St. Louis County Public Health Director Offers COVID Update
COVID-19 has been with us for more than a year and half. In that time, we have masked and unmasked, distanced and come together again, closed the economy and schools and reopened them, all in efforts to "slow the spread" and gain momentum against the global pandemic.
As we get ready to pivot towards another winter season, we get an update from St. Louis County on the current status of the COVID-19 situation in our area. Written as an open letter from St.. Louis County Public Health Division Director Amy Westbrook, the update offers insight into the seemingly never-ending cycle that the virus currently has us at.
The full letter is two pages in length, providing information while making a pitch for a general sense of "not letting our guard down" in the fight. In her words "[t]he finish line, which seemed so close just a few months ago, is no longer in sight."
Some of her points:
- More people in St. Louis County tested positive for COVID-19 in the last week than last year at this time.
- 60% of St. Louis County is vaccinated, but that leaves 80,000 people in the county not vaccinated.
- An average of 20-30 new cases in schools have been reported each day. In schools where vaccination rates are highest, transmission rates are lower. Additionally, schools with "layered strategies" (i.e. masking, social distancing, good ventilation) are seeing lower transmission rates.
- While no vaccine is 100% effective in preventing breakthrough cases, the county is seeing milder symptoms and less (or no) hospitalizations in those who are vaccinated.
- No single tool, method, or approach is the "key". Layered approaches in general provide the best practices.
Westbrook's letter ends with an impassioned plea for diligence, even as the pandemic advances towards another year:
"This isn't easy. I've run out of ways to stay (sic) 'Please continue to be diligent'. Public Health professionals are running on empty, but we continue to push on. Why? Because we care about our community. We care about people. And so much of what we're seeing now - the deaths, the hospitalizations, and the exhausted medical staff - is preventable. Please be careful. If not for yourself, do it for the people you love and for the people who love you. Despite the division we are seeing, we are still all in this together, and your local public health professionals remain committed to serving everyone in our communuity and promoting better health for all."
Amy Westbrook's letter is available for public review; click here for the full text. Additionally, St. Louis County is promoting the additional option for the third-shot (booster dose) of the Pfizer vaccine now available at all of their Public Health vaccine clinics.