Along with the usual updates, the Camden County COVID panel reflected on Oct. 5 about how the battle against the virus has progressed in the past year and a half.
County Commissioner Louis Cappelli Jr. was joined by Congressman Donald Norcross, Jefferson Health Infectious Diseases Specialist Todd Levin and Assistant Public Health Coordinator Caryelle Lasher.
In general COVID updates, Cappelli reported that the average number of cases per day has increased to 134, 10 more than the previous number. He also noted that despite the increase in average cases over the past week, the rate of infection decreased from 1.08 to 1.0 percent, and the test positivity rate also declined from 7 to 5.8 percent since the last panel on Sept. 20.
“One percent or below is where we want to be, but we’re certainly trending down,” Cappelli said.
Of the daily averages, 28 percent of cases have been in kids under 18. Lasher reported that since the beginning of the school year, 700 students and staff have tested positive for COVID, creating over 700 contacts, and that only 40 of those cases were contracted in a school setting.
“I think the number of outbreaks we have in our schools being 10 is a true testament to how much we’re working together,” Lasher noted. “ … What that’s telling us is that we’re still seeing a lot of community transmission. Parents are giving it to their children, and the children are spreading it to their siblings.”
Lasher and the other panelists urged people to get vaccinated. According to the county commissioners, 68 percent of residents have received at least one dose, and a little more than 60 percent are fully vaccinated. Cappelli said the goal is 75 percent vaccination, though Levin would prefer to see the number even higher, around 80 or 90 percent.
He acknowledged that vaccinated people can still contract the Delta variant, which now makes up 99 percent of specimens tested, but said the vaccine helps prevent more severe cases that lead to hospitalization or death. Levin also recommended that those who have had COVID also receive the vaccine.
“If it was a mild or moderate illness, you should be vaccinated 10 days after,” he explained. “If it was severe, it should be three weeks afterward. The reason why is that we now have studies that show the antibody levels after the natural infection, versus those who were vaccinated, and antibody levels for (the) vaccinated is much higher.”
While the previous recommendation had been to wait 90 days after infection to get a vaccine, Levin explained that recommendation is outdated since there is no longer a shortage of the vaccine.
“Now there’s plenty of vaccines and the CDC recommendation has changed,” he noted. “It makes sense scientifically to me.”
The CDC website specifies that “if you were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine.”
The COVID panel also discussed booster shots: As of Oct. 5, only the Pfizer booster has been approved. Eligibility is currently limited to those 65 and older or people 18 and older who have underlying medical conditions, live in long-term care, live or work in a high-risk setting, or those who got their first vaccinations at least six months before.
In other news;
- There will be a food distribution at the Lindenwold Public Works Facility on Oct. 24
- Norcross gave updates on the progress being made to create a permanent federal budget; the attempt to raise the debt ceiling; the physical infrastructure bill; and legislation that will affect child care, community college, climate change and other issues.
- The panel emphasized financial aid that is available for rental and utilities assistance and small business grants. Apply at https://www.camdencounty.com/service/covid-19-updates-and-preparations/camden-county-cares-rental-assistance-grant/.
- Oct. 3 marked the last day of the “In America: Remember” art display created by Suzanne Brennan. It featured 700,000 white flags on the grounds of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., each representing a life lost to COVID.
“We talk about these numbers, but when you can physically see those flags as someone who lost a loved one, it really makes you stop and pause for a moment,” Norcross reflected.
“Those are sons, daughters, moms, dads who died because of the pandemic, and we have a way to fight it now, we have a vaccine. Please, please, it’s not political. If you love people, and they love you, get your vaccine.”