By Richard Sullins | firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s possible to look at the most recent numbers for the spread of COVID-19 in Lee County and see the glass as either half-full or half-empty. So, let’s do both and start with a view from 40,000 feet.
The county is approaching a total of 10,000 COVID cases as of November 22, with 9,586 having been officially reported since the pandemic began in March 2020. 110 persons have died in the county from the virus, but none in the past month.
37 cases have been reported in the past week, a drop of 20 percent from the previous week. 1,105 COVID tests were performed by medical staff during that same period and that represents an increase of 11.84 percent, but the percentage of tests that are coming back from the labs with a positive result has dropped to 3.13 percent. That’s the lowest since the pandemic started.
There is also good news among the numbers getting vaccinated, particularly among the elderly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today that 99.9 percent of all adults aged 65 and older in Lee County have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, and 84.7 percent of the above-65 group are fully vaccinated.
Among all adults ages 12 and up in the county, 39,235 persons (75.2 percent) have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 31,321 (60.1 percent) are fully vaccinated. If another surge of COVID arrives during the winter months, at least three-fourths of all Lee County adults will have some amount of protection and three-fifths will be fully protected.
But these same numbers also show that a trend first reported by The Rant last month has continued and is actually growing larger – greater numbers of Lee County residents are opting only for one shot.
The disparity between the percentage of persons that are fully vaccinated versus having received just one dose of the vaccine grew even larger in November. The percentage having received at least one dose by the end of September was 65.4, versus 55.1 percent that had been fully vaccinated, a difference of 10.3 percent. By the end of October, that difference had grown to 12 percent and in November, the differential stood at 15.1 percent.
The actual numbers of persons who have received at least one dose grew from 36,768 in October to 39,235 in November, a month-to-month increase of 6.71 percent. Among persons who are fully vaccinated, the numbers rose from 30,496 in October to 31,321 in November, an increase of only 2.75 percent. That means that during the month of November, the number of persons having received a single dose grew at a rate that was two and a half times faster than those who became fully vaccinated.
The county continues to be in a “substantial” state of community spread of the COVID virus and that is important for the ending of the masking mandate that Lee County Schools have been under since August. At its November meeting, the school board voted 4-2 to leave the current masking mandate in place until 10 consecutive calendar days of “moderate-level” transmission of the virus have been recorded in the county before the next board meeting on December 14.
If that goal can be reached, a special called meeting of the board would be convened to review the situation and consider further action. With Monday’s status still at the “substantial” level, the earliest that meeting could be called is now December 3.
Lee County Health Department Director Heath Cain said that booster shots are now available, and that demand for them is beginning to increase.
“We have administered 2,784 booster vaccinations so far and we are seeing demand slow down over the last couple weeks as this past week, we provided 252 booster shots,” he said. “With the announcement from the FDA today concerning boosters of Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines for all adults, the demand should trend up once again.”
Cain said the county’s next vaccination clinic for booster vaccines will be November 30 from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center. The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration have authorized the use of booster vaccines for all adults 18 and older to extend protections against the virus among those who have previously received the vaccinations. Persons who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine can get the booster six months after their second shot and those who were immunized with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can receive their booster two months after their initial shot.
Vaccinations have also been approved for children ages 5 through 11 for the COVID vaccines, according to Cain.
“We plan to provide the 5-to-11-year-old pediatric Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine once more December 17 at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center from 2 to 4 p.m.,” he said. “The second clinic for the 5-to-11-year-olds will be January 7 at the same time, again at the Civic Center.”
To register for either the booster or the pediatric clinics, call the Health Department at 919.842.5744 or visit at www.leecountync.gov.