As the new year begins, the COVID-19 outlook for Blount County is grim, according to the most recent data from the New York Times.
The newspaper, which compiles statistics for every county in the country using data from the local government and the Our World In Data project, reported in its summary of Blount figures on Friday that “cases have increased recently and are extremely high. . The number of hospitalized COVID patients and deaths in the Blount County area has also increased. The test positivity rate in Blount County is very high, suggesting the cases are significantly underestimated. “
At Blount Memorial Hospital – which provides a daily COVID snapshot on its Facebook page, a practice that resumes this week after a vacation break – chief medical officer Dr Harold Naramore told the Daily Times last week that the local health care officials see exactly that.
“While I cannot say that a Blount County virus has been genotyped, I have no doubts that the dominant form of the virus in our community right now is omicron, although we are also pretty sure we are. still seeing a fair delta share of varying cases as well, depending on our hospitalizations, “Naramore said.” It’s been a busy few days in our clinics and at our testing location, and I attribute some of that to the gatherings. and holiday celebrations where families have gathered indoors without masks, which is typical at this time of year. I continue to encourage everyone to continue to take appropriate precautions, especially as new cases of COVID are increasing and the flu is present in our community.
âWear masks indoors, practice social distancing and wash your hands. In essence, know your surroundings and know the people you hang out with – and remember that the best weapon against COVID, and the flu for that matter, is the vaccination. “
According to data from the New York Times, the daily average of new cases reported as of December 30 was 66, an increase of 69% over a two-week period. The 14-day average of COVID hospitalizations has increased by 25%, and the number of COVID deaths in the past two weeks stood at 40. Naramore believes these numbers will worsen as the omicron variant takes a hit. breakthroughs in the region, he said. .
âI expect there will be a lot of COVID infections in our community because this (variant) is as contagious as measles,â he said. âAlthough it is contagious and two doses of the mRNA vaccine, without the booster, are largely unprotective against omicron infection, the vaccine continues to protect against serious illness, hospitalizations and death.
âTo maximize your protection, I encourage everyone to get boosted with the third dose if you are eligible and have not already done so. The third dose offers significant protection against omicron. Although there are many cases of omicron in our county, I hope that our hospital and our health system will not be overwhelmed because at this point,
âOmicron does not cause the serious illness that delta suffers from; However, that does not mean that omicron is a mild disease, âhe added. âSome people will need to be hospitalized, and some may still die. We hope it will be significantly lower than what we have seen so far with delta. “
According to the New York Times, Blount County is currently “at extremely high risk for unvaccinated people,” a familiar message to the public that Naramore admitted to be exhausting – both for the general public and for health workers. community who continue to provide patient care under arduous and demanding conditions, he said.
âWe know our community is fed up with this, and trust me, we are all fed up with it too,â Naramore said. âAs we move into another year, we are all hoping to see more of our normal routines return. I would say, however, that the healthcare workers who have been working in this field for almost two years now truly deserve a lot of recognition, support and appreciation. If you have the opportunity to thank a healthcare provider in our community, whether in hospital, clinic or other medical setting, please take the opportunity to do so.
âCOVID hasn’t stopped for any of them and for our hospital system, and I continue to be honored to work with so many skilled, caring and compassionate people that this community is blessed with. Without their diligent efforts, we would be in a much less desirable position than today.
The biggest sign of appreciation the public can show, however, is to continue to practice standard COVID-19 precautions and get vaccinated, Naramore said. To date, according to New York Times data, a total of 25,852 cases have been reported in Blount County since the start of the pandemic, meaning at least 1 in 5 residents have been infected. The good news: 24,883 of those infected are not classified as “inactive” or cured cases.
âGiven the history of this virus, in my opinion the reality is that we are going to be living with the virus,â Naramore said. âThis is something that we have understood for about a year. Throughout this period of learning there have been and always will be moments of confusion and frustration, especially with the way we respond. However, we all need to continue to work together to maximize what we learn, and we need to be patient with each other.
âWe are all naturally frustrated with COVID and tired, myself included. But, COVID is something our society is going to have to continue to learn to manage and control. I firmly believe that we can do it and keep it under control like other diseases this country has faced in the past. We don’t have to be defeated by COVID, and we can’t let ourselves think we can. “
Steve Wildsmith was editor and writer for The Daily Times for almost 17 years and continues to work as a freelance on current affairs and entertainment topics, local performances and artists in East Tennessee. Contact him at [email protected]