spread they are seeing is from household/congregate living settings and from “larger gatherings or parties where precautions are not observed,” as well as recent travel.

The following prevention strategies and contact tracing details come from TCHD directly:

TCHD is strongly urging the following prevention strategies to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including Omicron variant: 

  • A Mask/Vaccine requirement is in effect for public businesses in New York State. In Tompkins County, everyone is strongly urged to wear a mask indoors while around others regardless of vaccination status. TCHD is urging residents to wear a mask even while at home but mixing with different households of people.
  • Monitor yourself closely for symptoms of COVID-19 and get tested if you have symptoms or have close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
    • If you are sick or have symptoms, even mild symptoms, stay home and get tested. Mild symptoms of COVID-19 may include cough, runny nose, sore throat, loss of taste or smell.
    • At-home COVID-19 tests are becoming more widely available. TCHD urges all individuals who receive a positive result from an at-home test to begin isolating immediately. Due to demand for testing, TCHD is no longer urging those who receive a positive result on an at-home test receive a follow up PCR test, but the guidance continues to be to isolate for 10 days from the positive test result or the onset of symptoms, whichever occurs first. TCHD will communicate additional at-home test guidance as it becomes available.
  • Everyone 5 years and older can protect themselves by getting fully vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccination is free of charge. 
  • For those who are eligible, get a booster dose when you are able. Booster doses help maximize protection from COVID-19 
  • Continue to wash hands well and often, wear a mask, and maintain physical distance from others when in public. 

Contact Tracing

TCHD continues to experience delays in case investigation calls for some positive cases and contact tracing. TCHD is ensuring isolation guidance is made available to all positive cases and is continuing to prioritize positive case calls to those who are over 65 years of age and children under 18.

During contact tracing, TCHD is prioritizing household and congregate contacts due to limited capacity and the trends of where recent spread is occurring. TCHD will continue to communicate updates on the case investigation and contact tracing calls.

·    If you receive a positive test result through a patient portal, follow isolation guidance on the TCHD website and through automated calls until you are contacted by TCHD.

·    If you receive a positive test result through a home test, please isolate from others.

·    The isolation period for a positive case continues to be 10 days based on NYS guidance, regardless of vaccination status.

·    If you are a close contact of someone positive for COVID-19, especially if you are in the same household, avoid further contact with them and carefully monitor yourself for symptoms. If you are unvaccinated, please quarantine until you receive more information from the NYS Contact Tracing program.

·    Videos explaining the Contact Tracing process are available on the TCHD website, in English, Spanish, French, Karen, Russian, Ukrainian, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com