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COVID19 2021-12-17 Update: Omicron Variant

The Tompkins County Health Department is reporting additional information related to the presence of the Omicron COVID-19 variant in Tompkins County.


Results from sequencing of positive cases done through the Cornell University’s Virology Lab, in collaboration with Cayuga Medical Center and the TCHD show a high rate of Omicron transmission amongst the 18-24 Cornell University student population and additional prevalence amongst the wider community tested through the Cayuga Health testing site at the mall.

The initial batch of positive results from the 18-24 population, prioritized for sequencing due to the rapid spread observed and indication of Omicron, resulted in all 115 samples being confirmed cases of the variant. These results indicate that the primary spread amongst this population is due to the more transmissible Omicron variant. To-date there has been no severe disease reported amongst this population.

An additional batch of samples from one day of positive cases collected at the community testing site at the Shops at Ithaca Mall resulted in 18 of 44 cases being indicative of the Omicron variant. TCHD is awaiting additional sequencing results of other recent COVID-positive samples.

Tompkins County Public Health Director Frank Kruppa stated, “We’re able to see, nearly in real-time, how Omicron is spreading in our community. This is a testament to how important access to testing and sequencing are and how fortunate we are to have partners in Cornell and Cayuga Health committed to ongoing pandemic response and transparency.”

Kruppa continued, “We’re now seeing that the Omicron variant is spreading in the wider community and that it is the predominant strain amongst the college student population. We’re seeing the variant spread more rapidly, but we are not seeing it increase the severity of disease of those who are testing positive or increase the number of people hospitalized in our community.”

Kruppa added, “Our message is for people to continue to remain cautious and wear a mask while indoors and around others. The spread of COVID-19 is still primarily occurring in settings where people are gathering and not wearing a mask or distancing. The vaccines are continuing to prove effective in preventing severe disease. As our cases have gone up significantly, especially amongst the most highly vaccinated portion of our community, severe disease and hospitalizations have not increased.”

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