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HoCo Health Director Chris Gilliam give COVID-19 update

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Chris Gilliam, Howell County Health Director states, “The thing that concerns me is not only seeing the surge of cases return—that is cause for concern— but it’s not just the fact we are seeing more cases, it’s this Delta strain. The first case was identified in October in India and the first case was identified in the United States in spring of this year. Since that time it has gone from being the new spin off virus to being the prominent virus in the world”
“The most concerning issue associated with the Delta Variant is the fact that the people we see getting sick are younger, the people getting infected are sicker and the people that are getting sick and testing positive are unvaccinated.
As Gilliam spoke, he pointed out that we are now, for the first time, seeing young children testing positive in statistically significant numbers. Gilliam is not aware of any Howell County children who have currently tested positive, but the Health Department does know that some of the children who tested positive have really gotten sick and some of them have been younger than five years of age. Environment has changed because the original variant did not infect young people in significant numbers. “Clearly there has been an evolution in this Delta variant that has changed the rules. Younger people are getting sick and being hospitalized.
“Even though we have made progress with the Pfizer vaccine allowing children down to 12 years of age to receive the vaccine, there is still nothing for children ages zero to 12 leaving them completely unprotected.” Gilliam said. Pfizer is the only vaccine that can be given to 12-17 year olds.
“The longer we allow this virus to burn, the more we are going to have variants spin off. One of problems with the Delta variant is that it replicates very quickly,” stated Gilliam.
One of the miscommunications that has been suggested is that if someone had the COVID virus before, they are not susceptible to getting the virus again. Gilliam says this is not true. “We do know that once you have been infected with the virus the body will develop antibodies and it will provide a natural defense. The question is how long would that defense last, and the early projection was up to nine months then it went down to six months to the point that they are now projecting the defense to last up to three months. So even if you have been infected that defense will allow you around 90 days of protection.”
As new information has become available, the guidelines for the Delta variant are changing.
Studies to date show that the vaccines are about 96 percent effective. With Delta variant, the efficiency rate is around 80 percent which means, “The vaccine will protect the vast majority but we are seeing more people getting sick.” Gilliam said.
Statistics to date are as follows. Since spring of 2020 there have been a total of 4,352 cases in Howell County, with 195 hospitalizations and 103 deaths. On Thursday, there were 47 new cases reported making a total of 450 new cases for the month of July.
While some people may have concerns about the negatives of the vaccine, data shows there is a very small percentage of negative side effects related to the vaccine.
The Health Department will be holding a free vaccination clinic from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday at the Howell County Health Department. There will be Moderna vaccines for ages seventeen and up and there is a limited supply of the Pfizer vaccines for ages 12 to 17. This is a walk in clinic with no insurance cards needed.
“People must recognize there is only one way out of this. It is not masking, it is not social distancing, it is vaccinations.” Gilliam stated, “It is important to understand that you are not getting vaccinated just for yourself but for the younger ones who are not being allowed that protection fight now and all those people who can’t get vaccinated.’

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