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At the time of publishing this article, Boone County had been recently upgraded back to “orange” status regarding positive COVID-19 cases. The county color code advisory map is based on the seven-day average of positive cases and rate of cases per 100,000. Please note that test positivity is calculated by the sum of all positive tests in the last seven days divided by the sum of all tests in the last seven days and multiplying by 100 to get the percentage.
Each of the respective departments that were interviewed about the county’s efforts and, more specifically, their departments’ efforts, weighed in on not only the measures that have and continue to be taken to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 and virulent variants, such as the B.1.617.2 (delta) variant, but also discussed the challenges that the pandemic has created for said departments and their staff.
A series of articles will be published over the next several months that will focus on the facts and science of COVID-19 as it pertains to Boone County’s governing entities, its businesses and residents. The goal is to keep folks well informed as the pandemic and mitigation efforts, including vaccination efforts, remains fluid.
What We Know About the COVID-19 Delta Variant
The Boone County Health Department has shared that fully vaccinated people CAN still be infected with the delta variant.
- Each delta breakthrough case may spread illness to an average of 3.3 people, compared to an average of 1.1 for non-delta variants (IDH).
- The viral load/amount of virus carried by vaccinated and unvaccinated people with the delta variant were similarly high.
- People with the delta variant can carry up to 1,000 times more virus in their nasal passages than other strains (IDH).
- High viral loads suggest an increased risk of transmission with this variant compared to others.
- This variant may be as infectious as chicken pox—one person with Delta can infect an average of eight or nine other people (IDH).
- Original lineage was about as transmissible as the common cold—one person with original lineage could infect an average of two people (IDH).
- The vaccines are still very effective at preventing death, severe illness and hospitalization.
- Vaccination is still crucial: increased transmission = more variants = more likely to escape vaccine (IDH).
How Are We Doing as a County?
Currently, the following Boone County ZIP codes have reported the following percentages of fully vaccinated residents:
46052 – Lebanon 54.2%
46071 – Thorntown 48.4%
46077 – Zionsville 96.9%
46075 – Whitestown 86.1%
46105 – Advance 43.2%
46147 – Jamestown 41.6%
Boone County has a vaccination rate of 71.3%
“Booster shots are not yet recommended per ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices),” BCHD’s Nursing Division Director Lisa R. Younts, RN, reported. “They will have a meeting to discuss this next week. We do expect for booster shots to be recommended for those who have completed a primary series of Pfizer or Moderna and at least 8 months after the second shot was given. COVID-19 testing is in high demand due to the rapid spread of the virus caused by the Delta Variant. We are seeing a much higher turnaround time with the PCR testing, in some instances 7-10 days.”
Younts continued, “The health department will be opening a testing site in collaboration with Witham mid-September. All details are not ironed out yet. We will also be expanding our vaccine clinics in October to be prepared for an increase demand in vaccines if booster doses are recommended.”
The Boone County Health Department is currently in discussion with Advance, Jamestown and Thorntown to plan vaccine clinics in their areas. BCHD is hoping this will assist in increasing those communities’ vaccination rates.
Planning a Public or Large-Scale Event in Boone County?
The Boone County Health Department will no longer be requiring COVID safety plans for upcoming events. We encourage event organizers to reach out to the Boone County Health Department to learn more information about making events as safe as possible. Please forward any questions to Lisa Younts, RN, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Abby Messenger at email@example.com.
Fall 2021 COVID-19 Guidance
The Boone County Health Department has close working relationships with the school corporations in Boone County to incorporate science-based mitigation strategies for the decreased spread of COVID-19 in the school setting. The recommendations that are provided follow the CDC guidance found here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/k-12-guidance.html.
Boone County’s positive COVID-19 cases are increasing. Currently, there are substantial positive cases being reported in Boone County, as well as across the nation. Layered approach prevention strategies are the key to protecting those in our community. These strategies include:
- Promoting vaccination to all who are eligible.
- Physical distancing.
- Indoor ventilation.
- Handwashing and respiratory etiquette.
- Consistent and correct mask use.
- Staying home when sick.
- Testing for sick individuals.
- Contact tracing, in combination with isolation and quarantine.
- Cleaning and disinfecting.
The Boone County Health Department strongly recommends all the mitigation strategies above, including consistent and correct mask wearing in an indoor congregate setting, such as schools, for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals while community transmission is substantial or high.
BCHD is strongly recommending everyone 12 years of age and older to receive their COVID-19 vaccination. Vaccination is the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Please visit ourshot.in.gov for available vaccination locations.
A Few Words From Boone County Health Officer Dr. Herschell Servies Jr.
