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Mask up, get vaccinated and stop COVID

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic people furiously debated what steps we need to take to abate the pandemic. No matter the recommendation, some people claimed the steps did not work. The two most heated points of contention concern masks and COVID-19 vaccines. Many people claim masks do nothing to stop the spread of COVID, and the vaccines are simply unproven experimental drugs being foisted upon people.

What does evidence from our own backyard say?

What does evidence culled from our friends and family say about the effectiveness of masks and of the vaccines?

Data from the Green River District Health Department shows the combination of wearing masks and getting a vaccination causes COVID to retreat. From February 15 of this year to May 14 the total number of COVID-19 cases in Hancock County increased by 100, from 753 to 853. At this time state policy mandated the wearing of masks in public. With the mandate in place, Hancock County averaged 25 new COVID cases per month prior to the vaccines being available locally.

The vaccines became available in Hancock County starting in late March and early April, and people began to take the shot. As people started to vaccinate, COVID started to retreat. In fact, from June 14 to July 15 only 10 people contracted the virus; more importantly, the COVID incidence rate stood at 1.638 per 100,000 of population, according to information from GRDHD.

The incidence rate refers to the rate of transmission of the virus in the community; the lower the incidence rate, the lower the virus transmission in a community. In June Hancock County possessed a low transmission rate per 100,000 of population. In absolute case numbers, the number of cases per month dropped from an average of 25 down to 10 after the vaccines became available.

Now, cases of the virus, fueled by the Delta variant, continue to surge higher in the county. At its current rate, August is on pace to record over new 100 cases this month. More importantly the transmission rate of infection skyrocketed to 49.137 per 100,000 of population. If vaccines work, what caused the dramatic increase in COVID cases? What changed?

In early June of this year, the state lifted the mandate to wear masks in public, just before the Delta variant started to become the dominant strain of the coronavirus. It did not take long for the situation to change dramatically. As stated earlier, a low incidence rate points to a low transmission rate of the virus.

One month after the state lifted the mandate to wear masks in public, the incidence rate in Hancock County started to increase. It ballooned to 6.552 cases per 100,000 of population by July 15. As stated earlier, the incidence rate now sits at nearly 50 cases per 100,000 of population.

To reduce the spread of the virus, the data points to a simple course of action; People need to mask up and get a COVID vaccination. Local data proves that the combination of these two steps effectively reduce the spread of COVID in the community.

By Ralph Dickerson

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