Taney County is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases as the summer picks up, as well as several cases of the India variant.
At the Taney County commission meeting on Monday, June 21, Director of the Taney County Health Department Lisa Marshall said they have seen a rising number of COVID cases since May.
“We have about 84 new cases from June 12 through June 18. We are definitely seeing an incremental, steady increase of cases,” Marshall said. “We look at our new cases every day. For example this past week we’ve had at least 10 new cases every day, and we’ve seen that slowly increase over the past month. We really started to see our numbers swing upward in May and have seen that continue into June.”
TCHD relies heavily on the state health department’s website for the majority of their information and data, according to Marshall. The positivity rate and the number of people that actually test positive has been bouncing all over the place.
“Last Monday we pulled the numbers and (the positivity rate) was at 14%. On Thursday, it was at 19%. However, we’ve seen a decline this morning (June 21) and they’re at 10%,” Marshall said. “We kind of see that bounce all over the place just a little bit right now.”
Marshall said the change in positivity rate has been found to be because of an increase in people who are getting tested.
“We kind of get a variety of requests for tests, people that are symptomatic want to get tested, people that are traveling, people that have been exposed, so we get a variety of people that want to get tested for a variety of reasons,” Marshall said. “So anytime you start seeing more people test, that can affect the (positivity) percentage.”
A seven day rolling average is used when looking at the number of positive test results and helps the health department have a better idea of how COVID-19 is affecting the county on a bigger picture.
By using the seven day rolling average Marshall said the health department is able to report more accurately, rather than reporting a one day spike. The importance of using the average is that the TCHD is able to stay in better alignment with the state health department, as they report and share the same data.
“(The average) is acknowledging that one day you might have 20 new cases, one day you might have eight new cases and there’s an average in between the two. It’s more of what’s happened over the last seven days and what does that picture look like,” Marshall said.
Marshall said at the commission meeting that the health department is seeing some cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 in Taney County. The Delta variant, also known as the India variant or B.1.617, is a variant of COVID-19.
In a recent release from the TCHD, Marshall explained that as a virus makes copies of itself, it changes or mutates. Any virus that has one or more new mutations is referred to as a variant.
View the original article ‘Increase in COVID-19 cases reported in Taney County’ for more information about variants.
According to Marshall, the Delta variant has shown to be more contagious as it spreads easier, especially among the unvaccinated population.
“We do see with the Delta variant, our current vaccines are a little bit less effective, however no vaccine is 100% effective. I think we’re seeing between 70 to 80% (effective) on the Delta (variant), so we still encourage people to get (vaccinated),” Marshall said. “It is more contagious which is why we really try to push that, just because we are starting to see (a decent number of Delta positives) with random testing.”
The state health department is in charge of the randomized testing and the TCHD receives the results through their reporting.
Marshall said vaccinations are the best line of defense, especially with the Delta variant emerging in the county, and are widely available.
“We still offer (vaccinations) at the health department or health care systems. You can go to places like Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, basically any of your local pharmacies are offering those as well,” Marshall said. “(It is) widely available that most places don’t even require an appointment, a lot of pharmacies don’t. Health care systems and the health department we do require appointments, but that’s something that somebody could call and we get them scheduled pretty quick.”
Marshall said the health department is eager to have people receive their vaccinations and are working with local businesses and churches to bring vaccines to people. Businesses, organizations, agencies, churches can officially have the TCHD bring a vaccination clinic to them.
“We’re happy to take that off-site. We want to be sure that we’re meeting our community where they are. We also want to make sure that transportation isn’t an inconvenience or a barrier, so we are working diligently to make this as convenient as possible,” Marshall said. “If there is an organization, church, or business that wants us to bring a vaccine clinic to them, we will do that.
“It doesn’t have to be for a large number of individuals, because we really think it’s more important to get people vaccinated at this point in time than worry about the numbers.”
Marshall said the biggest benefit for businesses to hold a vaccination clinic is those who are vaccinated, if exposed, do not have to quarantine.
“There’s definitely a business benefit, so we want to make sure our business community is aware of (that), they have access to (have) us to bring (it) out to them,” Marshall said.
The TCHD currently has access to all three vaccinations: Johnson and Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer.
In Taney County, as of Monday, June 21, 24% of the population has completed the full vaccination series, either one dose of Johnson and Johnson or two doses of either Moderna or Pfizer. As of Monday, June 21, 27% have at least initiated one of those COVID vaccination shots.
According to Marshall, Taney County is below the state average, which is sitting closer to 40% being completely vaccinated.
Although vaccinations are not 100% effective, Marshall said they are still encouraging people to be vaccinated because it is still effective.
“With Pfizer and Moderna, overall they’ve got in the 90% effective against the COVID (virus). So just to put that in perspective, the annual flu vaccine is around 70%, so they’re still highly effective,” Marshall said.
The vaccine has proven to lessen the symptoms of COVID and the number of hospitalizations, according to Marshall.
“Like I said, there’s no vaccine that’s 100% effective. So if you were one of that small percentage that had it, typically what you would see would be lesser symptoms. Instead of having the severe symptoms and hospitalizations, it would be more of a light cold,” Marshall said.
Marshall said the TCHD has still been leaning on technology very heavily and utilizing the text notification system as much as possible. The text notification system allows the health department to stay in contact with COVID positive individuals efficiently, through text messages, emails and surveys.
“Our whole goal is to provide good customer service. We want to reach out to everybody that has been tested positive. That is why we lean on technology and that notification piece, otherwise we would be physically calling every single person,” Marshall said. “By having those text notifications we can reach a lot of people at once, to make sure we are alerting our community in an appropriate amount of time.”
For more information about COVID-19 in Taney County visit taneycohealth.org.
For more information on scheduling a vaccination visit taneycohealth.org/covid19-vaccine.