Local hospital seeing preventable deaths

EVANSTON — While the weekly number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Uinta County has declined over the past few weeks, it has still remained high at approximately 60-65 new cases each week for the past month, substantially higher than the roughly eight new cases per week the county was reporting in mid-summer.

Positivity rates from testing in the county have also remained high, with tests conducted at Evanston Regional Hospital hovering around 20% positive, according to Uinta County Public Health Nurse Manager Kim Proffit. Anything greater than 10% positive is considered indicative of dangerously high transmission rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

As weekly new case numbers have gone down since August and September — when they were often over as high as 120 or more — the county’s vaccination numbers have continued to creep up. As of Nov. 1, 39.9% of Wyoming’s population was fully vaccinated, with Uinta County’s number nearly identical at 39.4%. Proffit said the county had finally reached a point where more than half (51%) of adults in the county are fully vaccinated, which is slightly better than the statewide number of 49%. About 28% of adolescents aged 12-17 are fully vaccinated, as are about 73% of the population age 65 and older.

The overall percentage of fully vaccinated county residents may continue to climb in coming weeks as vaccinations have now been authorized for children ages 5 through 11. Proffit said appointments are now available at public health for that age group in addition to the other groups. As is the case with 12- to 17-year-olds, children aged 5-11 can only receive the Pfizer vaccinations and will require two doses spaced three weeks apart for full coverage. The dosages for children are different from those for adults.

In a Wyoming Department of Health press release, Wyoming State Health Officer Alexia Harrist said, “Vaccination is the best way to protect kids 5 and over from COVID-19. It can help keep kids stay in school and help them participate more safely in all sorts of activities.”

“We have certainly seen children become infected with the COVID-19 virus. Some have been very ill and some may be facing both short- and long-term health issues,” Harrist said. “We also know children can spread COVID-19 to others, including the very youngest who are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, and those of any age who may be especially vulnerable to the virus and its effects.”

Harrist’s concerns about the impacts on children were echoed by staff at Evanston Regional Hospital during a COVID update on Monday, Nov. 1. Cheri Willard, ERH CEO, said there has been an increase in the number of pediatric patients visiting the hospital for COVID symptoms, including some as young as six weeks of age.

Proffit, Willard and ERH Chief Nursing Officer Angie Foster also said the number of COVID deaths in the county has continued to climb. While the numbers have not yet been confirmed and updated on the WDH online COVID database, Proffit said there have now been 34 deaths in Uinta County in the slightly more than 15 months since the first county death was reported in July 2020. Foster said that some of the most recent deaths were avoidable and shared concerns that patients were waiting too long to seek medical care when dealing with severe symptoms.

Foster stressed the importance of visiting the hospital for severe symptoms, including breathing difficulties, as well as the importance of adequate home care and for patients at home to get up and move to help with breathing. Proffit said pulse oximeters to monitor oxygen saturations are available from public health for those with a need. Proffit also stressed, as she has on multiple occasions, that vaccinations have been shown to be extremely effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

While it is possible for vaccinated individuals to get and transmit COVID-19, vaccinated individuals have been shown to be anywhere from 9-15 times less likely to be hospitalized, depending on age, than those who are not vaccinated. None of the Uinta County deaths have occurred in vaccinated individuals.

Proffit said public health is also now offering COVID-19 booster shots for those who were fully vaccinated at least six months ago and who are at greater risk of infection and complications due to age, pre-existing conditions and/or exposure. Booster shots and full doses are also available at pharmacies throughout the county.

According to the CDC, approximately 192 million Americans are fully vaccinated, which is about 58% of the U.S. population. Including those who have thus far received only one dose, that means about 425 million doses have been administered. With millions of people using online apps to report side effects and complications after being vaccinated, the COVID-19 vaccines are some of the most intensely monitored and tracked vaccines in history.

As of Thursday, Nov. 4, the CDC reported there had been nearly 747,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States.


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