The Whitehall Ledger - Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

By Pam Hanna RN
JeffCo Public Health Supervisor 

JeffCo Health Board Update: 9/1/2021

 

September 1, 2021



During the early summer months, I was cautiously optimistic that our county was moving toward a healthy trend related to COVID-19 illness. Case counts and hospitalizations were down. Vaccination rates have consistently increased. Public health staff focused time and energy on other public health needs. Workloads stabilized.

Recently, increasing case counts have sparked new concern for our department. During the past month, Jefferson County has experienced its greatest increase in cases since February of 2021. In July, 75% of Jefferson County’s diagnosed COVID-19 cases were reported during the last week of the month. We saw an increase from 2 active cases to 12 active cases during that week. Our county has experienced an increase of 82 cases, 4 hospitalizations and a death between July 28-August 30, 2021.

Increased case loads are impacting surrounding counties and our healthcare infrastructure as well. Hospitalizations are creeping back up. We do not see signs of the rate slowing down in the coming weeks. The greatest percentage of those admitted to the hospital are unvaccinated individuals. We are seeing younger people requiring hospitalization, including children. Statistically, 98% of the cases we have investigated this month have been unvaccinated individuals. Eight of those cases were children under the age of 12. Currently, none of the COVID-19 vaccines are authorized for children under the age of 12 years.

The CDC recently recommended third doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for moderately to severely immunocompromised individuals. This includes people who have:

• Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood.

• Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system.

• Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system.

• Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome).

• Advanced or untreated HIV infection.

• Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response.

We encourage people to talk to their healthcare provider about their medical condition, and whether getting an additional dose is appropriate for them.

Booster doses have not yet been approved. We anticipate approval for booster doses early this fall and expect them to be administered 8 months after completion of your primary series.

Please call 406-225-4007 to schedule your appointment.

Walk-ins welcome: Tuesday 1:00-3:30 in Whitehall, Wednesday 8:30-4:00 in Boulder, Friday 1:00-4:00 in Clancy.

As we prepare to head into our second fall with the virus, what are some things we can do to live our lives while balancing the risks of a novel virus? A virus we are still learning about and still building immunity to. We have learned that preventing spread of the virus is our best plan of action. Washing our hands, staying home when ill, providing for proper ventilation, and reducing our gathering size work. Jefferson County Public Health highly recommends residents wear face coverings when in public indoor spaces – regardless of their vaccination status. We urge our community to be cautious when out in public – avoid large gatherings, social distance if you can… and please get vaccinated. The most serious impacts of the pandemic are predominantly on the unvaccinated segment of the population.

The Delta variant is here. It makes up about 99% of the coronavirus in circulation in Montana. It is much more contagious and carries a higher viral load than the original virus or previous variants. It is causing an uptick in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. Many of these cases are younger, typically healthy individuals, including children. Vaccines provide excellent protection against serious illness and hospitalization even with a more transmissible form of the virus. Vaccination remains the single most important choice to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community against COVID-19.

It is time for each of us to assess our risks and consider our risk exposure, especially if we eased up on protective measures this summer. I was more relaxed in the choices I made this summer. I am fully vaccinated, and cases were low. Now, I am readjusting my priorities related to travel and social gatherings. What is necessary will vary from person to person. We have more knowledge and tools than we did last fall. It is important to apply balance and use all the tools available to us.

Stay well!

 

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