As local health officials begin to prepare for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner said just one question remains: how many will be interested in receiving the vaccine?
“FDA will be providing a live televised broadcast of the vaccine safety review process starting this week, which will hopefully lead to more acceptance in the vaccine in general,” Warner wrote in a Monday post. “The fastest way to get out of this current mess is widespread vaccine-based immunity, especially for our high-risk groups.”
As of Monday, Warner reported that vaccines could be available as soon as Dec. 22. However, as the vaccine supply will be limited initially, only the following groups will be able to get the vaccination during the Ohio Department of Health’s (ODH) Phase 1A:
* Health care providers and personnel who are routinely involved with the care of COVID-19 patients.
* Residents and staff in nursing facilities.
* Residents and staff in assisted living facilities.
* Patients and staff at psychiatric hospitals.
* People with intellectual disabilities and those with mental illness who are in group homes or centers and staff at those locations.
* Residents and staff of Ohio’s veterans homes.
* EMS responders.
Warner also discussed the CDC’s new quarantine guidelines, which the ODH adopted late last week.
According to the CDC’s website, these new guidelines give local public health authorities two new options for quarantines in an effort to decrease the burden on quarantined individuals and local health departments.
The CDC’s new guidelines offer the following quarantine options:
* The original guidelines, which Warner referred to as the “Optimal Duration to Minimize Risk of Transmission” — Quarantine ends after 14 days, a time frame that the CDC based on maximum COVID-19 incubation periods and that presents the lowest risk of transmission once a quarantined individual returns to their regular schedule.
“This strategy is preferred for people living in, working at, or visiting congregate living facilities, high density workplaces, or other settings where potential extensive transmission or contact with people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is possible,” Warner wrote.
* Reduced Duration 1 — Quarantine can end after the 10th day since the last point of close contact with a confirmed Covid case if the quarantined individual has not developed symptoms. The CDC does not require testing for this option.
* Reduced Duration 2 — Quarantine can end after the seventh day since close contact if the quarantined individual has not developed symptoms and if the individual tests negative. Individuals cannot undergo testing earlier than the fifth day since close contact. Quarantine periods cannot end before the seventh day.
However, testing would still be prioritized for those who are actively sick and seeking to confirm whether they have Covid.
Under both of these options, quarantined individuals are required to continue daily symptom monitoring until the 14th day since close contact. If an individual develops symptoms after discontinuing quarantine, the guidelines instruct them to immediately enter self-isolation and contact either a local health official or their health care provider.
On Monday, Warner announced that individuals who received letters instructing them to quarantine may shorten their quarantine periods to 10 days as long as they remain asymptomatic.
Those who opt for Reduced Duration 2 should not send proof of a negative test to the health department. Instead, they can provide this documentation, as well as additional relevant quarantine documentation, directly to their school or workplace.
In statewide Covid-related news, the ODH cleared a backlog data from antigen tests on Tuesday.
Where a message on the ODH’s website once read, “Today’s data is incomplete. Because of unprecedented volume, thousands of reports are pending review. Please bear with us as we work through this surge in testing,” a new message stood in its place: “The data update for Dec. 8 includes a backlog of approximately 13,000 antigen test records that date back to Nov. 1, for a total of 25,721 cases reported. These cases have all been assigned to their respective onset dates and will be displayed that way in any dashboards that use onset date.”
Antigen tests, which were developed in the spring and may sometimes be unofficially referred to as “rapid” tests, return results within 15 minutes. However, they are less sensitive than PCR tests, which may take days to return results.
The CDC allows antigen tests to diagnose individuals as probable Covid cases so long as they have an epidemiological link to a known case of COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19.
According to a Monday news release, the ODH is officially adopting these CDC definitions.
“After understanding more about antigen tests, the CDC changed their case definition in August allowing antigen tests to be included in case counts without additional verification,” said ODH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff. “ODH is now aligned with CDC’s current definition and we will begin reflecting those tests immediately in our daily reported case counts moving forward.”
Adopting the new case definitions will allow the ODH to count probable cases from antigen tests “in a more timely manner,” the release stated.
The ODH’s testing dashboard will allow users to view PCR-only, antigen-only, and combined data.
The following are Highland County’s overall COVID-19 statistics as of Monday:
Highland County has had a total of 1,401 lab-confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, according to the Highland County Health Department.
The health department reported that there were 299 actively sick patients. The health department is monitoring 373 Highland County residents for symptoms, though the health department urges those who know they have had close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case to begin quarantine independently.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.