Putnam, Livingston and Linn counties in north-central Missouri currently hold the first-, second- and fourth-highest rates (respectively) of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents out of more than 3,000 counties throughout the U.S. On average, there were 5.3 new cases per 100,000 residents in the U.S. last week, while in Putnam County the rate was 127.8 — more than 24 times the national average.
Local public health officials in the affected counties attribute the outbreak to several factors, including vaccine hesitancy, presence of the Delta variant that recently swept through India, and gatherings related to high school graduation and Mother’s Day. As of June 7, 45% of Missouri adults have completed vaccination against COVID-19; however, the rates of vaccination in the affected counties are far lower. Only 23% of Putnam County adults have completed the vaccine series, and only 12 doses were administered countywide last week. In Livingston and Linn counties, 30% of adults have been fully vaccinated while just more than 300 combined doses were given last week.
Important public health tools to contain the outbreak in north-central Missouri include enhanced testing, contact tracing, masking, physical distancing and hand hygiene. However, the most powerful tool is vaccination, which now is available to anyone aged 12 or older. If you are one of the approximately 70% of the population in these counties who has not yet sought out vaccination against COVID-19 — a disease that has prematurely claimed the lives of 600,000 Americans — please do so immediately. For information on where to find a vaccine near you, visit the state’s Vaccine Navigator tool at https://covidvaccine.mo.gov/find/.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has a supply of Johnson & Johnson vaccine at their disposal that is set to expire Friday, July 4, and DHSS staff are actively seeking to relocate the vaccine to hospitals currently enrolled in ShowMeVax. Hospitals can request quantities specific to their current operational needs, with no minimum order, by emailing Stacie Hollis.
There are several beneficial use-case strategies for the one-dose J&J vaccine, including use in the emergency department and inpatient units before discharge. Given the continued spread and emergence of variants within the state, vaccinating all eligible populations remains a priority.
The District Court for the Southern District of Texas declined to enter a temporary restraining order barring Houston Methodist Hospital from mandating its employees be vaccinated against COVID-19. The hospital established a June 7 deadline for staff to receive a vaccination or be subject to discipline. In its preliminary ruling for the hospital, the court stated the “public’s interest in having a hospital capable of caring for patients during a pandemic far outweighs protecting the vaccination preferences of 116 employees. The plaintiffs are not just jeopardizing their own health, they are jeopardizing the health of doctors, nurses, support staff, patients and their families.”
The National Institute of Health indicates that, along with other serious health concerns caused by SARS-CoV-2, some people also can develop diabetes after an acute COVID-19 infection. Additional study is needed to understand how SARS-CoV-2 reaches the pancreas, as well as the role the immune system might play in the resulting damage.