Summit County Health Officials Say Caution is Critical Before Declaring COVID-19 Over
At its monthly meeting, the Summit County Health Board heard that there is continuing good news about COVID-19 case numbers in the area, especially declining stats for the elderly population.
But Health Director Rich Bullough said there is a significant concern with cases in young children, who have yet to be vaccinated as a group.
As of Monday, the Summit County Health Department reported a total of 5,334 cases during the pandemic, 155 hospitalizations and 11 deaths.
Bullough said the positivity rate is now generally below five percent, down markedly from the rate in January.
And he noted there’s been a decline in the most important rates of hospitalizations and deaths. ICU occupancy for COVID-19 cases are below 9 percent.
In particular, Bullough said he was happy to report that Summit County hasn’t seen a case among the over-70 population since Feb. 24. He said it’s a reflection that the vaccines are working.
However, he said while cases are not high, they’re different. The county is seeing cases in young children stemming from the U.K. variant of the virus that more efficient at infecting youngsters and transmitting between them.
The county’s epidemiologist, Louise Saw, said Summit County hasn’t seen many cases in 3-to-5-year old children throughout the whole pandemic. She noted a spike of 11 cases did appear in late March.
Board member Dr. Ilyssa Golding, meanwhile, added that the U.K. variant is more likely to cause serious illness in children.
Bullough said he’s also concerned that schools are now on spring break and students are traveling. He said he’s holding his breath to see what develops in two or three weeks.
Even with declining case rates and strong vaccination numbers, Bullough said there’s going to be an ongoing challenge in messaging from health authorities and careful behavior from the public.
“After this big event, this pandemic, subsides, moving into the future, I’m concerned that we are not going to have adequate vaccine to have any real level of herd immunity,” he said. “This is going to be ongoing. I think we need to figure out how we’re gonna message this. I sometimes liken things to efforts around HIV prevention, screening mammograms, other public health efforts. You can get pretty good rates. You can elicit behavior change. You can do all kinds of things for a short period of time. But the moment you think you’ve got success, and you ease up, the screening mammogram rates plummet, safer sex plummets. We’re going to have to be on this—public health and our society in general—forever, probably. This is going to be something that we’re going to need to be messaging consistently.”