A group on the Ithaca Commons wearing masks to inhibit the spread of COVID-19.

ITHACA, N.Y.—COVID-19 infection rates are on the rise throughout Tompkins County according to Tompkins County Whole Health (TCWH), which reported an average of three new cases per day over the past four weeks. 

In comparison, the county reported one new case per day last month. 

Only one nursing home operating in Tompkins County has reported any positive COVID-19 tests in patients since the reported rise, according to data compiled by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDH). The facility is the only one in the county to have reported positive cases since June. 

Groton Community Health Care Center Residential Facility reported a total of 14 positive COVID-19 cases among residents and three positive cases in employees the week of Aug. 1. The most recent data from Aug. 8 shows the facility has four new confirmed cases among residents and four in employees. 

The facility is allowing outside visitors with a negative COVID-19 test and mask. Administrators did not respond when contacted for comment.

TCWH sent out a statement Aug. 10 to alert residents of the recent rise. COVID-19 can cause severe sickness in healthy people, as well as cause serious complications in young children, pregnant people, people with chronic health conditions and the elderly. 

The uptick can be mostly explained by the summer season, when people travel more often and gather more frequently, according to Whole Health Commissioner Frank Kruppa.

“Anytime you have people gathering, you can pass the disease around,” Kruppa said. 

COVID-19 does not seem to be a seasonal illness, Kruppa said. Unlike influenza, an illness with infection rates spiking in colder months, COVID-19 spikes are correlated with increased gatherings. 

Hospitalization rates in Tompkins County have remained low, according to data from NYSDH. Data updated Aug. 14 shows four total COVID-19 hospitalizations in Tompkins County, which has not changed from last week. 

Kruppa said hospitalization data usually “lags” behind rising infection rates by two to three weeks. 

Individuals who are hospitalized for COVID symptoms, and those who die from it, are not vaccinated for the most part, according to Kruppa. He urged residents in the county to get the full roundup of COVID-19 vaccines if they have not done so already. 

It is widely accepted that fully vaccinated individuals are less likely to develop long-term COVID than their unvaccinated counterparts, Kruppa said. But even if an individual is vaccinated, the risk “goes up” if a person has tested positive for COVID more than once. 

“The literature and studies show that getting COVID more than once is not good,” Kruppa said. “In fact, there is increased risk of getting long-term COVID– the type that makes you less than your normal self for months afterwards.” 

Thousands of students from Cornell University, Ithaca College and Tompkins County Community College will be returning to Tompkins County over the next few weeks for the fall semester. Kruppa said the county is concerned about the influx, despite the institutions having procedures in place to quell the spread of COVID-19. 

“We know that an influx of people coming from all over the world is an opportunity to bring things back,” Kruppa said. “Just as when we go on vacation from here and go to different places in the world there’s a risk.” 

TCWH encourages community members to consider being proactive by wearing high-quality masks when indoors and to consider personal risk when gathering with others.

Judy Lucas is a General Assignment Reporter for The Ithaca Voice. Have a story idea? Comment or question? You can reach me at jlucas@ithacavoice.org or on Twitter @judy__lucas.