Health experts break down COVID-19 trends in Jackson County as Christmas approaches

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Posted at 9:47 PM, Dec 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-13 23:18:50-05

JACKSON COUNTY, Mo. — The Jackson County Legislature voted 5-4 to not extend the county’s mask mandate, and with the holidays right around the corner, experts say COVID-19 cases are trending in the wrong direction.

“We are seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases, with a doubling of the case rate from last week to four weeks ago,” Chip Cohlmia, Communicable Disease Division Manager, with the Jackson County Health Department said.

According to the department, the Center for Disease Control designates a case rate over 100 per 100k population as being a “high transmission” area.

However, Cohlmia said Eastern Jackson County was more than three times that case rate for the week of Dec. 5.

“So while the case rate for Jackson County was 313, the case rate for school aged children five to 18 is over 400," Cohlmia said.

Cohlmia adds this current surge is primarily seen in those who are unvaccinated, with case rates for the unvaccinated individuals being four times the case rate for vaccinated individuals.

“We only have about 52% of Eastern Jackson County that has completed a COVID-19 vaccination series, so the area is very susceptible,” Cohlmia said.

According to Cohlmia, 82% of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the county have been from unvaccinated individuals since May.

Cohlmia said that in mid-October, the county was hitting lows at around 7.72%.

However, this almost doubled to 14.71% positive last week. He adds the county is seeing a stagnation of vaccinations except in those ages 5 to 11.

“The group is climbing a bit, about 16% of individuals ages 5-11 have received their first dose," he said. "And actually, 8% have completed their vaccine series so very much looking up on that."

Cohlmia also says the issue at-hand is that the vaccinations will take 14 days before taking full effect, so the time to get that dose before the holiday season passed a few days ago.

Now, with the Christmas holidays just a few days away, experts are anticipating these numbers to climb, possibly leading to a shortage of intensive care unit beds in hospitals.

This is something that Dr. Ginny Boos has seen inside the Saint Luke's Health System.

“Many of those patients are being admitted to the ICU and have a much longer length of stay," Dr. Boos, the Saint Luke's Health System Director of Infection Prevention said. "The best way to not end up in the ICU is to be vaccinated, wear a mask, wash your hands, apply that risk benefited equation to the social encounters that you plan to attend.”

However, with a mask mandate not reinstated in Jackson County, health experts say this data should promote the public to take extra precaution during the holidays.

"We need to accept the responsibility, and our role in protecting ourselves and others, by wearing a mask and lowering the risk,” Boos said.