Looking at the national COVID-19 case trend, three weeks ago the U.S. was averaging 141,482 new cases per day. This week, the U.S. is averaging 71,562 new cases per day, which is a 49% decrease. That positive trend is reflected in our hospital census with the Paris Regional Medical Center COVID census averaging 15 patients per day in the hospital late February. Our community continues to report around 20 new active cases a day in our county of 50,000 people, so we are still around the levels of community infection that we had in the summer. This is still higher than the number that indicates good control, which is 15 cases per 100,000 population. Please keep up efforts like masking and increased hand hygiene as we are seeing great return!
COVID vaccination clinics have been going well. The Paris Lamar County Health District, City of Paris, Lamar County, Emergency Management team, and PJC clinic plans to vaccinate 3,200 the weekend of 2/26/21. The following week starts the second doses of the first hub clinic when the health district gave 1,000 vaccines, so we anticipate 2,000 or more vaccines per week for the next several weeks to come. United Way recently hosted a community call on which community partners offered ideas on reaching out to underserved patients, and the health district does plan to do some outreach clinics at churches and community centers for those with limited transportation.
Below are some vaccine myths and responses to them:
- The vaccines can damage fertility, especially among young people. The reason this myth started is that there are some similarities between the spike protein in the new coronavirus and a protein that’s part of a healthy placenta during pregnancy; however, there is no evidence that the vaccination leads to antibodies that attack the placenta. The spike proteins on the virus and on placentas are “distinct.” Pfizer’s vaccine trial included 23 pregnant women, and the only reported adverse effects occurred in the placebo group. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has noted that more than 10,000 pregnant women have now been vaccinated, and there have so far been no red flags.
- Once you receive a vaccine, you can resume life as it was before the pandemic. Experts do not yet know whether the vaccines prevent asymptomatic infections of the new coronavirus—and that means it’s possible that vaccinated people could still become infected, be unaware, and spread the coronavirus to others. Experts hope to learn soon whether the vaccine can prevent viral spread, and early data is promising; however, until we know with greater certainty, we still need everyone—even those who are immunized—to mask up, distance from others and remain careful.
- Once we achieve herd immunity, the epidemic will be over. Herd immunity will eventually prevent COVID-19 outbreaks from spiraling out of control—but we are not near the level of population-wide immune protection required to achieve that effect. Even once herd immunity is gained, COVID-19 will merely begin to fade, as the coronavirus finds fewer and fewer vulnerable victims to infect.
- The side effects of the coronavirus vaccines are worse than those of other common vaccines. In trials of the vaccines that have so far been authorized by the FDA, the vast majority of participants experienced only minor side effects such as aches, chills, pain and fever. These are signs that your body’s immune system is working. More serious reactions, such as anaphylaxis, were extremely rare. The occurrences of Bell’s palsy (a temporary, treatable paralysis that ordinarily afflicts half of the face) did seem in clinical trials to arise more frequently among those who received a coronavirus vaccine than a placebo, but the rate was still extremely low—lower even than the background level of Bell’s palsy that arises in an ordinary year in the general population.
PRMC is still offering the monoclonal antibody infusion resource daily, though with the community infection drop, it has been less utilized. With improvement in community numbers, PRMC was also able to change the visitor policy to allow one visitor per patient per day (this excludes COVID-positive patients).
The hospital is now able to offer rapid antigen testing through the emergency department, and the hospital clinics offer send out PCR testing. As travel and other experiences require testing, the hospital does now have more resources to provide this type of testing, with our numbers of acutely ill COVID patients decreasing.
With positive trends, we all start to breathe easier and allow ourselves to be optimistic and hopeful – which is absolutely a breath of fresh air, but we need to proceed with caution. Please renew your efforts with public health measures and socially distance, wear your masks and wash your hands. The week of snow created some built-in opportunity for sheltering in place, and if we can combine that with continued use of public health guidance, we hopefully will not see another surge.