The Tompkins County Health Department is encouraging all residents, regardless of their vaccination status, to wear masks indoors while around others, the department said in a health advisory issued Friday.
The University responded to the update with an email Friday evening, reinstating the requirement that all faculty, staff and students wear masks inside campus buildings and facilities.
“To ensure the safety of our campus and surrounding community, Cornell will comply with the TCHD’s guidance,” Provost Michael Kotlikoff wrote.
The advisory follows an increase in COVID-19 cases in the county, with 15 new cases reported Friday that brought the total number of positive cases to 59 over a seven-day period — the highest since early May. According to the health advisory, the rise in cases is linked to large indoor gatherings and domestic travel.
These clusters brought the county over the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention threshold of 50 cases per 100,000 residents. Recent CDC guidance recommends indoor mask wearing for fully vaccinated individuals in communities that exceed this threshold, issued due to caution surrounding the Delta variant — a more transmissible strain that has caused some counties across the country to reinstate mask mandates.
TCHD tweeted Friday that there were no new positive cases of the Delta variant reported based on sequencing data through July 15. The last reported cases of the variant were in late June, when the health department said that the two identified cases did not result in any spread.
The county mask recommendation comes about two weeks after Tompkins County Public Health Director Frank Kruppa gave vaccinated individuals the unmasking go ahead in an interview with The Sun, though he cautioned at the time that variants remained a concern.
The health advisory said though local cases have come from both vaccinated and unvaccinated populations, vaccines continue to give protection against severe illness and hospitalization. As of July 30, about 65 percent of Tompkins County residents have been fully vaccinated.
Update, July 30, 10 p.m.: This post has been updated to include an email from Cornell administrators.