COVID death toll increases

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In the days after Monroe County reached the grim milestone of 100 COVID-related deaths since the start of the pandemic, more such deaths have been reported.

Two more deaths were added to the count late last week, a female in her 60s and a female in her 80s.

On Tuesday, Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner announced yet another death, bringing the county’s total to 103. 

He said this most recent death was a man in his 80s. 

As the Republic-Times previously reported, Wagner is careful to warn the county’s COVID-19 death total may not be what it seems. 

If COVID is listed on the death certificate as a contributing factor, it is automatically counted as a COVID death by the state. 

“These are not strictly people dying in the hospital with active COVID cases,” Wagner stressed. 

As of Tuesday morning, Wagner said his office counted 78 active cases locally and four hospitalizations. On Wednesday, Monroe County reported just 45 active cases and just two hospitalizations.

While the vast majority of COVID-related deaths in Monroe County have been among the unvaccinated, Wagner said he is no longer able to state that no fully-vaccinated Monroe Countians are included in the death count. 

Wagner recently learned that at least one of the local deaths was a vaccinated individual.

Illinois Department of Public Health data indicates that 53.61 percent (18,408 residents) of Monroe County’s eligible population is fully vaccinated as of Tuesday. That compares to 43.84 percent fully vaccinated in Randolph County and 48.71 percent fully vaccinated in St. Clair County.

The Monroe County Health Department is hosting a drive-thru Pfizer COVID vaccine clinic Thursday at the Monroe County Fairgrounds. While the clinic was to primarily meet “booster” dose needs, those looking to get their first or second doses of Pfizer were also encouraged to do so.

To obtain a second or “booster” dose at the clinic, one must bring a vaccination card to prove their previous doses were also Pfizer. 

As always, COVID-19 vaccinations are free. No appointments are necessary for Thursday’s clinic.

COVID booster shots are available for Pfizer vaccine recipients who completed their initial series at least six months ago and are 65 years and older, or 18 years or older who live in long-term care settings, have underlying medical conditions, work in high-risk settings or live in high-risk settings.

Another drive-thru COVID vaccine clinic will take place from 9-11:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 21, at the fairgrounds, with Pfizer doses offered. 

In addition, Walmart in Waterloo and the Walgreens locations in Waterloo and Columbia offer COVID vaccines. 

In related news, a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted Thursday to recommend Moderna booster shots for emergency use authorization.

The panel, called the Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, voted unanimously in favor of authorizing the shots. The decision now goes to the FDA, which will make a final ruling on the matter.

The recommendation for the Moderna booster is similar to one issued last month for Pfizer boosters. It would be authorized for adults ages 65 and up, those in long-term care facilities, people with underlying medical conditions and people at high risk of exposure to COVID due to their job.

These individuals would be eligible at least six months after their second Moderna shot.

Moderna’s booster dose would be given as a half-dose of 50 micrograms, compared to the original 100 micrograms given in initial doses. Pfizer’s booster is the same 30 microgram dosage as its initial series.

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