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Johnson County back at critical risk level for COVID-19

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JOHNSON COUNTY — Johnson County Community Health Services states the county is currently experiencing another rise in COVID-19 cases. 

JCCHS states Johnson County’s positivity rate has continued to increase in recent weeks, which has placed the county at the critical risk level for positive COVID-19 cases as of Monday, July 19.

JCCHS states Johnson County has a 13.3% positivity rate (not including Antigen test positives) as of July 19, with new cases being identified daily.

JCCHS Community Outreach Coordinator Kerri Lewis said the organization began noticing large increases in the positivity rate at the start of July.

Lewis said on July 2, the county had a seven-day positivity rate of 2.7%, with the county having been below a 3% positivity rate for several weeks. During the first full week of July, the county had a large jump in positive cases with the positivity rate increasing to 7.8% on July 9. The positivity rate has continued to increase as the rate reached 12.8% on Friday, July 16.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services states counties in the extreme risk category have a seven-day positivity rate of 15% or above while critical risk counties are between 10% and 14% and serious risk counties are between 5% and 9%.

Lewis said this increase of positive cases can be attributed to the low vaccination rate of Johnson County individuals along with residents’ desires to return to normalcy and be around one another without taking any precautions.

JCCHS states only 21.9% of Johnson County residents are fully vaccinated as of July 19.

“Because there’s such a large increase in folks getting together and we have such a low vaccination rate, the two aren’t going to have a good combination,” Lewis said. 

She said positive numbers are going to continue increasing for as long as unvaccinated individuals continue attending large gatherings while not social distancing and not wearing masks.

“The number one way to really protect ourselves and each other is when we start seeing more people getting vaccinated,” Lewis said. “We wouldn’t see it spreading as quickly.”

Lewis said the low vaccination rate can especially impact the rate of children impacted by COVID-19 as no vaccine has been approved for children 12 and younger.

She also said the climb in positive cases and low vaccines puts additional strains on emergency and healthcare resources as the number of individuals needing to be hospitalized also increases.

Lewis said as the positivity rate increases, the risk of overrunning the local health care system and taking up all of the available resources with COVID-19 patients also increases. Some examples she gave include the beds at hospitals being filled and ambulance districts needing to respond to potential COVID-19 patients.

“If they’re responding to an uptick of severe COVID cases, that puts an additional strain on the opportunity to help others,” Lewis said. “This is more than seeing numbers increasing … The goal is ultimately to limit the strain it’s putting on our community as a whole.”

Lewis went on to say that the organization is unable to determine at this time if any of the county’s positive cases are Delta variants. 

She said the State of Missouri can screen the COVID-19 tests it receives to determine if it is the Delta variant, but at this time, the state does not disclose with agencies what percentage of positive cases are Delta variants.  

“This increase in cases prompts the need for everyone to take additional safety precautions,” a JCCHS press release states. “Johnson County Community Health Services urges everyone to follow recommendations to help slow the continued spread.” 

JCCHS encourages individuals and businesses to adhere to the following exposure protocols as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If a business or large group gathering has a positive COVID-19 case, each person identified as a close contact should be notified.

● A close contact is anyone who was within 6 feet for longer than 15 minutes of the person who tested positive.

● When close contacts are identified, each should be notified that they are a close contact to a positive COVID-19 case.

● If they have not been vaccinated, they should be advised to quarantine for a minimum of 10 days. A negative test prior to at least 10 days does not mean one is not infected.  According to the CDC, it can take two to 14 days for symptoms to appear after exposure. 

● A vaccinated individual does not need to quarantine if exposed unless symptoms develop. 

● If at any time an individual develops symptoms, they should seek out COVID-19 testing.  

If someone tests positive for COVID-19, it is recommended that they isolate for a minimum of 10 days starting from the date of the positive COVID-19 test or onset of symptoms. They should restrict activities and limit all movements to prevent unintentionally spreading COVID-19 to uninfected people.

● Even if one doesn’t have symptoms or they are mild, they could still spread the active virus to others.

● It is important to isolate oneself from others, even at home, to limit exposure.

Personal responsibility continues to be the most effective way to prevent the spread. Taking these precautions can protect families, neighbors and communities. Everyone who is able is advised to follow these basic principles:

● Get the COVID-19 vaccine. This will help prevent getting and spreading the virus. JCCHS offers a Walk-in Wednesday COVID-19 vaccine clinic every Wednesday from 1 to 4:30 p.m. for anyone ages 12 and older.

● If one is unvaccinated, wear a mask at all times in public and other settings outside the home where social distancing is not possible.

● Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet wherever possible and limit close contact with other individuals to less than 15 minutes.  

● Wash hands multiple times a day.

● Stay home when sick or if experiencing symptoms and self-isolate from other family members.

● As much as possible, limit regular interactions to a small group (less than 10) of family members, friends and/or co-workers.

In addition to the basic guidance for individuals, businesses are advised to implement basic infection prevention measures informed by industry best practices:

● Modify physical workspaces to maximize and maintain social distancing.

● Develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan, including policies and procedures for workforce contact tracing when an employee tests positive for COVID-19.

● Monitor workforce for indicative symptoms. Symptomatic people should not physically return to work until cleared by a medical provider.

“It will require each person to take these safety precautions to help slow the spread,” a JCCHS press release states. “These preventative measures are vital to get us through the next couple months.”

Lewis highly encourages community members to consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine, speaking to a primary care physician about the vaccine or scheduling an appointment to receive the vaccine.

JCCHS continues to offer its free Walk-In Wednesday vaccine clinics from 1 to 4:30 p.m. every Wednesday.

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