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Hamilton County is seeing COVID cases in younger population

Number of people requesting vaccine appointments declines

Hamilton County is still seeing a handful of new cases of COVID-19 each week, but as residents of the county receive the full vaccine dosage, the age of those testing positive is moving downward, according to health department officials.

Shelby Kroona, Hamilton County Public Health administrator, gave an update on the pandemic and vaccine clinics Tuesday morning during the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors meeting.

“What we’re seeing is still about 10 new COVID cases each week. These are shifting in age down to ages 16 to 35,” Kroona said. The trend in younger patients is not unexpected since that group is less vaccinated than the older population of the county.

Kroona said the symptoms reported in the positive cases are also changing.

“People are reporting many symptoms,” she said. “Earlier in the year, people would maybe have one or two symptoms.

“But now when we call people who have tested positive, they are really down and sick. They have sore throats, headaches, fever, chills, muscle aches, runny noses, and some have loss of taste or smell. We’re seeing about five to seven symptoms in people, “ she said.

She said those cases will likely continue until there are additional fully-vaccinated residents.

Kroona said that her staff has started asking people who have tested positive if anybody in the household who was exposed have been vaccinated. She said the positive cases have reported that the household is not fully vaccinated.

“The likelihood of familial spread is quite large,” she said.

Currently, 35 percent of Hamilton County is fully vaccinated for the adult population, or 5,266 people. Of that figure, 521 have received the Johnson and Johnson one-dose vaccine and 4,725 have received a two-dose vaccine. An additional 1,500 people are waiting for their second dose.

Kroona said that she believes the county will reach the 50 percent vaccination rate by the first week of June, but that still falls short of the recommended 70 to 80 percent vaccination rate to achieve “herd immunity.”

“If we want to get rid of our masks, we need to get to that 70 to 80 percent rate,” she said, adding that in some research, the use of masks is proving to be more effective than physically distancing in protecting against the coronavirus.

The health department will still offer prime doses (first shot) but the clinics are quickly shifting to serve mostly those needing the second dose, she said. Local physicians will be receiving a supply of doses to see if additional people can get vaccinated through their primary care physician, according to Kroona.

The health department’s next vaccine clinic will be held May 8, but according to Kroona, so far only 20 are registered for that clinic to receive their first dose. Clinics are also planned for May 15 and 22. The May clinics will be held at the Webster City Middle School.

“Exactly like every other county in the state, we are seeing a decrease in need or want for the vaccine,” she said.

Kroona said the government hold on the J&J vaccine was released over the weekend. Her department still has 200 doses available.

“We’ll have different instructions and different methods of how to deploy J&J vaccine,” she said. “We will hold a clinic specifically for J&J and every person will have to read the fact sheet before receiving the vaccine.”

To date, 16 people out of 7 million — 15 women and one man — have developed a rare blood clot condition.

She said additional information on an upcoming J&J clinic would be released soon.

Along with 80 other Iowa counties, Hamilton County will be declining their entire first dose allotment this week, Kroona said.

“This will be a first for us,” she said. The allotment would have been for the May 15 clinic. The department will still have first doses on hand.

“After May 1, Moderna vaccine will have 15 doses per vial instead of the 10 they have now,” she said. “So we will have vaccine left over after the May 8 clinic.”

“Unless we see a large increase in the number of people wanting that first dose, it’s prudent for us to refuse the allocation, so that vaccine can be shifted to another county that may still have demand for the vaccine,” she said.

Kroona said she knows that about 20 percent of the population will not receive the vaccine. She said that about 15 to 20 percent of the vaccine hesitant individuals are waiting for the neighbors, friends and family members to tell them it is ok to get the vaccine.

“They are waiting for people to say that it’s ok, that it is important for our community and elderly family members,” she said. “We need to protect our individuals who cannot receive a vaccine — the elderly and the very young.”

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