This is a Community Announcement. It was not written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit community announcements, please send them to be Matt Butler at mbutler@ithacavoice.com.

The Tompkins County Health Department is alerting the community of the continued spread of flu (influenza), RSV and COVID-19 cases and providing guidance on reducing risk.

Cases of flu are on the rise nationally and across NYS, with hospitalization rates higher right now than the rates at this time of year during every previous flu season since 2010-11. Nationally, flu hospitalizations currently surpass COVID-19 hospitalization rates, a statistic that demonstrates the strain on hospital capacity.

The flu is widespread in our community and vaccination against flu is essential. The predominant strains of flu currently circulating are two of flu A, and one of flu B. All of these flu types are well-matched in this year’s flu shot. Flu vaccines are available at healthcare provider offices, pharmacies, clinics, and other locations throughout the community. Everyone 6 months of age and over should be vaccinated every year against the flu. It is not too late to get your flu shot.

Vaccination is the best protection against getting the flu and COVID-19 — it protects not only you but also limits the spread of illness to your loved ones and others. The flu and COVID-19 can make even healthy people very sick and cause serious complications in children younger than 5, pregnant women, people 65 years and older, and people with certain chronic health conditions. The age group falling sick most often are those under 18 who can spread it to their families, including grandparents.

On December 5, 2022, NYS DOH and NYSED issued a joint letter imploring communities to be advised on the spread of respiratory illnesses in NYS and to take precautions this holiday season and throughout the winter. The following steps are recommended to reduce the spread of these respiratory illnesses:

  • Staying up to date on vaccines, including Flu and COVID-19.
  • Washing your hands often with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Not coughing or sneezing into your hands; sneeze or cough into your elbow.
  • Staying home when sick or symptomatic.
  • Wearing a well-fitting, high-quality mask when in public indoor spaces and when sick and around family in your home.

Frank Kruppa, Public Health Director stated, “We must all continue to do our part to protect ourselves, our families, and our vulnerable community members. Getting vaccinated, staying home when sick and wearing a high-quality mask in public settings are simple steps we can take to help improve our community’s health. While mask-wearing is not being mandated at this time, it is advisable as a very effective tool at decreasing spread of respiratory illnesses.”

Dr. William Klepack, TCHD Medical Director stated, “Our schools are reporting a significant increase in absences related to respiratory illnesses. It is imperative that families protect their children from severe illness by vaccinating them against the flu and against COVID-19 and getting vaccinated themselves. The current flu vaccine is proving to be very effective at decreasing risk of the circulating flu viruses, and the bivalent COVID-19 boosters are effective at reducing severity of illness from current strains of the COVID-19 virus. Everyone ages 6mos. and older should be vaccinated against these illnesses.”

To get a flu or COVID-19 vaccine, call your primary care provider or schedule with a local pharmacy. You can also use the Vaccine Finder to find a location near you.

Most health insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover the cost of an annual flu vaccination. If you do not have insurance or your insurance is not accepted, you can schedule an appointment at the Health Department’s Immunization Clinics, open to adults ages 18+ who are uninsured or underinsured, and for children age 17 and under who are uninsured, underinsured, Medicaid recipients or Child Health Plus recipients. Call 607-274-6604 to schedule an appointment at our Immunization Clinics.

If you would like to learn more about health insurance options, dial 211 to speak with a Health Insurance Navigator or make an appointment online.

Matt Butler

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