The Tompkins County Health Department is publishing data on the increased prevalence of the COVID-19 Delta variant. The Delta variant contains mutations that make the coronavirus spread more easily, even in fully vaccinated individuals. The Delta variant has become the predominant variant both locally and across the country.
Of the 87 samples from the months of June and July that were available for sequencing, 86 samples were of variants, and 80 of those were the Delta variant. All samples of fully vaccinated individuals sequenced in this batch resulted from infection by the Delta variant.
The sequencing effort that confirmed this local data is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Cornell University Virology Laboratory at the Animal Health Diagnostic Center, Cayuga Medical Center, and the Tompkins County Health Department, and is prepared periodically for public release. All positive cases from Tompkins County are currently submitted for sequencing through this collaboration, though not all samples are high-quality enough to be fully sequenced. Note that individual sequencing results are not available as the sequencing is done in de-identified samples. The treatment for a positive case remains the same regardless of sequencing determination.
The Delta variant is known to be more contagious and spread more rapidly than the original COVID-19 virus. Data continue to show that COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death both locally and nationally, even for those infected with the Delta variant. Data has also emerged showing that vaccinated individuals infected with the Delta variant can still contract and spread the virus. A majority of the positive cases in Tompkins County in June and July resulted from large indoor gatherings and domestic travel. More information on the Delta variant can be found on the newly published FAQ section of the TCHD website.
The local Health Advisory issued on July 30 encouraging residents to wear masks when indoors around others continues to be in effect for Tompkins County.
On Monday, Aug. 9, Tompkins County issued a directive to County departments requiring mask use in County buildings by all individuals, regardless of their vaccination status; this includes County employees and members of the public. “We continue to work to provide safe spaces for our staff and community, and asking people to wear masks is the best guidance for all of us. By wearing a mask at work and around others, you help prevent the most vulnerable from becoming infected. We’re continuing to encourage our employees and community members to get vaccinated as vaccination continues to lower the severity of infection,” shared Deputy County Administrator Amie Hendrix.
Tompkins County Medical Director Dr. William Klepack stated, “This data shows that the Delta variant is infecting both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. What the data also shows is that vaccinated individuals do have a remarkable level of protection against severe illness and hospitalization. We have to continue to take COVID-19 seriously; wearing a mask, getting tested if you are symptomatic or have been exposed to the virus, and getting as many people as possible vaccinated are critical to our success in stopping the spread and keeping one another healthy.”
“Vaccine is readily available in our community. If you or your friends and family have not yet been vaccinated, now is the time. Please check our website, go to a local pharmacy, or call 2-1-1 to learn how to get vaccinated,” added Dr. Klepack.
For further information on the Delta variant, vaccination, and recent positive COVID-19 cases, members of the public are encouraged to view the August 5 virtual COVID-19 update held by TCHD featuring Cayuga Health System.
More information about local COVID-19 vaccine clinics can be found on the TCHD website.
Individuals without computer and/or internet access may also call 2-1-1 (877-211-8667) during regular business hours 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. to be registered over the phone.