A year of pandemic life | News

March of this new year will mark two years since the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe. The tiny county of San Miguel has not been spared, especially in recent weeks as the omicron variant, on the heels of the delta variant, has skyrocketed positive cases by the hundreds. Even before the vaccination, the number of cases was not so astronomically high. But, as Grace Franklin, county public health director, noted in a recent year-end review, there are “many accomplishments to celebrate.”

Notably, the county had one of the highest vaccination rates in the state with 84% of eligible residents fully vaccinated. The rollout began a little over a year ago with healthcare and the most vulnerable the first to receive the first of two vaccines, primarily the Moderna vaccine. The willingness of most county citizens to be vaccinated, Franklin noted in his letter to the public, allowed a sense of normalcy to return.

“Over the following months, as our loved ones became fully protected, we were relieved from COVID for a short time,” she wrote. “Enjoying festivals and rodeos, inviting friends and family back to our homes, protecting our children and feeling a sense of normalcy. “

It is a fact, however, that opportunistic viruses such as the coronavirus will mutate, and they have done so. The delta variant became known, hospitalizing mainly the unvaccinated, and proving devious even to the vaccinated. Although those vaccinated were largely spared from hospital stays, a strained regional health care infrastructure nearly buckled under the influx of COVID patients and threatened the availability of hospital beds for those with suffering. catastrophic illness or injury other than COVID. The county saw its first deaths from COVID and has seen some residents hospitalized for weeks. And now the omicron variant, which is extremely easy to pass from one to the other, further tests hospital capacity.

“We have witnessed grueling hospital stays and have lost several beloved members of our community to complications from COVID,” Franklin said. “Omicron has launched a new challenge with an extremely high drivetrain that has taken our rates to unprecedented heights. “

Franklin said with antiviral treatments on the horizon, there was reason to be hopeful. The new treatments will augment current monoclonal antibody treatments and a vigorous campaign to vaccinate and / or boost even more people. And, the recent announcement by the United States Food and Drug Administration that eligibility for booster injections has been broadened, adds another weapon in the fight against the coronavirus.

Last week, the FDA announced expanded eligibility for Pfizer boosters and shortened the Pfizer booster dose schedule from six months to five months. Children 12 to 15 years old are now allowed to receive a booster dose five months after the second dose of their initial series.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory group met last week to determine whether booster shots should be recommended for children ages 12 to 15. In addition, the CDC has recommended that immunocompromised children aged 5 to 11 be allowed to receive a series of doses of Pfizer, including an additional dose in their initial series of Pfizer 28 days after their second injection.

According to a county press release, these changes in eligibility for boosters address the issue of decreased immunity over time from an initial set of vaccines. Meanwhile, a booster dose has been shown to boost the body’s immune response, resulting in increased protection against the delta and omicron variants of COVID-19.

What the expanded eligibility guidelines mean is that millions of vaccinees can receive their boosters immediately. A COVID-19 booster vaccine is now recommended for anyone who meets the following eligibility requirements: Moderna recipients who received their second dose at least six months ago and are 18 years of age or older; Pfizer recipients who received their second dose at least five months ago and are 12 years of age or older; Pfizer beneficiaries aged 5 years and older who are immunocompromised and who received their second dose at least 28 days ago; Recipients Johnson and Johnson who received their initial dose at least two months ago and are 18 years of age or older.

The booster injection has been shown to be effective in reducing the severity of an infection.

“As we continue to learn more about omicron as it spreads rapidly across the world, one thing is quite clear: Vaccines and boosters limit the severity of symptoms due to COVID infection Franklin said. “If you are now eligible for a recall, take advantage of one of the many clinics in the area this week and next year to further protect yourself against the rapidly spreading omicron variant.”

The purpose of this mobilization of scientific studies and resources, Franklin said, is not only to protect the population, but also to keep children in school and to run the economy. And, she admitted that the constant flow of information can be confusing at times.

“While the advice and recommendations can sometimes seem confusing or contradictory, we remember that the virus is constantly changing and calling into question what we know,” she said. “We are still learning about COVID, preventative measures and how we can live robust lives while coexisting with COVID. “

In another move to help maintain enough business staff to stay open, the CDC recently shortened the length of time those who test positive must remain in isolation. An isolation period of almost two weeks is now only five days, with isolation being allowed to return to work as long as there are no more symptoms and mask use is adhered to. As a local epidemiologist and member of the public health advisory committee, Dr Jeffrey Kocher said at a recent county commissioners council meeting, this policy change is aimed at preventing economic and societal collapse.

“The change in isolation and quarantine rules that the CDC announced the other day, there is absolutely no new science behind this change. Absolutely zero, ”Kocher said in the Dec. 29 public health update. “And in the media, it wasn’t long before people tried to make it seem like it was. But Dr (Anthony) Fauci clarified this. This is a purely political decision. It was a decision made not on the basis of a change in science, but on the mere fact that so many people contract COVID at this point, they forced quarantine rules, which they thought were appropriate before. there is a complete breakdown of civilian operations. It is purely a political decision aimed at keeping society functioning. And I must point out that we have kind of entered new territory in this regard when the government changes its quarantine rules, not on the basis of a change in science but on the basis of the reality on the ground that so many people are sick things won’t work if they have to be quarantined for 10 days.

In what has been called an “unprecedented spike in new cases,” public health has confirmed 249 new positive cases of COVID-19 from test results received from December 31 to January 6. Data on the number of cases is still collected, including information on residence and vaccination. status. As of Thursday, there are 343 active local cases, all actively contagious cases are directed to isolation upon onset of symptoms or receipt of a positive COVID test result. There have been 2,206 cases of COVID in total among residents, including one new hospitalization and seven COVID-related deaths.

Franklin ended his year end on a high note and recited the now well-known directives.

“We have a brilliant year ahead of us thanks to all of you,” she said. “Please stay safe. To get vaccinated. Be boosted. Stay home when you are sick. Wear a mask. If we continue to heed the preventative measures that work, we will be okay. “

For complete information on testing, vaccination clinics and more, visit sanmiguelcountyco.gov.

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