For the first time since July, Jefferson County is out of the COVID-19 red zone.
The county is reporting an average number of 20 newly-reported cases each day, has a positivity rate of 5% and just 15% of ICU beds are being use for COVID-19 patients — putting the county in the “orange zone” in those categories. Even better, only 3% of hospitalizations across the county are for COVID-19-positive patients and the overall trend of new cases is flat or decreasing, which means the county is in the “green zone” for these categories, according to data from Dr. Praphul Joshi, the region’s foremost public health expert.
Beaumont Public Health Director Kenneth Coleman shared similar news with the City Council at a meeting last week.
“Our cases are going down,” he said. “We’re in a good place right now.”
Beaumont’s status is emblematic of a county-wide trend.
Part of this trend has to do with a rising tide of vaccinations, Joshi said. At this time, more than 60% of county residents age 12 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with 52% of them fully vaccinated. Additionally, 10,000 people have taken the booster dose, according to Joshi.
Another contributing factor is that several people have developed antibodies as a result of being infected with the Delta variant. The final factor is the unknown — there are always the asymptomatic COVID carriers who never show up in the data.
But with the holidays right around the corner, experts caution that taking precautions is more important than ever to prevent another surge of cases from visiting the county.
“It’s a very good time to get vaccinated for those who haven’t yet,” Joshi said. “We have seen many of these holiday seasons come by, and we’ve seen that spike consistently. That’s what we don’t want to happen. So, we want to make sure that people get the message: please get vaccinated and follow some preventative measures.”
In Jefferson County, 74.5% of people aged 65 and older have been fully vaccinated. The population of people ages 12 to 64 are lagging behind. Only 36.9% of people aged 12 to 15 have received both doses of the vaccine, and 48.4% of people aged 16 to 64 have been vaccinated.
If vaccination rates reach or exceed the general target of 75% and new infection numbers stay low, this could be the start of a return to normal life, Coleman said.
“(If) we get through this holiday season, we revisit come January, February and the numbers are still going down, I’m going to be optimistic and say we’re on the other side of COVID,” he said. “So let’s stay vigilant.”
Written by Rachel Kersey