COVID Community Update
Dr. Amanda Green, Chief Medical Officer for PRMC
HOSPITAL AND COMMUNITY STATS
We continue to see a slow decline in COVID cases in the hospital, down to the 20s from our peak of 56 a few weeks ago. We continue to have high acuity in our ICU with more than half of our ICU patients being COVID-positive, but we have not been as frequently surging into surgery recovery areas with ICU patients. The community, while better, continues to have a high rate of active COVID cases. We are less than our peak after the holiday surge of over 1000 active daily cases, but still in the 400s, with 20-30 new cases reported daily. Our community rates are still more than double that of the summer.
The Paris Lamar County Health District, in partnership with the city, county, emergency management services, and Paris Junior College, has been designated a COVID vaccination hub. Throughout the last several weeks, 400-600 immunizations were given at PJC each Friday. Moving forward, the COVID immunization clinic will be held at the Love Civic Center to give our 1,000 hub allocation first doses of Moderna. If you meet criteria and would like to sign up, you can call the COVID call center number at 903-737-4167, open Wednesday and Thursdays 9-noon, or sign up online at https://paristexas.gov/covidvaccinelist.
Other news of interest that came out last week includes speculations that people who have had COVID infection might only need one vaccination. The vaccine recommendations have not changed yet, however. Twenty-thirty percent of those infected and recovered have very low level of antibodies, so immunity from infection has a high chance of not being protective alone (almost all vaccinated had high antibody titers detected). It is also thought that longer spacing between vaccinations is likely better, giving the body time to rest before provoking the second immune response. The competing interest is to have people fully vaccinated as quickly as possible, and have vaccination rates beat natural spread rates, so the spacing recommendations have not changed.
More than 26 million Americans have been vaccinated at this point, and there has been no signal of any danger in the vaccine. The second dose has caused more side effects for most people than the first, causing fatigue, headache, body aches and fever. This has been described as a “happy response” (it did not feel happy to many of those who got it), as it means the immune system responded with building antibodies and training T cells, which is what we want to happen. The pain in the arm and swelling was reported to be the specific reaction to the lipid nanoparticles (fatty envelope) that wrap up the mRNA. They -- on purpose -- look like a foreign agent to get the immune response cells to come ingest the vaccine and mRNA. There have been posts on social media about mass deaths related to the vaccine. This is not true. There are a few allergic reaction possibilities, which can be managed when the person stays to be observed on-site.
OTHER NATIONAL NEWS
After having some airline COVID outbreaks, new airplane recommendations include wearing a N95 mask if you have access to one, wearing eye protection, and avoiding removing mask to eat or drink while on the plane.
It has been surprising how quickly mutations are occurring – the virus must be replicating quickly to mutate, so we need to stop replication that occurs through spread with distancing/masks/hygiene.
The infection rate must decrease in the community for us to safely relax on masks and distancing. An acceptable spread rate is considered 15 cases per 100,000 population. Indoor dining is still considered very risky, as is outside gathering if close together. Contact tracing links most cases of spread to not wearing masks and attending social situations (parties and church being highest). Double masking has been gaining publicity – if done, the medical mask should be closest to face, and the fabric on top. Wearing one mask consistently, and properly over the nose and mouth is still acceptable and appropriate. This is a disease spread by droplets, and the mask helps catch the droplets before they can infect others. Masks do not make you ill. As a reminder, since June 3, we do have an active State of Texas mask mandate requiring masks be worn in public places.
We still have a good supply of monoclonal antibody at PRMC. Learn more about this treatment option here.
PJC is still doing free COVID-19 testing in front of the Hunt Center and encourages people to take advantage of it. The Health District also offers free testing.