In Tompkins County, as of June 3, there were 20 new positive cases with 9 active COVID-19 hospitalizations, which was lower than those of the past few months.
“We are now starting to come down from a peak that we have seen over the last months or so,” said Frank Kruppa, Tompkins County public health director. “Our hospitalizations are remaining relatively low throughout the entire pandemic and even during this most recent uptake of cases. That is the good news.”
According to Kruppa, the arrival of summer break is part of the reason for the decreasing trend in COVID-19 cases. Kruppa said that with most students having left campus, the population volume in Tompkins County has gone down so people are less likely to be infected by the virus.
More importantly, Kruppa said the low severity of illness in Tompkins County reflected by decreasing hospitalization numbers shows the effectiveness of the work that the Tompkins County community has done for COVID-19 prevention.
“All the work we have done over the last couple of years around vaccinations, masking, and all the public health interventions really played a role in limiting the severity of illness here in Tompkins County,” Kruppa said.
Although masks are optional for fully-vaccinated individuals in most parts of the country and in New York State, a mask advisory placed on May 2 is still in effect for Tompkins County.
“We want to see a couple of weeks of the decreasing trend that we stay in that direction and [the case numbers] continue heading down before we consider lifting the advisory,” Kruppa said.
Last month, the United States Food and Drug Administration, expanded eligibility for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine booster to children 5 to 11 years old. Additionally, the second booster dose is available for a wider demographic, including those 50 years and older, individuals ages 18-49 who have received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine as their primary and booster doses and those ages 12 and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised.
In Tompkins County, since June 4, 89.36 percent of people have been vaccinated with at least one dose, and 79.41 percent of people are fully vaccinated. Such a high vaccination rate helps keep the hospitalization numbers remaining low.
Kruppa stressed the effectiveness of vaccines at reducing the severity of illness from multiple variants of COVID-19, including the Omicron variant, which continues to be predominant among cases in Tompkins County. He said that it is not too late for people who have not been vaccinated yet to get their vaccines.
“Vaccines are first on the list of prevention items. They definitely had a positive impact on the severity of illness,” Kruppa said. “Those numbers don’t just get there, they have been there for quite some time because we had early adoption and uptake of vaccines here in the county.”
For people who have already gotten COVID-19 in the past, however, this does not mean that they can drop their guard. According to Kruppa, having had COVID-19 does give people a good level of protection, and while their chances of having COVID are relatively low, they are not zero.
“Because everyone is different, we recommend everyone follow the guidance,” Kruppa said.
Kruppa also emphasized how approaches to the recent Monkeypox outbreak differs from COVID-19. Since Monkeypox can cause easily observable symptoms like rashes and red bumps on the skin, Kruppa said it will be a bit easier to control the transmission than COVID-19.
“You will have sores when you get Monkeypox. And that’s when you’re contagious. So it makes it a little bit easier for us to contain because we would isolate those people immediately to try to limit the spread,” Kruppa said. “We’re monitoring the situation with the New York State Department of Health and we will take appropriate steps and communicate with our community if a case is identified.”