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COVID19 2021-12-14 Update: Increase in Cases, Omicron Spreading, Follow Precautions

On December 14, the Tompkins County Health Department reported 193 new positive COVID-19 cases, 10 hospitalizations, and four deaths of older adults. TCHD is sharing information on the increased spread of COVID-19 and the recently identified Omicron variant.

 

TCHD continues to report details on the recent spread of COVID-19. The following, previously referenced in a release on December 12 continue to be primary causes of local spread:

  • Significant community spread – over 50% of cases are not able to trace where they may have been infected, showing significant spread in the community and in settings where masking and distancing are not observed.
  • A majority of these new cases are among higher education students. Data dashboards for Cornell University and Ithaca College are available on their websites.
    • Cornell University has recently provided more details on moving to “alert level red” and announced a number of immediate measures.
  • Spread in households amongst families and at gatherings – household spread is happening when someone infects those who live in their home, or others who gather inside the home without taking precautions.
  • Spread from large gatherings or parties (including holiday gatherings) where precautions are not observed and travel.

Preliminary results from recent COVID-19 positive case results, sequenced through the Cornell University’s Virology Lab, in collaboration with Cayuga Medical Center and the TCHD, indicate that significant spread of the COVID-19 in the 18-24 population at Cornell University may be related to the Omicron Variant. Samples from this population were prioritized for sequencing screening due to the rapid spread observed, and final results from sequencing are pending. The sequencing will be done for the broader population of all Tompkins County of positive cases through this same program.  As more information about the Omicron variant becomes available, TCHD will share updates with the community.

At this time, TCHD is not aware of the Omicron variant impacting the severity of disease, hospitalizations, or deaths locally. Sadly, TCHD announced four deaths of older adults on Tuesday, three of whom were patients in long-term care facilities.   

Tompkins County Public Health Director Frank Kruppa stated, “While there is still more to be learned about the Omicron variant, we are confident in saying that it has spread rapidly amongst the 18-24 population in Tompkins County. As we await more information on the variant, we can also say at this time that it has not caused an increase locally in severity of illness, hospitalization, or deaths. Even with the presence of this new variant, our approach is the same and treatment has not changed.” Kruppa continued, “We are fortunate that Cornell has this capability to sequence all Tompkins County samples. Through this partnership we know this information about the spread of the Omicron variant earlier than other locations around the country and are working to understand more about the transmission in our community. With this level of spread, we expect Omicron to become the most predominant variant in our community, similar to how the Delta variant spread earlier this year.”

Kruppa continued, “If you do choose to gather for the holidays, we are encouraging everyone to follow precautions including wearing a mask while indoors and staying home if sick. Consider rapid testing prior to holiday gatherings if available and carefully consider those who are older or immune-compromised in these settings. We have tools to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and its variants: wear a mask indoors, wash hands well and often, get vaccinated, stay home if sick and get tested.”

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 in K-12 settings.

  • 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 and get a PCR test at the Mall Sampling Site. Tests are free of charge for Tompkins County residents.
  • 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 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

The Tompkins County Health Department is your partner for a healthy community. Find us online at TompkinsCountyNY.gov/health, and follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/TompkinsPublicHealth and on Twitter at @TompkinsHealth. Sign up to receive COVID-19 updates or other county announcements via email or text.

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