NEWBERRY, Mich. (WJMN) — The LMAS District Health Department gave a COVID-19 update Wednesday warning of the growing number of cases across the U.S. and in the area.
“The Delta variant is overwhelming hospitals and communities around the country, and COVID case numbers are moving up in the LMAS counties and across Michigan,” the health department said. “There is a great deal of concern as we approach a new school year and more activities move indoors. This year, with few, if any protocols in place, we see an alarming trend in the United States of rising cases and hospitalizations, because of the Delta variant and low vaccination rates in communities.”
As of Wednesday, all LMAS offices have returned to mask requirements for staff and anyone over the age of 2 who seeks services at the offices. This is for everyone, regardless of vaccination status.
Currently, three of the four counties are at high or substantial transmission rates of COVID, while one is at moderate The CDC recommends all individuals regardless of vaccination status wear masks indoors in communities with substantial or high COVID transmission rates.
The health department stressed the importance of vaccinating those who are eligible to help protect those who cannot get the vaccine.
“When adults and adolescents 12 and older are not vaccinated, there is no wall of protection around younger children or adults with compromised immune systems, especially without the mitigation protocols utilized earlier in the pandemic,” the department said.
According to the health department, only 55.5% of residents in the four LMAS counties are fully vaccinated.
“We need a much greater segment of our communities, age 12 and up, to get vaccinated as son as possible,” the health department said.
In the district, LMAS, hospitals, pharmacies and other partners have fully immunized 17,106 residents over the age of 12. So far the district has had 34 breakthrough cases. That is only 0.2% of those fully vaccinated.
Health officials noted that covering coughs and sneezes helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 as well as other viruses.
“Every year, we tell people as we approach flu season to cover their coughs and sneezes, wash their hands often, and stay home when they don’t feel well,” they said. “Early in the pandemic and the last school year, many of us were doing those things due to protocols being in place for COVID, and we saw very little influenza. No doubt the COVID cases would have been higher as well.”
The health department emphasized the importance of mask-wearing and social distancing.
“It is vital that individuals remember that masks work best when worn properly by all who can, especially in indoor settings, and that they are used along with maintaining distance from those not in your immediate household, washing hands, and staying home when sick, and getting tested for COVID,” the department said.
The LMAS District Health Department said it is monitoring other states and regions and learning from their experiences with the Delta variant. So far, it is known that:
- Not only is Delta more transmissible, it also produces a much higher viral load in those infected.
- While the vaccines are still doing well at keeping those who are fully vaccinated from being seriously ill and hospitalized, there are more who are being infected, having symptoms of COVID, and able to spread the virus to others.
- The more people infected with COVID, the greater the chance that a new variant emerges that could be more resistant to the vaccinations, more transmissible, and more deadly.
LMAS has recorded 30 new COVID infections since Aug. 1, with a few hospitalizations and no deaths. One Delta case has been tested and confirmed through sequencing in the district as of Aug. 13. Where there is one, there are likely more, according to the health department.
Testing numbers are very low. Testing is available at all area hospitals and the LMAS office in Newberry.