A table gives out free plants on Earth Day. 2 buyers wear masks, 2 unmasked vendors stand at the other side of the table in Arts Quad.

Ming DeMers/Sun Staff Photographer

Students both masked and unmasked participate in Earth Day events on the Arts Quad.

April 27, 2022

University Urges Mask Wearing as Tompkins County Invokes Mask Advisory Amid Rising COVID-19 Cases

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On Wednesday, the Tompkins County Health Department issued a health advisory recommending all residents, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask indoors and around others in public settings as COVID-19 cases rise in Tompkins County.

As of April 23, Tompkins County had the third highest rate of newly reported cases among New York State counties. Cases rose by 12 percent last week after an 18 percent increase the week prior.

According to the TCHD announcement, the department calculated that Tompkins County will likely be a high transmission area as defined by the CDC, following the 14 hospitalizations reported today, as well as the number of new positive cases that has continued to grow over the past several weeks.

“We’re seeing a higher number of positive cases locally as well as an increase in hospitalizations,” Frank Kruppa, the Tompkins County public health director, said in the TCHD announcement. “This advisory is alerting the community to our strong recommendation that you wear a mask while indoors and around others in public settings, as this will limit spread, help bring down our positive case and hospitalization numbers, and help protect vulnerable community members.” 

While cases continue to rise across the county, Cornell has been in alert level green since April 1.  

On Wednesday evening, Provost Mike Kotlikoff, Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi and Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Mary Opperman, released an announcement to the Cornell community urging everyone on campus to wear masks indoors in light of the health advisory from TCHD.

“While the choice to continue masking, even when not required, is a personal one, we hope that everyone will consider masking to help curb the spread as we head into the final weeks of the semester,” read the University announcement.

Currently the University requires faculty, staff, students and visitors to wear high-quality masks in classrooms, laboratories, similar teaching settings, healthcare and testing facilities and buses and Cornell-owned vehicles being utilized for multi-occupancy travel.

The University ended testing requirements for fully vaccinated individuals in mid-February due to the low infection rates and high vaccination rates on campus, meaning those on campus are not currently being tested on a regular basis. The University also moved to ease masking requirements in campus spaces in early March. 

As of Tuesday, April 26, there are 132 active cases among students, and 87 active cases among employees. 

While new positives have remained around the thirties and forties during April, last week saw two spikes of 86 new positives on April 19 and 69 new positives on April 21. This week there were 73 new cases on Monday and 61 new cases on Tuesday, according to the Cornell COVID-19 dashboard.

Kruppa said the TCHD will continue to track the prevalence of cases and hospitalization and make recommendations based on the data.

“We are monitoring the data on cases and hospitalizations daily, and will continue to do so in order to make the best advisements to the Tompkins County community,” Kruppa said. “At this time you should wear a mask while indoors and around others.”