Local health professionals encourage people to celebrate safely
Crawford County Covid-19 cases are increasing, as well as throughout the region and they are already affecting local and regional hospitals, according to Dr. Tim Stebbins, Crawford County Health Officer and Director at Ascension Via Christi Emergency Department.
With the July 4 holiday approaching, Stebbins is concerned that traditional celebrations, including family and community gatherings, will increase the risk for transmission of Covid-19 and cause possible serious medical impact, especially on those who are not vaccinated against the disease.
Since the initial wave of the Coronavirus pandemic, Via-Christi Hospital in Pittsburg has gone from single digits of Covid-19 patients weekly back up into the 20s, and last week to 51 including ventilated patients with admissions on track for similar numbers this week.
Stebbins says nationally, 80-90% of new infections are in the unvaccinated/nonimmune group, with more than 90% of hospitalizations in the same group. Over the last few months, 98% or more of the deaths from Covid-19 are in the unvaccinated/nonimmune group.
Health officials have confirmed some of the new infections in Crawford County are the Delta variant of Covid-19.
As of mid-June 2021, the CDC estimates the Delta variant is accounting for 20% of new cases in the United States. The delta variant is challenging because it is highly transmissible and affects the younger age groups.
In milder cases, infected individuals may mistake the symptoms for a bad cold and not realize they need to isolate. Common symptoms reported have been headaches, sore throat, a runny nose, or fever.
Testing for COVID-19 is an essential part of containing the disease, and the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas has rapid testing available seven days a week. The Crawford County Health Department can also provide rapid testing.
For most vaccinated people, the current COVID-19 vaccines effectively prevent serious illness, hospitalization, and death from all current strains of the virus. Previous illness with Covid-19 also seems to provide some immunity from the disease.
“Everyone should consider their own risk when celebrating, including their own current health and vaccination or immune status,” Stebbins says. “If you have any immune compromising disease or illness, such as cancer, you should carefully weigh the risks and consider mitigation.”
Strategies to help prevent Covid-19 infection include handwashing, social distancing, and wearing a mask. It is especially important that all individuals, regardless of immune status, stay home if they think they might be ill.
The single greatest protection against COVID-19 for individuals age 12 and up is vaccination. Crawford County has a robust vaccination capability and vaccinations can be found through nearly all local pharmacies, SEK Urgent Care, PSU Health, Community Health Centers of Southeast Kansas, and the Crawford County Health Department. Three different vaccines are available in the County and vaccination is available to anyone 12 or older.
It is possible for all of us to celebrate this holiday safely and to minimize the risk of harm to our family and friends, Stebbins says. “Everyone should consider their own risk when celebrating including their current health and vaccination or immune status. We must all be smart in what we do, consider the risks, mitigate if appropriate, and seriously consider vaccination to prevent further spread and impact of this disease.”