October 23, 2021

Coronavirus cases rising again

Cortland and neighboring counties urge residents to get vaccine, help contact tracers

Associated Press

Katrina Taormina draws the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe Tuesday at Lehman High School in New York. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging everyone in K-12 schools to wear a mask when they return to class, regardless of vaccination status

Public health departments in Cortland and Cayuga counties issued alerts Thursday urging residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in the wake of rising numbers of cases — 30 on Thursday between three counties — and the spread of the more-contagious delta variant.

Tompkins County issued a similar alert Wednesday.

“The delta variant is noted by the CDC to be the dominant strain in the United States now and this variant is highly transmissible,” the Cortland department said in a news release. “While some who are vaccinated are still able to become infected by COVID-19, these vaccinated individuals still represent a very small amount of the transmission occurring throughout the country. Furthermore, the CDC noted that virtually all hospitalizations and deaths continue to be among the unvaccinated.”

The number of cases reported daily has increased 700% in Cortland County in the past 14 days, the New York Times reports. However, the numbers had been so low — the county went six days without a single case — that the increase is to about two a day.

In Cayuga County, the number of daily cases has jumped 417%. The number is up 314% in Tompkins County.

That compares to a national increase of 146%, with an 11% increase in the number of deaths each day. New York is similar, with a 145% increase in reported cases over the past two weeks.

“What we’re seeing locally is part of the larger trend across the state and country. While this is an increase in cases, the protection offered by all of our vaccines is excellent and vaccinated individuals are highly protected against symptomatic disease and hospitalization, including from variants,” said Dr. William Klepack, Tompkins County medical director. “While our community has reached high levels of vaccination, that is not true for areas that surround us and for other parts of the country. For those who have not received the vaccine yet, please consider the part you can play in reducing the spread of the disease and keeping our community healthy by getting vaccinated.”

The Cayuga department reported that of the 59 cases it confirmed so far in July, more than 70% were among unvaccinated people, and many of those people are not honest with contact tracers.

“Our staff continue to be challenged with positive individuals who are not honest in identifying who they have been in contact with during their infectious period,” Cayuga Public Health Director Kathleen Cuddy said in a statement. “A lack of accurate information sharing can be paralyzing in our response to control the spread of the virus and limit the number of new cases from each exposure.”

“The consequence of not sharing the names of people you are in contact with is that it puts more people in our community at risk of contracting the virus,” she added.

Cortland officials report that people showing symptoms of coronavirus aren’t isolating themselves, too.

“Our recent case investigations have revealed that people are still going to work or attending social activities with symptoms,” it reported. “We stress the importance of getting tested and staying home and away from others if you develop any symptoms to help minimize the spread in our community.”

As the community has resumed normal activities, each positive case has more contacts, which also increases the risk of the virus spreading, Cuddy said.

“We also know from our investigations that unvaccinated individuals have disclosed not wearing their masks around other people which has increased the transmission of the virus to others as well.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet,” Cuddy said. “We ask that you all do your part. We need to protect each other.

Her advice:

  • Stay home if you are ill or have symptoms of illness and seek health care if needed.
  • Wear a mask around others if you are unvaccinated.
  • Routinely wash your hands.
  • Get the COVID-19 vaccine.