Health officials continue to warn the public in a “post-pandemic” world

(AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin)

Although the novel coronavirus as an “emergency” has been widely categorized as “past,” health officials continue to call for caution in the “post-pandemic world,” especially during the winter and spring seasons.

In addition, experts point to family, community and work gatherings as, unfortunately, prime moments that can bring a “surge of illness,” especially for immunocompromised residents.

And according to Lake County Chief Epidemiologist Muhammad Jafar, while currently circulating variants do not pose an “increased risk to public health,” the virus that causes the coronavirus is constantly changing over time.

“We are seeing an increased burden of respiratory disease with the triple threat of COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza,” he added. “However, there are effective vaccines for all three.”

The health district noted that it offers annual flu immunizations to the public and COVID-19 immunizations for individuals who are underinsured and uninsured.

“We refer individuals with insurance to their primary care physician and/or any local pharmacy including CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Sam’s Club and Costco for the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Health District Director of Nursing Carroll Stranger. “Currently, the health district only has an RSV vaccine for infants.

“Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults 60 and older receive a single dose of RSV vaccine, they encourage healthcare providers and their patients to have a conversation to determine whether RSV vaccination would be beneficial.” she added. “This is intended to allow providers and patients flexibility based on what is best for each individual patient.”

According to 2023 data detailed at www.lcghd.org, Lake County continues to report low cases of COVID-19, with a reported two-week incidence rate of 15.2 per 100,000 (population), compared to 226, 8 cases under the same measure last year.

In addition, the case count shows two reported “outbreaks” (cumulative data) in June 2023 entered into the Ohio Disease Reporting System data extract, totaling 2,665, compared to 17,619 in 2022 and 29,302 in 2021

Additionally, according to the Ohio Department of Health, vaccinations received after the primary series — including the third primary dose for individuals with immunocompromised conditions or any booster doses for healthy or immunocompromised individuals — continue to decline significantly.

However, vaccinations administered to Lake County residents with at least one dose totaled 160,671 (69.81 percent) in 2023, with completed primary series at 152,889 (66.43 percent) and updated bivalent boosters equal to at 42,956.

Hospitalizations also fell, with 72 recorded in 2023 – with 11 ICU admissions – compared to 423 and 46 (ICU) admissions last year.

To date, 926 deaths have been reported among COVID-19 cases that were Lake County residents, with 75 causes of death not directly attributed to the virus or yet to be determined, officials noted, adding the numbers are determined to meets the criteria for vital statistics described in the Ohio Infectious Disease Control Manual.

Individuals who do not currently meet the criteria, commonly referred to as “COVID-19 deaths,” are excluded from the reported statistics.

For more information, visit www.lcghd.org/boardofhealthminutes/healthdata/.

In efforts to combat COVID-19, in addition to seasonal, related illnesses and multiple options, UH Virtual Care offers convenient and easy ways to connect with providers without having to step into a doctor’s office.

According to the system, the options include video visits and electronic visits:

• On-Demand Virtual Care: If care is required for a minor illness, such as a cold or stomach virus, video visits can be made in less than 30 minutes for adults and children 1 year and older between 7 and 11 a.m. every day morning afternoon

• E-Visit: Options for sinus infection and pink eye symptoms, to name a few, are available for patients 2 years and older

In addition, UH Urgent Care offers virtual and guest care during the holiday season with no appointment required.

For injuries or illnesses that are not life-threatening, including colds and flu, to stitches and broken bones, UHUC provides shorter wait times, lower costs and more personalized care.

Full digital X-ray capabilities are also available, officials noted.

UH Urgent Care locations are open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. New Year’s and New Year’s hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Virtual or urgent care is not intended to replace in-person visits with primary care providers, system officials added, noting that emergency room patients are screened based on the severity of their illness and costs are higher compared to options for virtual and emergency care.

For more information about COVID-19 in Ohio, visit the Ohio Department of Health’s interactive coronavirus dashboards.

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