By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – While many health officials across the country worry about another peak in COVID-19 cases from the Christmas weekend, local authorities reported some momentary good news for the 10-month long pandemic.
Consider the following:
- The county health department said the number of new positive cases per week has slowed in recent weeks.
- Hospitalizations are down at KCH.
- Expectations of the county’s status shifting from orange to a more concerning “red” has not happened.
The month of December is turning out to be better than November, according to Kosciusko County Health Officer Dr. William Remington.
“November was a horrible month for all us,” Remington said during a news conference at Warsaw City Hall on Wednesday, Dec. 23.
Five weeks ago, the county recorded 900 new COVID-19 cases. This week, they expect to record around 300 new cases, he said.
Kosciusko Community Hospital CEO Jae Dale reported a drop in the number of hospitalizations but did not provide specific figures. He said the current hospitalizations are about half of what they saw when it peaked in November.
Dale said he thinks the decrease came in part from people who were cautious during Thanksgiving and paid attention to health guidance.
“I am tickled pink that it’s no higher after Thanksgiving,” Dale said. “I think that really helped and I’m hoping we can continue to do that.”
Updates on the vaccination rollout also included glimmers of hope.
About 500 Pfizer vaccines have been administered since last Friday and another 500 vaccines from Moderna are on the way, according to Kim Finch, the chief nursing officer for KCH.
Remington also touted the first rollout of vaccines for health care workers, including himself. He said he received the first of two vaccine shots Saturday and could feel a sense of optimism in a waiting room with other health care workers.
The super-chilled Pfizer vials are warmed up before being administered, he said.
Remington said he considers the vaccine to have been highly studied and is expected to have an efficacy rate of more than 90%.
“We’re just very fortunate to live in an age where just a year after (learning of) this novel respiratory pathogen – that we now have a vaccine is just amazing,” Remington said.
A few more details on the rollout were provided.
Beginning next week, local long-term care facilities will be immunized by representatives of CVS and Walgreens who will visit their facilities, Remington said.
Tentatively, Remington said he believes people 75 and older will be able to receive vaccines in January.
“All of this is very dynamic. It all depends on the supply chain,” Remington said. “It’s really great news.”
One common question Remington said he’s hearing right now is how the general population will be informed about the opportunities for vaccinations.
That issue is not resolved yet.
Remington said he’s unsure how the messaging will work when the general population gets a chance to be vaccinated. He said they’ll be looking to the state board of health on the direction with that, he said.
Remington urged people to avoid crowds, try to gather outdoors with people or in a room that has fresh air.
“Try to avoid stagnant, crowded indoor settings, it seems to be an emerging strong theme with this transmission for this Covid virus,” he said.
He also asked people to “think twice” about the dangers of putting elderly and compromised people at risk by gathering together.
“It will be a delicate dance to find our way through that this season,” he said.
Bowen Center CEO Kurt Carlson said the testing has dropped off at their new site at the county fairgrounds. The decline follows state and national trends.
The busiest week attracted some 1,700 people seeking a free test. In the most recent week, that had fallen to about 850, he said.