As the general population of senior citizens in the South Heartland Health District prepares to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the district is trending in the right direction on spread of the virus.
That was the word Thursday evening from Michele Bever, executive director of the South Heartland District Health Department.
In her regular Thursday news release, Bever said the goal for low community spread is an average of four or fewer new cases of the novel coronavirus disease per day.
“In the weeks from mid-November to mid-December, we were logging averages of 36-56 cases per day,” Bever said. “Last week the district saw an average of 19 positive tests per day and so far this week we averaged 14.4 cases per day. These are the trends we want to see continue.”
New cases this week included 19 recorded on Thursday. The district encompasses Adams, Webster, Clay and Nuckolls counties.
Meanwhile, the district is transitioning from Phase 1A to Phase 1B under the state’s vaccination plan.
Phase 1A included frontline health care workers and residents and employees at long-term care facilities including nursing homes and assisted-living centers.
Phase 1B will include the general population of seniors age 65 and up, adults age 18 and up with high-risk medical conditions, and several tiers of essential workers including utility personnel, teachers and others.
Bever said prioritized essential workers would be informed through their worksites when it is their turn for the vaccine. She said district residents age 65 and up and those with high-risk medical conditions should refrain from calling their health care providers to ask about getting the vaccine.
“Instead, we are asking these individuals to please sign up on our website. Click on the red ribbon at the top of our home page at southheartlandhealth.org. If you don’t have access to the internet, please ask a family member or friend to assist you.”
Bever said individuals on the list would be notified when it was their turn for the vaccine.
“Please be patient,” she said. “With the limited amounts of vaccine coming out, it could be many weeks before you are contacted. Please watch the local news media, health department website and SHDHD Facebook page for updated information about the status and timeline of the vaccine distribution process.”
On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced various steps the federal government will take to expedite the distribution of vaccine across the United States. The vaccine rollout to date has proven frustratingly slow in many areas of the country.
Bever said at least 2,596 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in the South Heartland district since mid-December 2020, including 538 second doses.
The first Pfizer vaccine arrived in the district on Dec. 15, and the Moderna product began showing up around a week later. The specified interval between the first and second shots of Pfizer vaccine is at least 21 days, whereas it’s at least 28 days for Moderna.
Many South Heartland residents still will be waiting quite some time for their vaccine, and Bever urged all to keep up with the precautions aimed at thwarting further community spread of the virus.
Recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include wearing a mask over the nose and mouth, staying at least 6 feet away from people not part of one’s household, avoiding crowds, avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, washing hands often, and getting the COVID-19 vaccine when it is your turn.
“Everyone in each phase can be vaccinated as soon as there are enough vaccines available,” Bever said.