Lafayette County flagged as “high risk” for COVID-19

Published 10:00 am Monday, July 18, 2022

Confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to MSDH have continued to increase. Lafayette County has been recently flagged as “high risk” for the spread of COVID-19.

The county had 127 COVID-19 as of Thursday, July 14 and has experienced a rate of 235.10 infections per 100,000 people in the past week. No COVID-19 related deaths have occurred in this period.

While cases rapidly increase, the rate of testing slightly declined by approximately 5.25%. As of July 8, the county performed 325 COVID-19 tests.

As of July 13, 338 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19, 34 patients in the ICU, seven on ventilators and 23 were in the hospital with suspected infection.

With new omicron variants again driving COVID-19 hospital admissions and deaths higher in recent weeks, states and cities are rethinking their responses and the White House is stepping up efforts to alert the public.

Some experts said the warnings are too little, too late.

The highly transmissible BA.5 variant now accounts for 65% of cases with its cousin BA.4 contributing another 16%. The variants have shown a remarkable ability to get around the protection offered by infection and vaccination.

“It’s well past the time when the warning could have been put out there,” said Dr. Eric Topol, head of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, who has has called BA.5 “the worst variant yet.”

Global trends for the two mutants have been apparent for weeks, experts said — they quickly out-compete older variants and push cases higher wherever they appear. Yet Americans have tossed off their masks and jumped back into travel and social gatherings. And they have largely ignored booster shots, which protect against COVID-19’s worst outcomes. Courts have blocked federal mask and vaccine mandates, tying the hands of U.S. officials.

“We learn a lot from how the virus is acting elsewhere and we should apply the knowledge here,” said Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha appeared on morning TV on Wednesday urging booster shots and renewed vigilance. Yet Mokdad said federal health officials need to be push harder on masks indoors, early detection and prompt antiviral treatment.

“They are not doing all that they can,” Mokdad said.

The administration’s challenge, in the view of the White House, is not their messaging, but people’s willingness to hear it — due to pandemic fatigue and the politicization of the virus response.

For months, the White House has encouraged Americans to make use of free or cheap at-home rapid tests to detect the virus, as well as the free and effective antiviral treatment Paxlovid that protects against serious illness and death. On Tuesday, the White House response team called on all adults 50 and older to urgently get a booster if they haven’t yet this year — and dissuaded people from waiting for the next generation of shots expected in the fall when they can roll up their sleeves and get some protection now.

The nation’s brief lull in COVID deaths has reversed. Last month, daily deaths were falling, though they never matched last year’s low, and deaths are now heading up again.

The seven-day average for daily deaths in the U.S. rose 26% over the past two weeks to 489 on July 12.

Vaccinations, including booster shots for those eligible, lower the risk of hospitalization and death — even against the latest variants. But less than half of all eligible U.S. adults have gotten a single booster shot, and only about 1 in 4 Americans age 50 and older who are eligible for a second booster have received one.

“This has been a botched booster campaign,” Topol said, noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still uses the term “fully vaccinated” for people with two shots of Moderna or Pfizer. “They haven’t gotten across that two shots is totally inadequate,” he said.