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Two COVID deaths in a day

SALYERSVILLE – “No, nothing is any better than last week,” Magoffin County Public Health Director James “Pete” Shepherd told the Independent on Wednesday about the current COVID-19 status in the county.

The Magoffin County Health Department confirmed on Wednesday that there were 15 new COVID-19 cases from Magoffin County on Friday, August 13, six on Saturday, 13 on Sunday, 14 on Monday and 30 on Tuesday, tying with a day last November for the highest number of cases the county had ever had in one day. Then, shortly before press time on Wednesday the health department reported a total of 37 new cases, beating the previous record. A total of 26 COVID-related deaths have been reported from Magoffin, but Shepherd said two people, ages 46 and 59, died on Tuesday, both deaths believed to be COVID-related, as well.

Currently, there are 120 active COVID-19 cases in Magoffin at press time. Eight people are hospitalized and two are on a ventilator. In total, there have been 1,369 cases reported from Magoffin County, with 1,249 recovered.

Also important to note, of the 37 new cases reported on Wednesday, 15 were under 18 years old.

Shepherd had not received the statistics concerning hospital capacity at local hospitals this week, but he said he is positive the situation has continued to decline from last week. In the state report he received last week, Paul B. Hall Medical Center and Highlands ARH were both at 100% capacity in the ICU and Pikeville Medical Center was at 72.6%. With hospitals statewide short staffed and already spread thin, Shepherd said the situation is only getting worse.

“We had two people yesterday go to the hospital with COVID pneumonia, which they usually always put them to the hospital, but there weren’t any beds, so they sent them home,” Shepherd said.

With Magoffin County Schools starting back last week, but two days called off due to power outages, at press time students have been in the classroom a total of two days, but a large number of students and staff are either now positive or quarantined due to a possible exposure. With the escalation of cases and number of students and staff affected by quarantines, the school district has decided to close all schools and cancel classes from August 19 through August 29, with both virtual and in-person classes scheduled to resume on August 30.

While most of the children who are testing positive with the virus are still seeing mostly mild symptoms, Shepherd said they are seeing an increase of cases involving children. He said they had seen eight school-age children test positive on Wednesday and a two-month-old baby.

The age bracket that is seeing the most severe symptoms currently are the 25 to 60 age group, which happens to be the least-vaccinated age group of the ages that can receive the vaccine. Shepherd said 95% of the cases they are seeing are of unvaccinated people.

Though many people are still waiting for more information regarding the vaccines before having their children receive the shot, Shepherd said he would absolutely choose to vaccinate.

“This Delta variant is so much more contagious,” Shepherd said. “With the first time around, people who had tested positive could isolate themselves at home away from the rest of their family and no one else in the home would get it. With this variant, if one person in the home gets it, they all get it. It requires very little contact.”

Shepherd said the main thing to do now is for people to start wearing their masks, again, as an added precaution of spreading or catching the virus while out in public. With the first round of the virus, there were very little risks of catching it in passing at the grocery store, but the Delta variant is estimated at 1,000 more times contagious.

“Wear your mask, wash your hands and try to not be in large crowds,” Shepherd said.

The biggest protection at our disposal is still the vaccines, which is what Shepherd attributed to why the older population – which has the highest vaccination rates – are not being hit as hard with this second round of the virus as their younger unvaccinated neighbors and relatives, but he said he has seen a sharp uptick of people signing up to get their shot.

“We gave 70 vaccines this week and we weren’t getting any appointments for vaccines for three weeks,” Shepherd said. “We started getting more phone calls about it, so we ordered more vaccines and had 50 people down for yesterday, but 70 showed up.”

To schedule a vaccine, you can call the health department at 606-349-6212. Also available in this region, people can still call or go online to get on the vaccine list at any of the following providers: Walgreens, multiple Big Sandy Healthcare locations, Paul B. Hall Medical Center, Highlands ARH, Pikeville Medical Center, Kings Daughters in Ashland, ARH West Liberty and Saint Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead.

As with any vaccination, the COVID-19 vaccines are not 100% effective at keeping you from getting the virus, with recent studies indicating the Moderna vaccine is 75% effective and the Pfizer is 43% effective against the current variant. However, the vaccines greatly decrease the chances of you catching it and, much like the flu shot, if you get the virus after being fully vaccinated you are much less likely to have severe symptoms.

“With this Delta variant, this virus can stay in the back of your throat for two days before you have any symptoms if you have had the vaccine,” Shepherd explained. “If you’re not vaccinated, you can keep it for weeks.”

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