Local health officials are in a “strategic retreat” as they try to slow COVID-19 rates while waiting for a vaccine, Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner stated in a Monday post to the health department’s Facebook page.
“We are revising and streamlining much of our contact tracing process to keep up with demand,” Warner wrote. “This has included using automated calls, an automated mail merge to email setup for our schools, and limiting the number of times we try to reach people. There are other changes that we are still considering. If case counts continue to increase at the current rate, our staff will have to begin finding ways to prioritize our contact tracing efforts.
“… Sometimes during a strategic retreat, you have to empty your pockets so you can run faster.”
U.S.-based pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced Monday that data from its initial studies suggest that its COVID-19 vaccine may have an effectiveness of 90 percent, something which Warner hopes holds true as more information becomes available.
“This vaccine (and the others that I have heard about in the pipeline for approval) will require 2 separate doses,” Warner wrote. “One important question is how much protection a single dose provides, and how much additional protection comes from a second dose. This detail may influence how vaccines are targeted, and how quickly those second vaccine doses are provided.
“There are several vaccines in the pipeline right now that are undergoing final safety trials. Once those safety studies are complete, we will share that information with the community. These vaccine safety trials have been conducted with the same scrutiny and standards as other vaccines.”
In the meantime, Warner reported that the number of new cases in Highland County decreased slightly over the last few days, but the health department had 28 new cases on Monday morning.
“Our active case counts continue to increase,” Warner wrote. “Our neighboring counties are also seeing significant and rapid COVID-19 case increases.”
As of Thursday, Highland County remained a “red” county with high case incidence, according to the Ohio Public Health Advisory System (OPHAS).
“Red” counties, which OPHAS also classifies as level 3 public emergencies, have “very high” COVID-19 exposure and spread.
According to OPHAS, Highland County had 177 new COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks.
On Wednesday, Warner stated that Highland County must drop below 100 new cases per 100,000 residents in order to be downgraded from red status.
As of Saturday, Highland County had a rate of 430.94 cases per 100,000 people, Warner said Monday. In comparison, on Oct. 7, the county had a rate of 81.09 new cases per 100,000 population.
Warner also reported that, according to Highland County Emergency Response Coordinator Brittane Dance, the health department placed a total of 922 people in quarantine between May and September. In the month of October alone, the health department placed 1,191 people in quarantine.
The following are Highland County’s overall COVID-19 statistics as of Monday:
Highland County has had a total of 769 lab-confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, according to the Highland County Health Department.
The health department reported that there were 195 actively sick patients and six COVID-19-related hospitalizations, and the health department is monitoring 427 Highland County residents for symptoms.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak reached Highland County, there have been a total of 50 COVID-19-related hospitalizations and 18 COVID-19-related deaths, and 556 patients have recovered from COVID-19.
According to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), which reported 704 cases in the county as of Monday, of the cases in Highland County:
* 119 cases involved 60- to 69-year-olds. Of these cases, nine resulted in hospitalization, and two resulted in death.
* 115 cases involved 50- to 59-year-olds. Of these cases, eight resulted in hospitalization.
* 99 cases involved 70- to 79-year-olds. Of these cases, 16 resulted in hospitalization, and three resulted in death.
* 91 cases involved 40- to 49-year-olds. Of these cases, five resulted in hospitalization.
* 80 cases involved 20- to 29-year-olds. Of these cases, one resulted in hospitalization.
* 74 cases involved 0- to 19-year-olds. Of these cases, one resulted in hospitalization.
* 64 cases involved 30- to 39-year-olds. Of these cases, one resulted in hospitalization.
* 60 cases involved someone 80 years old or older. Of these cases, nine resulted in hospitalization, and nine resulted in death.
* Two cases involved patients of an unknown age.
Warner previously stated that there is a delay in the reporting process between individual counties and the ODH.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.