Health

Douglas: Worst of pandemic not over

Posted

As new coronavirus cases tick higher at a time when people seem to be more comfortable returning to their pre-pandemic lives, Montgomery County’s chief physician sounded a clear warning: the worst of the pandemic is not over.

Health Officer Dr. Scott Douglas said the county is expected to remain in the orange status for coronavirus spread through February or March, meaning there will likely be high transmission of the virus.

Unvaccinated people account for the majority of new infections and deaths, according to state health officials. But during times of high transmission, public health experts say vaccinated people should continue practicing mitigation measures, including wearing masks in indoor public settings.

“My observation, just in general in the community, is that folks are tired of mitigation and have pretty much just quit,” Douglas said Tuesday in his report to the Montgomery County Health Board.

Douglas added he fears people don’t understand that a “critical stage” of the pandemic is ongoing. “Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re through our darkest day of the COVID pandemic,” he said.

Heading into the fall, the situation appeared to be improving. The county’s average daily coronavirus cases fell to 11 in the middle of October, down from a peak of 36 in mid-September, state data show.

That number has since climbed to 23 daily cases on a seven-day average.

“We sort of plateaued for a while, but not in a good spot,” Douglas said. “We plateaued at a high rate of transmission, and now it’s starting to go back up.”

Unvaccinated people are six times more likely to become infected and 12 times more likely to die from COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Douglas expects the federal government eventually won’t consider a person to be fully vaccinated until they have received three doses of a coronavirus vaccine.

While appointments at the health department’s vaccine clinic are being filled, the county’s vaccination rate still lags behind the state’s. Countywide, 45% of people age 5 and up are fully vaccinated, compared to 52% of the state, according to the state’s vaccine dashboard.

The health department saw brisk traffic when its office was one of five sites selected by the state to provide vaccines to 5-11-year-olds early. Overall, the health department is administering nearly 100 vaccines each clinic date.

Local industries have called the health department seeking guidance on preparing for vaccinating and testing employees, as the Biden administration’s mandates for private businesses are being challenged in court.

The White House has asked a federal appeals court to reverse another federal court’s ruling temporarily blocking the mandate.

Health department administrator Amber Reed said the state has told local health departments they shouldn’t be responsible for providing the vaccines and tests.

“I don’t know if that’s going to be the case. We’ll see what happens,” Reed said.

In other business, the board is sending to the county commissioners a list of names of people interested in filling an open seat. The commissioners are expected to make the appointment in December.

The list includes Chris Amidon, Wabash College’s nurse; Brian Keim, a retired Crawfordsville firefighter; Dr. Stephanie Rose, a psychologist at Valley Oaks Heath; and Greg Woodsmall, manager of cardiopulmonary services at Franciscan Health Crawfordsville.

Additional names may be added to the list before the commissioners meet. Reed said it’s unusual to see this much interest in the seat, and communities typically have difficulty finding people willing to serve on government boards and commissions.

The commissioners will also be asked to reappoint member Carolyn Snyder, whose term expires Dec. 31. Snyder, a retired school nurse, wants to serve another term.

Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here