Covid cases on steady rise in Highland County

Highland County is seeing 12 new COVID-19 cases each day, according to The New York Times COVID Tracker, which was last updated Monday. That is an increase compared to Aug. 12 when the county was seeing 9.7 new COVID-19 cases per day, and the week before that when it was seeing 6.9 cases per day.

According to an update from Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner the county has also started to see some of its first local hospitalizations from the recent increase in cases. He said hospitalizations and deaths “tend to lag” behind case count increases by a week or two.

Warner also said it is “interesting” the 20– to 29-year-old age range in the region is seeing the largest increase in new infections and the highest rates in testing positivity.

Highland County is still ranked in the highest risk category in terms of community transmission, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) COVID Data Tracker, which was also updated Monday. There are four different levels of community transmission – Low, Moderate, Substantial and High. Highland County is currently in the “High” designation.

The CDC said the data for the tracker comes from two different indicators of categorization — The total number of new cases per 100,000 residents within the last seven days; and the percentage of positive diagnostic and screening nucleic acid amplification tests during the last seven days.

Warner said that the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) released a new breakthrough case tracking dashboard that shows the number of hospitalizations and deaths of those who are fully vaccinated. That dashboard will be updated every Thursday. Warner said there has been 19,028 Ohio residents hospitalized since Jan. 1, 2021, that were not fully vaccinated, while there have been just 362 people hospitalized since Jan. 1, 2021 that were fully vaccinated.

Warner said that information is “great evidence” for vaccine effectiveness, but doesn’t answer the question on breakthrough cases for non-hospitalized people. He said Ohio’s current vaccination and disease reporting systems do not “talk to each other and has no automated way to pull and compare this information.”

Warner instead has planned an experiment.

“I asked our nursing team this week to pull the records of our last 50 positive COVID-19 cases and manually compare those cases with our vaccination records to identify how many new cases were also vaccinated,” he said. “Of our 50 new cases, five were fully vaccinated and three had a single dose of vaccine. We need to be cautious in reading too much into this very unscientific local sample.”

Later in the update, Warner continued to the county’s residents to get vaccinated.

“My sister Alison is a nurse in Tennessee, and she told me a story this week of full ICUs in Knoxville and a patient in a local ER that had to wait for 48 hours before being seen. She has heard that about 15 percent of their ICU patients are under the age of 18,” Warner wrote on the Highland County Health Department’s website. “Out of 317 available ICU beds in the east region of TN, there are five beds currently available. This is exactly what we are trying to avoid in Ohio… Maybe I am not explaining this very well. The best time to buy homeowner’s insurance is before the house fire. We need more people to get vaccinated.”

The CDC announced a new recommendation that people who have moderately or severely compromised immune systems should receive another dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine following the initial two doses.

The CDC said it recommends the additional dose be administered at least 28 days after the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC said it does not recommend an additional dose or booster shots for any other population “at this time.”

Warner there have been some adjustments made to school quarantining, which are as follows:

* People that are wearing masks won’t be quarantined after close contact with a COVID-19 case.

* People that are vaccinated will not be quarantined after close contact with a COVID-19 case.

* Masks are required on any bus because of a federal mandate.

Warner also said the health department will still use an automated callout system as well as email to notify parents of quarantining and give documentation that might be needed for work or school excuses. He also asked people to update their contact information to the most up-to-date version for that reason.

Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.

This Highland County Health Department graphic shows the timeline of newly-reported COVID-19 cases from June 2021 to August 2021. Highland County Health Department graphic shows the timeline of newly-reported COVID-19 cases from June 2021 to August 2021. Highland County Health Department graphic
Largest increase taking place in 20- to 29-year-old age group

By Jacob Clary