Many residents know Dr. Servies as a lifelong Boone County resident and devoted physician who has served the greater Boone County community for the majority of his career. His role as the health officer at Boone County Health Department for the last two decades plus has become an even greater service to our county throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that began in March of 2020. Dr. Servies’ extraordinary leadership and proven guidance have been instrumental to not only medical and county officials but also to the county’s school districts and municipalities—all of which have been trying to navigate these uncharted waters successfully and safely throughout this pandemic.
When asked about the current challenges that we face as a county in terms of reducing the county’s positive cases, Dr. Servies stated, “It’s kind of a standoff. We’ve got folks that no matter how much I talk with them, they’re not going to change their minds. And there’s nothing that they’re going to tell me that’s going to change my mind. Yes, we were ‘blue’ over the Fourth of July holiday, and then we went yellow, and then we went orange because the positivity rates are increasing again.”
Dr. Servies emphasized that the county’s hospital network, Witham Health Services, is seeing an uptick in younger patients.
“We’re seeing the 40-somethings and young kids who are getting it too,” Dr. Servies said. “The [delta] variant is more transmissible—we know that for certain. The delta variant is a mutation of one of the original [COVID-19] strains. The CDC looks at [COVID-19] variants in three stages: variants of interest, variants of concern and variants of high consequences. The variants of interest, like the B.1.429 or the ‘California’ variant, was going strong for a while and has gone from a variant of concern to a variant of interest. The variant of concern now is the delta variant.” According to Dr. Servies, there are no known variants of consequence in the U.S.
Dr. Servies added, “A variant of consequence would be where we start to see more breakthrough cases—where vaccinated people are getting severely sick.”
The C.37 (lambda) variant was first detected in Peru in December of 2020 and is currently a variant of interest. Much remains unknown about this variant, including if its rapid spread could mean the mutation is more infectious and more resistant to vaccines than the original COVID-19 strain.
While Dr. Servies understands the general public’s wariness and distrust as a result of ever-changing data, restrictions and guidelines, as well as the mass misinformation that has and continues to be disseminated with regards to COVID-19 and vaccinations, he is perplexed by the low percentages of vaccinated Boone County residents in most of the county’s communities.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Dr. Servies shared. “The information is constantly changing, and recommendations are constantly changing. I thought when school started this year, we’d be in better shape than we are [as a county].”
Why the U.S. Has Seen a Decrease in COVID-19 Deaths
Dr. Servies pointed out that since the beginning of this pandemic, the U.S. is reporting fewer deaths.
When asked why the U.S. is reporting fewer deaths than before, and in comparison to other nations, Dr. Servies replied, “I think the reason why more people [in the U.S.] haven’t died is because of the medical advances, treatment modalities and therapeutics. We don’t always ‘vent’ people [putting patients on ventilators] like we did in at the start of this [pandemic]. Once you’re on a ventilator, you’ve got a 25% survival rate. Now, we’ve learned quite a bit about taking care of these patients, and less people are passing away.”
While this is positive news, Dr. Servies heeded caution about becoming complacent regarding mitigating measures and making smart choices. Scores of COVID-19 survivors have been reporting and contending with “long-haulers” symptoms throughout the nation and the globe. And some of these symptoms are irrevocable.
“The lungs, heart, brain, nervous system can be impacted,” Dr. Serves stated, “And there’s been reports of people having renal failure. I know it looked like things were ‘over’ a few weeks ago, but this [pandemic] is not over.”
Where Can Boone Residents and Youth Get Vaccinated?
Younts shared that the health department participates in three webinars a week focused on guidance and information related to the pandemic and best practices to share with the county’s school districts, governing bodies and residents.
“We have weekly webinars with the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH), and they give us data and assistance that the local health departments need,” Younts stated. “We’ve been having conversations about the [vaccine] boosters and on Pfizer’s vaccine [pending] approval by the FDA for [children] under 11 years of age. We’re hoping to see that [approval] by midwinter or early January.”
BCHD has been in discussions with the county schools on offering COVID-19 vaccinations to staff and students with parental/guardian consent this fall and next spring—if requested.
“We typically do [childhood] vaccinations in the spring,” Younts said. “But we will be going out in the fall of this year and will go back as many times as they need us to, especially if this [Pfizer] EAU [emergency use authorization] for 11 and under goes through.”
For people 12 and over, BCHD continues to offer FREE COVID-19 vaccination clinics at its location in downtown Lebanon, Indiana. Its COVID-19 vaccination clinic moved back to the Boone County Health Department at the start of last July. Walk-ins are welcome, appointments (made at ourshot.in.gov) are preferred. BCHD is offering all three vaccines at no charge—insurance not required. BCHD is in the basement of the Boone County Office Building at 116 West Washington Street in Lebanon (between the Talent Factory and Dr. Lacy Boggs’ office). The building is wheelchair accessible, but they are happy to come to your car if need be. BCHD is also partnering with Witham to vaccinate Boone County’s home-bound neighbors.
