On this episode of the Post Podcast Ellis County Health Services Director Jason Kennedy shares recent information about COVID-19 in Ellis County.
Jason Kennedy Yeah, absolutely. You know, and it is, it is not just a local trend, it is a statewide trend and a in a nationwide trend. That is obviously good. Less cases, less impacts. We've, you know, we've talked about this many, many times. But I think what has been lost in the entire COVID pandemic is the fact that the numbers are not the important part it is the individuals the impact and that kind of stuff. So we as we look at the numbers, less numbers mean less impact on our communities, less people infected less people sick. And those are all good things for our community.
James Bell Absolutely. You know, I wonder if you want to speak to you know, and I know there's probably a million different ideas out there, and everybody's talking about why but I wonder kind of, if you want to share with us what your reasoning, or what you're thinking is is to the reasoning of that lowering number?
Jason Kennedy Sure, I don't know. You know, it's, the simple answer is No one knows. Nobody, nobody truly has a, I guess a crystal ball or can or can look into it right now or can look back at the data and aggregate it and say, this absolutely is the cause of this. Even as you look at the statewide trend maps, you look and they show like when this vaccine came out when that vaccine came out when these restrictions went away. And in all reality, not much of that stuff corresponds with a giant change in cases. What we do know is that there is a giant change in the reduction in hospitalizations and mortality once we got the vaccines out. That is a number that we can literally put your finger on and say yep, once we started vaccinating people, we stopped seeing hospitalizations of vaccinated people, we stopped seeing deaths of vaccinated people. And our enter mortality dropped off. As far as cases and waves of cases this stuff does seem to be does seem to come in cyclic waves, what we've seen is, you know, two to three weeks, early on in the pandemic, they will last a little bit longer. But that was because there were more people that hadn't had exposure to the virus. But it does seem to come in different waves where we see we see an increase in cases for a period of time then we see a waning or a decrease in cases back down to a hopefully low baseline of cases where we're we're, you know, down in that one to two cases a day. That's been no different with Delta. The good news with Delta is what we've seen is it's not as deadly. We have not seen the high mortality rate and the mortality rates skyrocketing as we did with the previous versions, it likely that is due to compounding factor so that is due to exposure. Obviously anytime we're exposed to a virus, our body mounts an immune response that immune response helps to limit the impact of that virus the next time we see it. You can do that through exposure you can do that through vaccinations. Right now we have both going on. We you know it's unlikely for me to believe that there's about anyone in this country right now that hasn't had some exposure to COVID at some point and we have a with a fairly decent amount of people that have been vaccinated so we are fighting the virus or mounting the immune response really on two fronts with vaccination and exposure. So all of those factors really come together to mean that Delta was less impactful in Ellis County. The case rates stayed far below what we saw last year at the exact same time and the mortality thankfully. So like we've talked about is really the worst outcome of viruses is morbidity mortality. So as we look at it, and we you know, what are the long term effects and did it how many people did it, unfortunately, succumb to it. And so, with Delta, we've seen that to be really low in Ellis County. So that's that is the good news with this our case rates are falling off or case rates say well below the pace that we had last year at this exact same time, likely because half the population is vaccinated and the other half of the population has probably had some level of exposure. Now, that's not to say that they've actually had it or would have tested positive, but they've had some level of exposure. Minor amounts of exposure still mount a minor immune response, but it's still your body has recognition, it can hopefully fight it off better than next time.
James Bell Okay, you know, you mentioned the exposure piece. And they kind of want to talk about this, because it's something that I've been super curious about, it's one of the things that we heard about, you know, real, a lot at the beginning of the pandemic, and that's herd immunity. And I think that kind of touches on what you're speaking to if I'm, if I'm understanding it correctly, it's an exposure piece. And you know, well, we've only had about half of the country of four numbers I heard this morning, fully vaccinated, I think it's 70% or so that at least they had one shot. So they've got some of that as well. And then I just got to believe that so many people have been exposed that we're kind of almost to that point. I mean, who knows, exactly, but I don't know, do you think, am I missing the mark here, or does that sound kind of accurate?
