Under CDC guidelines, Richland County should mask up again

Richland County is continuing to see an increase in COVID-19 cases, Health Services Director Kayla Carlson told the Richland County Commission when they met Tuesday, Aug. 3.

“Unfortunately, we're quickly climbing in active cases. We were hanging on to zero for a while. We're now up to 11 active cases. The state won’t confirm if it's the Delta variant or not. I would say it's safe to assume that the Delta variant is present in the county,” Carlson said.

At the time of the meeting, there were 11 active COVID-19 cases in Richland County. Later Tuesday, the number dropped to seven total. From June 20 - July 24, Richland County maintained zero active cases. From May 21 - June 20, the county fluctuated between one and two active cases a day.

The Delta variant is two times more transmissible than the original COVID-19 virus. Approximately 25 cases of the Delta variant have been detected in North Dakota, News Monitor previously reported.

“It's been termed the fastest and the fittest,” Carlson said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) changed its COVID-19 guidelines to recommend that vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals should wear masks indoors in areas with substantial community transmission.

Richland County was previously designated as having low community transmission, but with the jump in cases, the county has now been designated as having substantial community transmission, Carlson said.

The CDC has four transmissibility rankings: low, moderate, substantial and high.

As cases climb in the county, so do vaccination rates, but rates are increasing at a slower pace than earlier in the vaccine rollout process.

Approximately 59.6 percent of Richland County residents 18 and older have received one dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines as of Tuesday.

At the last county commission meeting, held July 20, approximately 58.6 percent of Richland County residents had one dose.

Roughly 57.6 percent of Richland County residents 18 and older have up-to-date coverage, meaning they’ve received two doses of either the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

At the July 20 meeting, approximately 56.7 percent of residents had up-to-date coverage.

Vaccination rates drop off when including Richland County residents aged 12-17. Only 41.6 percent of residents 12 and older have been fully vaccinated.

“Considering that with our transmissibility and the amount of positive tests we're receiving, the CDC recommends masking in our county,” Carlson said.

The Richland County Health Department is still hosting walk-in Wednesdays for COVID-19 vaccines. Visitors can go to 413 Third Ave. N., Wahpeton, from 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. for a vaccination.

The department has Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines available and is working to obtain the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, which has been in short supply despite being preferred by many due to being a single dose.

“The state thinks they might be able to get more Johnson & Johnson soon, but we don't know for sure,” Carlson said.

What to know about the Delta variant

More transmissible: The Delta variant is at least twice as transmissible as the original COVID-19 virus. Current research indicates that it is more transmissible than the common cold or influenza.

More risk for unvaccinated individuals: Unvaccinated people are at great risk of contracting the Delta variant due to its highly transmissible nature. A study from the United Kingdom found that children and adults under 50 are at much greater risk of becoming infected.

More dangerous: A study by an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto found the Delta variant makes those who contract it sicker. The study, accounting for factors such as age, vaccination status and underlying health conditions found that the virus had a 120 percent increased risk of hospitalization, 287 percent increased risk of ICU admittance and 137 percent increased risk of death.

How you can protect yourself: Although research is ongoing, current vaccines do appear to protect against the Delta variant and other COVID-19 variants. While partial vaccination is helpful against most variants, it appears to be not as effective against the Delta variant, Carlson previously stated.

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