Did You Know that the Boone County Health Department offers adult and pediatric immunization through appointment?
The Boone County Health Department offers adult and pediatric immunization through appointment. BCHD accepts credit card, check (no out-of-state checks), money order and cash and is also able to bill most insurance companies.
BCHD also participates in the Vaccine for Children (VFC) Program and the Adult Program (317) offered through the Indiana State Department of Health for those children and adults who do not have insurance or are currently enrolled in Medicaid.
BCHD Immunization Clinic: Tuesdays, 8 a.m.–4 p.m.
Late-Night Clinic: First Tuesday of every month, 1 p.m.–7 p.m.
To schedule an appointment or for more information, please call (765) 482-3942, option 3.
Please bring a current immunization record to the appointment.
For more information, contact BCHD.
COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shot
Guidance from the CDC: Updated Aug. 20, 2021
NOTICE: FDA has granted full approval for Pfizer-BioNTech (COMIRNATY) COVID-19 Vaccine. CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is meeting on Monday, August 30, 2021, to discuss its updated recommendation for this vaccine.
When can I get a COVID-19 vaccine booster?
Not immediately. The goal is for people to start receiving a COVID-19 booster shot beginning in the fall, with individuals being eligible starting 8 months after they received their second dose of an mRNA vaccine (either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna). This is subject to authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and recommendation by CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). FDA is conducting an independent evaluation to determine the safety and effectiveness of a booster dose of the mRNA vaccines. ACIP will decide whether to issue a booster dose recommendation based on a thorough review of the evidence.
Who will be the first people to get a booster dose?
If FDA authorizes and ACIP recommends a booster dose, the goal is for the first people eligible for a booster dose to be those who were the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccination (those who are most at risk). This includes healthcare providers, residents of long-term care facilities, and other older adults.
Why is the United States waiting to start offering COVID-19 vaccine boosters?
The COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States continue to be highly effective in reducing risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, even against the widely circulating Delta variant. However, COVID-19 constantly evolves. Experts are looking at all available data to understand how well the vaccines are working, including how new variants, like Delta, affect vaccine effectiveness. If FDA authorizes and ACIP recommends it, the goal is for people to start receiving a COVID-19 booster shot this fall.
Will people who received Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) COVID-19 Vaccine need a booster shot?
It is likely that people who received a J&J COVID-19 vaccine will need a booster dose. Because the J&J vaccine wasn’t given in the United States until 70 days after the first mRNA vaccine doses (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna), the data needed to make this decision aren’t available yet. These data are expected in the coming weeks. With those data in hand, CDC will keep the public informed with a timely plan for J&J booster shots.
Can people who received Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) COVID-19 Vaccine get a booster dose of an mRNA vaccine?
No, there aren’t enough data currently to support getting an mRNA vaccine dose (either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) if someone has gotten a J&J vaccine. People who got the J&J vaccine will likely need a booster dose, and more data are expected in the coming weeks. With those data in hand, CDC will keep the public informed with a timely plan for J&J booster shots.
If we need a booster dose, does that mean that the vaccines aren’t working?
No. COVID-19 vaccines are working very well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death, even against the widely circulating Delta variant. However, with the Delta variant, public health experts are starting to see reduced protection against mild and moderate disease. For that reason, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is planning for a booster shot so vaccinated people maintain protection over the coming months.
What’s the difference between a booster dose and an additional dose?
Sometimes people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised do not build enough (or any) protection when they first get a vaccination. When this happens, getting another dose of the vaccine can sometimes help them build more protection against the disease. This appears to be the case for some immunocompromised people and COVID-19 vaccines. CDC recommends moderately to severely immunocompromised people consider receiving an additional (third) dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) at least 28 days after the completion of the initial 2-dose mRNA COVID-19 vaccine series.
In contrast, a “booster dose” refers to another dose of a vaccine that is given to someone who built enough protection after vaccination, but then that protection decreased over time (this is called waning immunity). HHS has developed a plan to begin offering COVID-19 booster shots to people this fall. Implementation of the plan is subject to FDA’s authorization and ACIP’s recommendation.
National companies such as Walmart, Sam’s Club, Meijer, and Kroger are currently offering a third shot [booster] of Pfizer and Moderna [vaccines] to patients who are eligible under the CDC’s most current guidelines. Visit the companies’ pharmacies respective websites for more information and to schedule an appointment.