Two COVID-19 variants detected in Taylor County cases

Taylor County Health Department staff and a National Guardsman work to input data during one of Taylor County’s community vaccination clinics.

TAYLOR COUNTY—While the number of active COVID-19 cases have dropped, county health officials have revealed that variants have made their way to the county, but that there are certain things residents can do to help curb the threat of infection.

During the Friday morning COVID update call, Grafton-Taylor County Health Department Threat Preparedness Coordinator Shawn Thorn announced that after a rise in active cases, reports show that the county has seen a slowing in that trend, for the time being.

“I am pleased to report that there are currently only 14 active cases in the county,” voiced Thorn. “And our infection rate is in the gold category, sitting at 11.9 percent, currently, which is better than it has been. Our positivity rate is at a 1.97 percent, so that is good news, too”

Unfortunately, officials were contacted by the state late in the week and were notified that two variants of the Coronavirus had been found locally.

“They reported that there are cases of the UK variant, B117, as well as the California variant, B1.429, within the county,” Thorn explained. “While this is concerning, variants don’t change how the virus spreads, and there are still measures that can be taken to prevent possible infection.”

According to Thorn, local health officials, as well as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), are recommending that individuals still utilize their masks, maintain the six-foot social distancing protocols and avoid large crowds and gatherings.

“Of course, one of the best ways to protect yourself against COVID is to get vaccinated,” he asserted.

County Health Officer David B. Bender shared that there are two important things for residents to know about the presence of the variants.

“The first thing they should know is that the different variants may be more infective than the initial basic virus, which could cause the county’s infection rate to increase,” he explained. “And the second thing that they should be aware of is that a variant is more likely to be resistant to the current vaccinations.”

He noted that current reports reveal that the vaccine for the initial virus is effective in 19 out of 20 individuals.

“Because the variants may be more resistant to the vaccines, continued mask wearing and social distancing are key tools to fight these variants,” Bender said.

And while some may question whether or not they should be vaccinated and there still be a potential of contracting one of the variant forms of the virus, Bender said that there is no literature present, as of now, that shows booster shots will be needed.

“The Pfizer CEO has said that the company is not anticipating the need for boosters against the variants that we are seeing at this time,” he explained. “However, Moderna has stated that they are preparing to make modifications to their vaccine in the event that they see the need for booster shots.”

He noted that because the SarsCov2 virus is still new, from a scientific standpoint, only time would tell if changes would need to made.

“When it comes to vaccination efforts, it takes time to tell what is effective and what is not. In my career, advice on the pneumonia vaccine has changed at least four or five times in regard to how often it should be administered,” he said. “And with many viruses, there will be mutations and changes that could come about that alter how effective vaccines are. However, vaccinations are key to curbing the spread of viruses.”

The Grafton-Taylor County Health Department continues to provide residents with the option of a free COVID-19 vaccine.

“We are administering Pfizer vaccines to individuals through our community-wide clinics at the Taylor County Senior Citizens Center,” said Thorn. “The vaccinations are being provided to anyone 16 and older, and we encourage everyone to get one. As of this morning, we have administered 8,243 shots, and that will translate into a fully effective defense of the virus.”

First shots are given on Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. and second shot clinics are held on Wednesdays from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., as well.

Those wishing to take part in the clinics are asked to call the health department at 304-265-1288 to schedule an appointment.

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