Clay Health officer offers optimism amid Omicron surge

By Nick Blank nick@claytodayonline.com
Posted 1/12/22

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Commissioners received a status update about the amount and severity of the county’s Omicron COVID-19 cases at Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting.

Clay’s …

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Clay Health officer offers optimism amid Omicron surge

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Commissioners received a status update about the amount and severity of the county’s Omicron COVID-19 cases at Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting.

Clay’s Department of Health Administrator Heather Huffman said there were 2,462 cases of the Omicron variant in Clay County last week. From Saturday to Tuesday, the county was close to adding another 2,000 cases. However, Huffman said, the outcome was much different from last summer’s wave of the Delta variant.

“Subjectively, listening to interviews with some of the cases, it’s like having a bad cold,” Huffman said. “That’s what we’re hearing over and over again, most people are not in the hospitals.”

Huffman said half of Clay County’s 708 covid-related deaths since March 2020 came during last summer’s Delta wave. She said this is the peak season for cold and flu, and health officials are not seeing a surge for hospital admissions and for beds like last summer.

“We’re not seeing the deaths that are going along with it,” Huffman said. “That’s really good news.”

Huffman said experts are seeing patterns within Omicron similar to an endemic stage of a virus, meaning its symptoms resemble flu-like symptoms. The idea is that COVID-19 is something that continues to mutate year-to-year and is tracked, with boosters released periodically. “I’m not going to say there’s not going to be different waves of different variants, but this is typical of a virus cycle especially during a pandemic as it goes into an endemic phase,” she added.

The best way to monitor and prevent current cases is testing and vaccines respectively, she said. Due to supply chain issues, the county and nearby counties are out of rapid tests. While the Clay Department of Health can still provide a test result in 24 to 48 hours, the county has the capability to administer 2,000 tests a day due to its community partners.

County Commissioner Jim Renninger asked about availability of rapid tests and emphasized the need from local governments like Penney Farms.

“They’re in dire need of rapid tests,” he said.

With rapid tests, Huffman said expiration dates change and neighboring counties are also struggling to acquire them.

“We’re feeling the supply chain issues,” Huffman said.

Vaccines remain the primary way to prevent severe illness and death. Huffman said the Delta variant wave created a large demand for the vaccine, but Omicron hasn’t done the same. She wanted to improve the county’s booster rate, though she could understand if there was some fatigue. “The boosters are still important at this time,” she said.

The booster is available at major grocery stores like Walgreens, CVS, Publix and Winn-Dixie.

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