MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Monongalia Co. Health Department (MCHD) said the county, like much of the country, is seeing an unprecedented wave of COVID cases, a vast majority of which are of the Delta variant.
However, Dr. Diane Gross, an epidemiologist at MCHD, said recently, numbers have started looking better.
“In Mon County, we actually have had a little decrease in — just kind of been at the plateau right now for the last week,” Gross said. “So, we haven’t been seeing the big increases that we had in the previous weeks to this one.”
The hope, Gross said, is for the county to stay relatively plateaued for the next week or two before it starts seeing a decrease in the number of COVID cases.
But that hope can only become reality if vaccination rates remain high or consistent. Gross said vaccines remain the key to tackling high infection rates and the general spread of COVID-19.
Vaccinations have been playing a key role. If you look at what’s going on right now, while we’ve been having really large increases in the number of new cases, we’ve had much fewer increases in the people who’ve been hospitalized on ventilators, or in the number of deaths relative to the number of cases. And if we look at what’s happening in those populations, we’re seeing that, you know, upwards of 90% of the cases are unvaccinated; people who are ending up in the hospital in ICU, or people have died. So, we are seeing a big –vaccination seems to be having the biggest effect. And so, we’re still recommending on vaccination right now it’s the people who are unvaccinated, who are making up the vast majority of cases, who are having a severe outcome. So, vaccinations is — still remains the major effect that’s, you know, going to get us through this pandemic.Dr. Diane Gross – Epidemiologist, MCHD
Gross said she thinks it’s time to return to a phrase that was very popular at the start of the pandemic — “flatten the curve”.
That’s because right now, healthcare in West Virginia is being stretched to the limit, she said. This can be seen in the fact that many hospitals are decreasing non-essential services. And, they are doing so in order to care for “large numbers of people who are being hospitalized with COVID”.
But vaccination alone, Gross said, is not enough. That is why MCHD is continuing to recommend a “layered approach” to combat COVID-19, she said.
“Again, we, really, want to flatten that curve so that we can, you know, if you’re sick, you can receive top-notch care because we have enough health care providers and beds open for you,” Gross said. “And that is — again vaccination is key. But also, you know, it’s always been a layered approach. You wear your mask when you’re indoors. Get tested if you’re sick, or if you — if you’ve been around someone who is had COVID, you know, be in quarantine, get tested to make sure that you weren’t infected, physical distancing.”
“These are all measures that have helped us in the past and will continue to help us get through this wave of COVID were experiencing now.”
In an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently, approved booster vaccine doses for the Pfizer vaccine.
You can visit the CDC website to learn more about booster shots and who is eligible for them.
Pfizer’s treatment, originally, came in the form of two injections, but now the federal government said a third could be beneficial to many people, especially the elderly.
“If you are over 65 years of age, you should get a booster,” Gross said. “If you’re 58-64 years of age and you have underlying medical conditions, then you should get a booster. If you’re younger or 18-49, but also have these underlying conditions, then you can get a booster if you received the Pfizer vaccine, and it’s been at least six months since you were previously vaccinated.”
MCHD’s epidemiologist said there is a lot of talk around booster doses, but MCHD’s stance on vaccination remains the same.
Gross said MCHD’s stance is that “even without those boosters, the vaccines are continuing to be effective”.
“They’re continuing to keep people from getting infections and getting hospitalized or from dying,” Gross said. “If you look at the data for the United States, it’s still showing that you have a 10 times greater risk of being hospitalized or dying if you do not have the vaccine, so get the vaccine if you haven’t had it. If you had the Pfizer vaccine and you’re eligible for the booster get that. But, don’t forget that still masking and physical distancing and those other measures are still very important right now to get us through this pandemic.”