Commissioners hear COVID vaccine update

TROY — Emergency Management Agency Director Joel Smith gave an update regarding COVID-19 and the pending approval of a vaccine during the Thursday meeting of Miami County Commissioners.

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, an independent panel of experts, began its meeting Thursday morning to discuss BioNTech/Pfizer Inc.’s mRNA vaccine ahead of a vote to determine if emergency use authorization should be given. News regarding the outcome of this review and vote was not available as of press time.

Smith said a Thursday approval of the vaccine would mean major hospitals in the state and long-term care facilities would begin to receive the first batch as soon as next week, with Miami County expected to receive an allocation the following week.

Smith said the exact number of vaccines the county should expect to receive at that time is not yet known. He said the vaccines will initially be given to those highest on the “priority list.”

“In a general sense, the priority is certainly those who would be having the most contact with COVID-19-positive cases and high-risk populations,” Smith said.

The FDA released a detailed analysis of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday, which affirmed an effectiveness of 95%, assessed a week after two required doses of vaccine. The vaccine doses are given 21 days apart.

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Miami County remains in the COVID-19 red zone, meeting four of the seven indicators of the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, according to an update Thursday.

The red zone indicates very high virus exposure and spread, and comes with guidance to limit activities as much as possible.

The county now meets four of the system’s seven indicators, down from five met last week. These four indicators include new cases per capita, non-congregate cases, emergency department visits, and intensive care unit bed occupancy. As of this week, the county no longer meets the new cases increase indicator.

Miami County has seen 1,070 new cases over the past two weeks. Cases per 100,000 residents are now at 1,000.12, up from 994,51 cases per capita reported last week.

The non-congregate cases indicator is met when the number of cases that are not in a congregate setting goes over 50 percent in at least one of the last three weeks, indicating a higher risk of community spread. Miami County’s non-congregate percentage is 33.33% as of Thursday, down from 54.17% reported last week.

The ED visits indicator is met when there is an increasing trend of at least five consecutive days in the number of visits to the emergency department with COVID-like illness or a diagnosis over the last three weeks. This indicator provides information on the health care seeking behavior of the population and a sense of how concerned residents are about their current health status and the virus. As of Dec. 8, the county’s seven-day ED average is 3.14.

The ICU bed occupancy indicator is met if the percentage of occupied ICU beds in each region goes above 80 percent for at least three days in the last week, and more than 20 percent of those beds are being used for COVID-19 positive patients for at least three days in the last week. This provides an indication of the capacity available to manage a possible surge of severely ill patients. On Dec. 8, 87.15% of the county’s ICU beds were reported as occupied, with 17.99% of those being used for COVID patients.

Smith noted quarantine requirements have been updated and those affected now have three options.

The first option is the original 14-day quarantine after exposure to COVID-19, which is still most recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC); the second is a 10-day quarantine for those who exhibit no symptoms throughout that time; and the third option is a 7-day quarantine with a negative result from a test taken no earlier than five days after initial contact/exposure.

Smith said the state of Ohio is currently working on beginning the mailing of disposable masks directly to Ohioans over 65 years old.

“There’s a bit of concern that people will be getting mail and wondering if this is some sort of a hoax,” Smith said. “Ohio EMA is going to (release) pictures of what the approved mailing labels would look like so we can try to get the word out that these are legitimate and being sent from the state.”

Smith added that these masks will not need to be requested, but will be sent out automatically to those within the intended age range.

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