The Tompkins County Health Department issued a warning to residents about the increased spread of COVID-19 within the last month.
In a Jan. 22 announcement, the department stated that there were 276 new COVID-19 cases over the past seven days. On Jan. 20, there were 62 new cases, which set the record for the highest single-day increase of positives since the beginning of the pandemic. The department stated that there have been 701 new cases since the beginning of January. So far December was the worst month in the county since tracking began, with 940 new cases. There were 492 new cases in November and 219 new cases in October.
The department stated that this rapid increase in cases is the result of household gatherings with family and friends, spread within households after an individual tests positive, workplace exposures, travel and other instances where social distancing and density protocols were not observed.
At least five COVID-19 clusters have been identified, including a gathering at a place of worship where masks were not worn, a daycare, a training event for law enforcement and two workplaces.
“We do have control over what we do to keep one another safe — wearing a mask, keeping distance and avoiding gatherings are still the most effective tools we have to stop the spread,” Frank Kruppa, Tompkins County public health director, said in the statement. “Please know that when you take these precautions you contribute to the overall health and safety of our community.”
The department is offering COVID-19 vaccines to individuals who are 65 or older, in-person college instructors, public-facing grocery store workers, individuals working or living in homeless shelters, public transit workers, individuals working in correctional institutions, childcare workers, prekindergarten–12 school faculty and staff, individuals who work in fire services, individuals who work in police investigations, public safety communications workers and civilian personnel.
The Cayuga Health System vaccine clinic is located at the Shops at Ithaca Mall, and vaccines are also available at pharmacies and state-operated sites. An appointment time and registration are necessary to be vaccinated at the Cayuga Health System clinic.
New York State did not allocate any vaccinations to Tompkins County for the week of Jan. 18.
As of Jan. 21, there are 301 active COVID-19 cases in Tompkins County, with 2,802 total cases since March 2020.
As of Jan. 22, there are 10 active COVID-19 cases at Ithaca College and 185 total cases since Aug. 14, according to the college’s COVID-19 dashboard. In a Jan. 22 email to students living in on-campus apartments, Rosanna Ferro, vice president for student affairs and campus life, stated that an undisclosed number of students living in the Gardens and Circle Apartments have tested positive for COVID-19 and did not adhere to arrival quarantine protocol. This resulted in all residents of the apartment being placed in Emerson Hall to quarantine, the email stated.
Christina Moylan, director of public health emergency preparedness, said these positive cases began emerging when students began returning to campus two weeks ago.
“It became clear that there is not a good understanding of a ‘close contact,’ particularly for our students in apartment arrangements,” Moylan said via email. “When you are a close contact, you must enter public health–ordered quarantine (this is different than the precautionary arrival quarantine we are requiring as a college, which is to make sure that we don’t have positive cases interacting with non-positives upon arrival).”
She said the students were honest throughout the contact tracing process, which is important in controlling the spread of COVID-19.
“It is also good practice though even after arrival to be very conscious of the six feet of physical distance rule,” Moylan said via email. “Anytime you are within six feet of physical distance of a positive case for more than 10 minutes within a 24-hour period, you will be named a close contact. This requires that we really rethink our social interactions, along with adherence to frequent testing and other public health measures that will be key during the spring semester.”
Testing for the spring semester at the college is done through a saliva self-collection process. Samples can be dropped off by 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday at the A&E Center, the Campus Center and Terrace 13. Symptomatic members of the campus community are not allowed on campus and should seek testing at The Shops at Ithaca Mall sampling site or downtown sampling site.