Unity Health chief medical officer strongly encourages COVID-19 reminders for those most at risk | News

Community members who are “at risk of a severe outcome” are strongly encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine by Dr. Roddy Lochala, chief medical officer of Unity Health-White County Medical Center, as COVID cases -19 increases due to the omicron variant.

Lochala said those who recently received a booster shot have more protection against symptomatic disease, “so that’s definitely better.”

“I want everyone who can get a booster to get it, but I would really focus on people in our community who are at risk of having a bad outcome, and that will include – as we get older our risk increases – chronic medical conditions, people with cancer and chronic health conditions that increase their risk of a serious outcome,” he said. “I want everyone to get it [the booster] but if there was one group that I could really focus on and look into my eyes and say, “I think it’s really worth your effort,” it would be this community.

He said what health officials have learned about COVID-19 vaccines “is that antibody levels go down over time and after the four, five, six month period.” [after getting vaccinated]you decrease antibody levels, which is your first line of defense when it comes to COVID.

Although the antibodies made from the vaccines are specific to the “spike protein” in the original version of COVID, and omicron has a different spike protein, “it’s not all that different,” Lochala said. “It’s different and that difference combined with fewer antibodies means there are breakthrough infections and people have symptoms.

“The fact is that the level of antibodies is not the whole story. There is a second line of defense that we have that kicks in after that initial antibody response and it continues to be successful. »

Lochala likened the immune response to “a dimmer switch on a light. It goes up and down and it sort of decreases over time and it makes you more susceptible to symptomatic illnesses. He said that while the boost increased antibodies “you have decreasing antibody levels against a spike protein and an introduction of a virus with significant differences in that spike protein.”

The omicron variant has been shown to spread more easily than other coronavirus strains, becoming dominant in many countries. Health officials have said it also more easily infects those who have been vaccinated or have been infected with earlier versions of the virus. However, early studies show that omicron is less likely to cause severe disease than the previous delta variant, and vaccination and a booster still provide strong protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death.

The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement has urged residents and employers to take steps to prevent the spread of the virus, including limiting in-person meetings, requiring masks indoors and allowing work-from-home options. .

On Monday, ACHI said a record 226 public school districts in Arkansas, “or 97% of the state’s 234 contiguous school districts, have COVID-19 infection rates of 50 new infections. known or more per 10,000 district residents over a 14-day period”. based on Arkansas Department of Health data as of Saturday.

The organization made a special update to the COVID-19 dashboard on its website, achi.net/covid19, in response to “the accelerating spread of the virus” by adding a pink level to “mean a rate of infection of 200 or more new known viruses”. infections per 10,000 district residents in the last 14 days, or at least 2% of the district population. He noted that “in some districts, more than 4% of local community residents are known to be infected.”

Regarding the “immediate threat” posed by the omicron variant in Arkansas communities, ACHI calls for the following short-term actions:

“implementing masking requirements for all staff and students at all schools in the state; virtual teaching for schools in the purple and pink zones; on-site accommodation for seniors, families with unvaccinated children, and families with members who are immunocompromised or at risk due to health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, or cancer; and suspending public interactions or implementing virtual options where possible from municipalities, businesses and places of worship.

Dr Joe Thompson said: “Unfortunately, we have to experience temporary disruptions in our daily lives so that we can stop the spread of the virus,” said Dr Joe Thompson, chairman of the nonpartisan and independent health policy center.

The 55 pink tier districts include Little Rock with over 3.8% of the community infected, North Little Rock with 3.1%, Pulaski County Special School District with over 2.9%, Conway with over 2.8%, Jacksonville with over 2.6%, Lonoke with over 2.3% and Cabot with over 2.1%. Some of them decided last week to temporarily switch to virtual classes.

As of Saturday, the following county districts had infection rates of at least 100 new known infections per 10,000 district residents over the previous 14 days: Beebe, Bradford, Riverview, Searcy, White County Central and Pangburn.

No White County school district had gone virtual-only on Monday, though McRae Elementary School was closed due to a water main break. Masks were optional in all but three districts (Searcy, Bradford and Bald Knob), although White County Central posted on Facebook that “we are aware of several new cases this weekend, so we strongly recommend masks for Your protection”.

A lawsuit has been filed against Searcy’s mask warrant, with retired circuit judge Robert Bynum Gibson Jr. assigned to the case last week after White County circuit judges were recused.