By Lasca Randels
WARSAW — COVID-19 cases are down substantially, but Kosciusko County Health Officer Dr. William Remington cautioned that emerging variants will continue.
While the pandemic seems to have faded significantly, numerous parts of the nation are reporting a spike in the delta variant, which officials say is more contagious than the original COVIID-19 virus
“I think eventually all of this will go away, but I think we just need more time,” Remington said. “We’re going to have emerging variants for a while. The Delta won’t be the last one, so we’ll see.”
Statistics showing the decrease in cases were reviewed at the County Board of Health meeting Monday, July 19.
“There’s a little flare at the end, not so much seeing that in our graphs but the state graphs and some other states around the country are winding up a little bit because of the Delta variant,” Remington said. “If you look back month by month, I would hope to think we’ve seen the worst of this.”
At one point, during the peak of the pandemic, the county health department was administering over 400 doses per day, four days a week. Vaccines are now being given only on Tuesdays.
The health department has administered 100 doses or less the last couple of Tuesdays, Remington said.
“It’s trailed off. The interest really fell off toward the end of May,” Remington said.
Regarding vaccine hesitancy, Remington said he continues to personally feel that vaccines are safe and effective.
“I think because our immunization rate is around 38 percent for all vaccine eligible people age 12 and up,” he said. “With that number you remain vulnerable.”
When asked if he believes it’s necessary for people who have been infected with COVID-19 to get the vaccine, Remington said it’s his understanding that there is “good evidence that there is persistent etiologic memory, cell memory with either natural infection or COVID immunization. There’s really pretty good evidence that there is persistent cellular immunity.”
“How vulnerable are we really? I don’t know. When I see surging cases in Springfield, Mo. or in Arkansas, it’s low immunization rates and Delta Variant. Low immunization rates in the upper 20s, low 30s.”
Reed will continue to have a part-time assistant as the county wants to ensure she is equipped to handle any uptick that may arise.
“What we hadn’t seen coming was the state taking down the infrastructure of centralized contact tracing so that’s all coming back to the county to our communicable disease person,” Remington said.
With regard to the start of the school year next month, Remington and Warsaw Community Schools Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert will work together to address issues.
“Heretofore we’ve been following, largely, guidance that comes from the state department so we will probably continue that motif,” Remington said. “A big contentious issue, I think, is the mask issue. There’s some pushback on the masking of children.”
Hoffert thanked Remington and Reed and said he has appreciated their guidance and “common sense approaches” during the pandemic.
“You’ve been great to work with, as have been the other schools we’ve worked with,” Remington said. “I don’t relish your job this next semester.”
According to information on the Center for Disease Control’s website, updated July 9:
- Students benefit from in-person learning, and safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall of 2021 is a priority.
- Vaccination is currently the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Promoting vaccination can help schools safely return to in-person learning as well as extracurricular activities and sports.
- Masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated. Consistent and correct mask use by people who are not fully vaccinated is especially important indoors and in crowded settings, when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
- CDC recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, combined with indoor mask wearing by people who are not fully vaccinated, to reduce transmission risk. When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, such as when schools cannot fully re-open while maintaining these distances, it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as indoor masking.
- Screening testing, ventilation, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, staying home when sick and getting tested, contact tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation and cleaning and disinfection are also important layers of prevention to keep schools safe.
- Students, teachers and staff should stay home when they have signs of any infectious illness and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care.
- Many schools serve children under the age of 12 who are not eligible for vaccination at this time. Therefore, this guidance emphasizes implementing layered prevention strategies (e.g., using multiple prevention strategies together consistently) to protect people who are not fully vaccinated, including students, teachers, staff and other members of their households.
- COVID-19 prevention strategies remain critical to protect people, including students, teachers and staff, who are not fully vaccinated, especially in areas of moderate-to-high community transmission levels.
- Localities should monitor community transmission, vaccination coverage, screening testing and occurrence of outbreaks to guide decisions on the level of layered prevention strategies (e.g., physical distancing, screening testing).
The next regular meeting will be 6 p.m. Oct. 18.