Jason Kennedy Oh, you know, herd immunity has gotten such a bad rap, because it really identifies you with a political belief. Like everything else, masking and I mean, it's everything, your stance is based on a political belief, and that is just not how medicine works. We, we don't, you know, you probably wouldn't, wouldn't want to go to a doctor that this says, 'Hey, I only I only cure your cancer one way because I'm a Republican,' like, that's, that's not the doctor you want to go to, you want to go to the doctor that says, hey, 'We look at all we look at all the cures, we look at all the treatments, and I use mine medical knowledge, my my, my judgment, all my schooling, to pick the best medical treatments for you.' And so what we have done with COVID-19 medicine is we've sort of taken a political viewpoint, and then said, 'You know what, everyone else is a quack.' And it doesn't matter what side you're on. And so that is unfortunate. And herd immunity is one of those casually, and it's one of those ones that identifies you with a political belief. Now, the problem with herd immunity or, or adopting like early on adopting a herd immunity strategy, where we just say, hey, our strategy is grip it and rip it. That is the that is that is going to lead to the highest amount of mortality in the shortest amount of timeframe. If no measures were put in place, we said, 'You know what, we're not doing vaccines, we're not doing anything, we're just going to let everybody get it.' Well, that's going to lead to excessively high mortality. So that's why you want to reach herd immunity through vaccination, though minor amounts of exposure. And you want to get there slower, or in a more controlled process so that, you don't have this extremely high mortality. So while I don't know, no one knows what the number is for herd immunity, I, you know, Dr. Fauci was out, you know, it's 80%, then it was 70%, then it was 83%, then it was 92. The number has changed everywhere. So so no one no one knows what that point is. But I do believe that we are at a point where we have had enough levels of either exposure, or we have enough vaccination, that we're reaching a point where there is less people to be infected. Now, less people doesn't mean any people. And so what I have not seen from the state, or really the federal level is what is our strategy to mitigate this virus. Is it a zero COVID strategy, like is still being attempted in China in some of our socialist countries, where they say, you know, we will at all costs locked down, shut down, do everything we need to to make sure that there is no COVID? Is it a live with it type of COVID strategy, like Sweden, adopted early on where we say, 'Hey, we're going to do some things to try and mitigate it. But we're going to understand that we can't control this virus. And we're going to try to protect the at-risk the elderly, that type of stuff?' Or is it just that we're lost, and we have no idea what our strategy is, and we're, we're all individually fighting this on our own. And each state is doing whatever it wants, based on its political beliefs? Which is my belief of what our current COVID strategy is in this country. It is whatever your political beliefs are, is where you're going to stand and you'll do everything you can to uphold that political ideology, regardless of if medicine matters or not. And so that's that is, unfortunately, what I've seen from the national level that is unfortunately what I've seen from the state level is we had no strategy. And so what I will tell you this strategy in Ellis county is that we are going to have to live with this virus. And what that means is it will never go away, we will never reach a level of vaccination or never a level of control where we will stamp out this virus indefinitely. It will be here, it will continue to circulate. My goal is to limit mortality. So mortality is obviously the worst outcome from any virus. So how do we limit mortality, and that is to vaccinate the population 65 and over, but really the population 50 and over are the ones that are being hospitalized are the ones that are still having, unfortunately succumbing to this virus. So vaccinating that population, continuing to just make some decent choices. You know, if you're 65 and have preexisting medical conditions, probably not a good time to hit up the bars and maybe do beerbongs with all your buddies, like, it's just which probably shouldn't do that anyway, but it's, you know, making some of those smart choices as we move forward, getting vaccinated. Trying to continue those good hygiene measures as far as cleanliness, washing your hands, we can do everything in excess, do not do not Clorox your entire house every hour, like you do need some exposure to some of the viruses and bacteria that are out there. You know, but But getting back to a healthy lifestyle and eating healthy exercise. Public Health has missed its mark and its opportunity through this through this virus to say, hey, this virus has has shown us that that the underbelly of this country is not good. We are overweight. We are diabetic. We have we eat terrible. We don't exercise enough. We have too much stress, too many pressures. This has definitely opened up the void of suicide, mental health. You know, for the last six months, my question has been are we fighting the wrong pandemic. We're still battling this virus, but we are seeing the rates of homicide, suicide, just general unhealthy population cancers, all of that stuff is running rampant heart disease, diabetes, running unchecked. And so we need to use this opportunity to realize that our country is unhealthy, physically unhealthy, mentally unhealthy, and we need to focus on that if we want to get through and out of this pandemic and the associated pandemic problems.
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