After the past two weeks of sitting just into the Red, or “Severe” risk of COVID-19 spread, the weekly dial put out by Panhandle Public Health District (PPHD) returned to the Orange or “High” risk category.
The positivity rate for the Panhandle as of Monday afternoon was 40.2%, with 7,300 total positive cases of 29,261 tested. The past two weeks have seen 652 cases. Unified Command confirms 215 more cases of COVID in the Panhandle since last reporting on Monday, December 14.
In Dawes County, there have been 543 confirmed cases as of Monday, 44 in the past two weeks, with 17 deaths. In Sioux County, there have been 22 confirmed, two in the past two weeks, and one death. Sheridan County has had 368 confirmed, 65 in the past two weeks, with nine deaths, and Box Butte County has had 777, 75 in the past two weeks, and seven deaths.
As of Monday in the Chadron Public School District, there was one active case at the middle school and one quarantined student or staff member. Since the start of the school year, the schools have had only 35 active cases. Chadron State College reported only one active case, in an employee. The school has had 144 cumulative positive cases.
With regard to the vaccine, Tabi Prochazka with PPHD stated Monday, “As we have been preparing for a vaccine, we have been updating and submitting numbers to the state; we thank you to all those that have continued to send us updated numbers in the previous months.
“That being said, in the last week, we have received updated vaccine priority lists, and the state enlisted the National Guard to make phone calls to determine how many people by occupation type will want the vaccine in the priority areas. We know these calls have caused some confusion, and there have been some duplicated efforts. We have had frustrating moments too.
“Please join us in jumping through the hoops and taking this with a grain of salt; knowing that the vaccine is how we get back to as close to normal life as possible.”
Prochazka further added, “We are thrilled to have vaccine arriving in the Panhandle this week.”
Jessica Davies with PPHD stated,” We understand that some people may be nervous about the COVID vaccines – this is totally reasonable. Fortunately, researchers have been working on vaccines for the coronavirus family for years, so they did not have to start from scratch.
“As researchers have been working intensely to develop and test the vaccine, they have been transparent in sharing data, holding live hearings, and pausing trials when it’s been important to slow down. All of this has given us trust and confidence in vaccination – a critical tool in our toolbox in slowing the spread of COVID and helping our communities move forward.
“We have sacrificed so much this year to keep our loved ones and community safe. While we know getting vaccinated isn’t always comfortable, you can play a big role to support your community by keeping yourself and your family up-to-date on vaccinations. By staying updated on immunizations, we can make sure our sacrifice and efforts to fight COVID keep everyone safe.
“Sixty percent of Americans indicate they intend to get vaccinated. It is estimated half of all Americans need to be vaccinated before seeing an impact and 75% to 85% of the population needs to be vaccinated to have blanket herd immunity. Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not exposing them to it.
“Even with the vaccine nearing the horizon, please do not let your guard down on the important prevention strategies. Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others, stay at least 6 feet away from others, avoid crowds, and wash your hands often.”