Despite a drastic rise in COVID-19 cases — specifically cases of the Delta variant — in Tompkins County, Ithaca College is not currently changing any campus guidelines.
The Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) announced that the county is now classified as a high-transmission area, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define as when there are more than 100 cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period. In the past seven days there were 132 positive cases in the county. Residents are advised to wear masks indoors, even if they are fully vaccinated. There were also 35 new COVID-19 cases Aug. 18 in Tompkins County, a number that has not been seen since February 2021 when a high of 37 cases was reported Feb. 7 and 41 cases reported Feb. 4.
The Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) announced Aug. 20 that Tompkins County is now defined as a “high” transmission zone for COVID-19.
COVID-19 cases have been increasing in the county over the past three weeks. Before Aug. 18, the largest single-day increase within the past three weeks was Aug. 12 with 25 new cases. The increase in cases has been tied to the Delta variant, which is a more contagious strain of COVID-19. The Delta variant is currently the most prevalent variant in Tompkins County and across the United States. Tompkins County also reported another death in the county Aug. 19. The number of Tompkins County residents that have died of COVID-19 is 33.
Samm Swarts, assistant director of emergency preparedness and response, said via email that currently, the college is not planning on changing any guidelines and the college is working with the TCHD to understand what guidelines are necessary.
“We will continue to update the campus community if and when changes may be needed,” he said via email.
Between June 4 and July 22, the county saw between zero and three new COVID-19 cases per day. The numbers began to increase after July 22. Ithaca College has also seen new COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks. The college’s COVID-19 dashboard began updating again July 30 and currently, there are three active student cases. The active cases are one residential student and two off-campus students. There have been eight students who have recovered since July 30.
In a message to the campus community July 30, the college announced that face coverings are required indoors regardless of vaccination status because of the Delta variant and a health advisory from the Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD). The college previously announced June 9 that masks would not be required for vaccinated individuals when indoors or outdoors.
The TCHD released another health alert Aug. 17 telling people when to get tested for COVID-19 after possible exposure. Individuals who are symptomatic, regardless of vaccination status, should be tested for COVID-19. Vaccinated close contacts of a positive individual should get tested three to five days after exposure and unvaccinated close contacts should get tested five to seven days after exposure. The TCHD defines a close contact as someone who is within six feet of a COVID-19 positive individual for ten or more minutes. Close contacts are identified during contact tracing from the TCHD and are notified by the TCHD.