After a low number of COVID-19 cases in the county in June, cases are ticking up again during July.

Henry County Health Commissioner Joy Ermie reported there were 14 COVID-19 cases in the county during the entire month of June, but the county has already hit 14 confirmed cases in July so far. While no Delta variants of the virus have been identified in the county, Ermie noted not all positive cases are tested for variants.

“I can say that we have no variants in the month of July thus far, but I don’t know how many have been tested,” Ermie said, adding she has requested that information from the Ohio Department of Health regarding the positive cases in the county in June and hasn’t yet received an answer.

In discussing the matter with the Henry County Board of Health Wednesday, Ermie said, of the 14 cases so far in July, 13 of the individuals were not vaccinated for COVID-19, while they are waiting on the confirmation of whether one individual was fully vaccinated or not.

Allyson Smith, interim director of nursing for the health department, said, as of Monday, 40% of the residents in the county were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, meaning they have received both doses of Moderna or Pfizer or one dose of Johnson & Johnson and it’s been 14 days since the last dose. According to the Ohio Department of Health, 45.73% of Henry County residents had started the vaccination process. In the county, 6% of children from infant to age 19 are fully vaccinated, although Smith noted that number is not a truly accurate figure because it includes ages that are not currently eligible to receive the vaccine.

“But either way we look at it, they have the lowest vaccination rates,” Smith said of that age group. “With school starting in five weeks ... right now is the best opportunity to get your vaccine, and you’ll have five weeks to build up immunity.

“With the Delta variant, what’s a little concerning is it’s spreading pretty quickly in the U.S., and it’s affecting the younger population,” she continued.

Smith noted the COVID-19 vaccine can now be given along with other vaccines, such as common back-to-school ones, for children who are 12 years and older.

“We were hoping to get all these kids that want to get their COVID-19 vaccine,” Smith said. “A few of them have gotten it, but we’re seeing more parents taking advantage of it than they’re getting it, so I am happy with that.”

Ermie and Smith will meet with county school superintendents today to discuss items related to the pandemic. Earlier this month, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention released guidance on school openings, including masks should be worn indoors by all individuals age 2 and older who are not fully vaccinated. Ermie said, while ODH initially said they were not going to release additional guidance, they are now planning to issue guidance as well. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently released a statement advocating that all students older than 2 years and all school staff should wear face masks at school, unless medical or developmental conditions prohibit use, and board member Dr. Melinda Fritz asked whether that could influence the CDC’s guidance. Ermie said the CDC has not previously changed its guidance based on advocacy from the AAP, but it’s difficult to predict.

“Whatever the superintendents decide this Thursday or once they hear us and think about it and come out with their own decisions, they know that we’re here and that we’re going to continueto communicate like we did last year, so we’re going to be giving them all of this new guidance and all these new recommendations, and we’re going to be watching what’s happening in our county,” Ermie said. “We are here for the care of 27,500 people in Henry County. Though it’s very important to look at the world and the rest of the country and the state, it’s extremely important for us to keep an eye on what’s happening here, especially when it comes to our kids, so we’re going to be continuing that communication.”

Ermie said the department is working on a communication plan to be rolled out over the next five to eight weeks regarding the vaccines.

“I think it’s fair to say that we are a little anxious going into the school year because we do have such a low percentage of those who are eligible for the vaccine and that younger age group actually getting it,” Ermie said. “Let’s talk about the facts of the side effects of these vaccines and let’s really ask the right questions when we’re talking about protecting our kids.

“This isn’t about politics, this isn’t about masks, it isn’t about you versus me, it’s about keeping 27,500 people as healthy as possible,” she continued.

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