8 new county COVID-19 deaths in last 2 weeks


Omicron variant concerning, but much still to learn

Courtesy story



This graphic from the Highland County Health Department shows some of the county’s COVID-19 statistics to date.

This graphic from the Highland County Health Department shows some of the county’s COVID-19 statistics to date.


Editor’s note — Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner posted a COVID-19 update on the health department’s Facebook page Wednesday. It appears below in its entirety.

We haven’t released an official update in almost a month, but the health department has been very busy with booster vaccine doses, new pediatric vaccines, and lots of other COVID and non-COVID work.

Overall, our case counts remain fairly level, but up slightly compared to where we were at the beginning of November. We are averaging about 19 new cases a day. Hospitalizations have climbed to 352, and deaths have risen to 119. We have had eight deaths in the last two weeks.

We have seen an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations again as a region. I will include a chart that shows our current hospitalization, ICU, and ventilator use trends specific to COVID-19.

Omicron Update

For those who may have missed it, there is a new named COVID-19 variant that is causing a lot of concern across the globe. The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been identified by the World Health Organization and the CDC as a “variant of concern,” which is the middle range for classifying risk level of new COVID variants. Delta was also a “variant of concern.” We have not yet classified a variant with the highest risk factor of “variant of high consequence.”

Without getting too technical, scientists have 32 identified mutations on Omicron’s spike protein. This many big changes in the protein could mean that our immune system has trouble using our antibodies (vaccine created or natural infection created) to attack this new strain of COVID.

If you are interested in a really nice description of the mutations and some helpful visuals, check out https://yourlocalepidemiologist.substack.com/…/new….

Early studies are showing that Omicron has increased transmissibility compared to Delta, but it is very early still to know what to expect. Some parts of South Africa appear to be seeing dramatic case number increases, and this is really concerning.

Omicron was first identified in Botswana, Africa, and has since been identified in at least 22 nations, and we can expect to see it in the U.S. at some point (it has been found in the U.S. since this posting). It is likely already here, but not yet identified officially.

What does all of this mean? Some things look concerning, but there is a lot that we don’t know. Our current focus should be to slow down the spread of Omicron until we know more about how it behaves, and at that point we can make any policy decisions that might be needed. Right now, we know just enough to be concerned, but not much else.

Rapid COVID-19

Testing Kit Program

Since the beginning of the health department’s rapid test kit distribution, we have partnered with Highland County Community Action Agency, the Highland County Library system, our local schools, and other local partners to distribute about 20,000 test kits to the community. This has been a tremendous effort from our emergency response coordinator, Brittane Dance, and the county’s EMA director, Dave Bushelman, and we are really thankful for them and their hard work. It has helped a lot of people.

Our test kit program was started as a way to help sick or recently exposed people to make informed decisions about their health, and to redirect people who were looking for test resources away from the hospital emergency room. Now that we are entering an era of vaccine mandates and testing to avoid those mandates, as well as reductions in the number of kits available from the state, we are not able to sustain this testing program. We plan to continue offering rapid testing through the libraries and Community Action in the short term, but this will not be something that we can continue indefinitely.

And finally, ODH reported on a call this morning that the state is starting to see some increased influenza activity. Wash your hands, get a flu shot, and stay home if you are sick!

That is all for today, and I don’t plan on returning to weekly COVID updates again unless things start to change rapidly again.

This graphic from the Highland County Health Department shows some of the county’s COVID-19 statistics to date.
https://www.timesgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2021/12/web1_Covid-Graphic.jpgThis graphic from the Highland County Health Department shows some of the county’s COVID-19 statistics to date.
Omicron variant concerning, but much still to learn

Courtesy story