TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—There are now two confirmed cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in Tompkins County, the local health department announced Saturday.

The two cases were found via sequencing at Cornell University, though it is unclear if they stem from the Cornell community. The variant is growing in prominence around the state, which led Gov. Kathy Hochul to instate a mask mandate for all indoor locations that don’t require a COVID-19 vaccination for entry. Locally, after another day of large testing numbers (110 new positives) there are now 466 active cases in the county, with 10 people hospitalized.

To this point, the variant is, functionally, no different than any previous strain of COVID, in that there is no difference in testing or treatment. The health department has published more information about the variant on its website.

“This variant is likely to become the predominant strain in the U.S. and around the world, just as Delta did this summer,” Tompkins County Public Health Director Frank Kruppa said in a statement. “While not a lot is known about this specific variant yet, we do know that wearing a mask while around others, avoiding gatherings especially if you are symptomatic, and getting vaccinated and boosted are all ways to stop the spread and prevent the most harmful effects of COVID-19 regardless of the variant.”

The health department also reiterated the following prevention strategies:  

· 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  

· Tompkins County currently has a mask advisory in effect: everyone is encouraged to wear a mask in public indoor settings regardless of vaccination status.  

· If you are sick or have symptoms, don’t host or attend a gathering.  

· Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have a close contact with someone who has COVID-19.  

· Maintain physical distance from others when in public.  

Matt Butler

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