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News of COVID-19 in Brown County and information on vaccinations

Deb Moldaschel
The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch

Brown County Public Health Director Karen Moritz is a busy person as she and the BCPH staff manage so many aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic in our area. Despite their busy schedule, Moritz also answers the questions of local journalists to help provide the latest information to the public.

coronavirus

This week, Moritz had a bit of good news as she reported Brown County is seeing lower case numbers for the last 10 days.   

“We would like to thank the Brown County residents for following COVID-19 prevention  guidelines and the businesses that are on pause to help slow the spread of the illness,” said Mortiz. 

“Thank you for being patient waiting for a call from our department if you were COVID-19 positive during the surge,” she added. “We are at a point now that we are able to try to call everyone with 24-48 hours if they have had a positive COVID-19 test.” 

Moritz was sad to say the county saw seven deaths the week of Dec. 6. She said these deaths were a result of the surge and widespread community illness in November. 

“We now have 23 confirmed deaths and one probable,” said Moritz. “We saw 1,081 cases the month of November, compared to 171 total in October. Cases are in every community in Brown County and proportional to the population. We continue to see spread in families and from family and friends getting together.”

News about vaccinations

The Pfizer product vaccine is currently being shipped in limited quantities  to states and  will be shipped to sites with the appropriate ultra-cold storage, said Moritz. From there hospitals/clinics will be able to access the amount allocated to them so they can begin to vaccinate their staff.  

For Brown County, the coordination of this first round of vaccine distribution is being supported by the South Central Healthcare Coalition, of which our hospitals and clinics and Emergency management are members.

“Public Health is expecting to receive the Moderna product sometime later in December if they are able to  receive the Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA for their vaccine product,” said Moritz.

“Brown County Public Health is coordinating vaccine administration for the priority groups along with our healthcare, pharmacy, and community vaccinator partners,” MOritz explained. “Our department will be administering the vaccine to some of the priority groups in 1a (health care personnel and long- term care residents) and coordinating with others to administer some as well. Currently the vaccine is being offered to the adult population.”

Moritz said they are actively working with the priority groups that have been identified by the federal government to determine the amount of vaccine they believe is needed and to work to get dates and times scheduled after the vaccine is delivered.

She pointed out this will be a slow process mainly due to the amount of vaccine that will be available immediately. Both vaccine products that are initially being offered will require two doses, either 21 or 28 days apart depending on the product.

“We will be  encouraging people to consider taking the vaccine. There is not a requirement to get vaccinated for COVID-19,” said Moritz. “The studies have shown that both products are highly effective against the virus. They both have met strict and existing safety standards during trials. We encourage everyone to utilize reliable resources to get more information about the vaccine so they can make an informed decision.”  

For more information on the benefits of taking the COVID-19 vaccine, facts about the vaccine, and the safety considerations, go to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety.html

“It is important to know that even as we start vaccinating we will need to continue to practice the COVID-19 recommendations to prevent spread — such as masking and social distancing,” said Moritz. “These COVID-19 mitigation strategies will need to remain in place until we are able to get the vaccine fully distributed to a large amount of the population. The CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health will be monitoring the situation closely and providing that guidance as we see the effect the vaccine has on illness and death.”

Moritz said COVID-19 cases and deaths are rising across the United States and we all must remain vigilant. 

“The changes we have had to make to routines and daily life are extremely hard, but these changes are even more important now and in the future,” she said. “We must stop the spread of this new and dangerous virus. The more steps you and your family can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the safer you will be.​”

What should we do? 

Mask up, scooch over, wash your hands, stay home if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 and get tested; isolate 10 full days  if you have symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19, quarantine for 14 days if have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and test 5-7 days after your last exposure to them or if you become symptomatic.

Moritz said quarantine guidance in some situations can be shortened to 10 days.  There are several variables and you can learn more about at https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/close.html

Holidays may look a little different this year 

The most significant and perhaps most challenging restriction comes at a difficult time acknowledged Moritz. 

“The holiday season is difficult for many under normal circumstances. During COVID-19 it will be even more challenging,” she said. “This time of year is when some gather with extended families, distant friends, and other special people in our lives. But this year should be different.

“Minnesotans should not gather with anyone outside their immediate household, whether indoors or outdoors. 

“During the next few weeks we are also asking that no person outside of the immediate household be brought into your home, except if certain exceptions apply. 

“Within these guidelines is the opportunity to celebrate with those you already live with, but in order to protect our most vulnerable Minnesotans, we are urging you to reconsider any gathering that brings people of different households together.”  

Lastly, Moritz said, “get your flu vaccine.” BCPH has a free drive-thru flu clinic Saturday, Dec. 19  from10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at their office — 1117 Center Street in New Ulm. An appointment is required and can be made at 507-233-6820. She said they have flu mist available for those people that are eligible, in addition to the injectable vaccine.