New variant, new cases

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As of Wednesday, the Monroe County Health Department is reporting 91 active COVID-19 cases and two related hospitalizations. 

Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner said he expects cases to increase with Thanksgiving being wrapped up, just as they did shortly after Halloween. 

“We expect an increase from Thanksgiving, not because people were more careless or anything like that, but just in general, people came in more contact with other people over Thanksgiving,” Wagner explained. “The more people you come in contact with, the higher the chances are that you’re going to run into somebody that tested positive.” 

He believes this “numbers game” is the same reason why Monroe County is seeing the percent of active cases in school-aged kids be disproportionate to the percentage of the county’s population that is kids this age. 

On Tuesday, 23 of the active cases represent school-aged children. 

“They are put into large group settings. School is a large group setting, so any time you’re coming into contact with large numbers of people, the chances that one of those people are going to be positive and don’t know it increases,” Wagner said. 

However, Wagner said the health department has not seen any large spread in schools. 

Monroe County is currently sitting at 105 deaths since the start of the pandemic, but Wagner said one death may be added soon as it is under investigation by the state. 

This death was of an elderly individual, Wagner said. 

Much is still unknown about the new Omicron variant. 

“It appears that it spreads easier than the Delta variant, meaning it’s more contagious. Typically that means its viral load may be a little heavier, so it takes very little of it to basically make you sick,” Wagner said. 

He said because the AstraZeneca vaccine is commonly used to combat COVID in Africa, where the majority of variant cases are cropping up, it’s hard to determine the effectiveness of the vaccines used in the U.S. – Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson – against Omicron. 

The health department is hosting three upcoming drive-thru COVID vaccine clinics at Rock City in Valmeyer. Moderna clinics (ages 18 and up) take place this and next Thursday, Dec. 2 and Dec. 9, from 1-3 p.m. A Pfizer clinic (ages 12 and up) is on Tuesday, Dec. 7 from 1-3 p.m. 

Those looking to get their second or “booster” doses must bring a vaccination card with them.

For those looking to have their young children vaccinated, the health department is hosting another round of ages 5-11 Pfizer clinics Tuesday, Dec. 14 at Parkview Elementary in Columbia and Wednesday, Dec. 15 at Zahnow Elementary in Waterloo from 3:15-5 p.m. 

As of Wednesday, 55.27 percent (18,976 residents) of Monroe County’s eligible population is fully vaccinated.

For more information on  COVID vaccine eligibility, call the Monroe County Health Department at 618-939-3871 or visit monroecountyhealth.org.

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