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KBIA’s Health & Wealth Desk covers the economy and health of rural and underserved communities in Missouri and beyond. The team produces a weekly radio segment, as well as in-depth features and regular blog posts. The reporting desk is funded by a grant from the University of Missouri, and the Missouri Foundation for Health.Contact the Health & Wealth desk.

COVID-19 Reinfections, Breakthrough Cases Remain Very Low in Boone County

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Columbia/Boone County Public Health & Human Services

COVID-19 case numbers continue to increase across the state, and some health departments are now reporting new data, like “breakthrough cases” and “reinfections” So, what do those actually mean?

Let’s break it down.

Boone County currently has 620 active COVID-19 cases and 97 people in area hospitals – 26 of which are county residents.

“So, we continue to see an increase in cases here in Boone County,” Sara Humm, the public information specialist for the Columbia/Boone County Public Health & Human Services said. “Overwhelmingly, those new cases are people who are not fully vaccinated, which says a lot for the vaccine.”

According to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Service, 52.9% of Boone County, or 95,458 county residents have, at least, started the process of getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

46.7% percent have completed their vaccinations – either one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna. That’s the highest rate in the state of Missouri, but still lower than the national average of 49.2% fully vaccinated.

Humm said along with the total number of new cases, the health department is now tracking breakthrough cases. These are positive COVID patients who’ve been fully vaccinated for more than two weeks and reached peak immunity.

There have been 149 breakthrough cases in Boone County, which Humm says is just 0.18% of the fully vaccinated people in the community. That’s a little less than a 2 in 1000 patients getting COVID-19 who are fully vaccinated.

“While we have seen some breakthrough cases of folks who are fully vaccinated becoming sick and getting coronavirus, they don't seem to be getting as sick as other people who are not vaccinated,” Humm said.

"So, we've had some questions about that kind of 'natural immunity,' if you will. That if you've had COVID before, you don't need to get vaccinated – and you do need to get vaccinated,”
Sara Humm, Public Information Specialist for Columbia/Boone County Public Health & Human Services

She added that the department is also tracking reinfections in Boone County. Reinfections are when someone gets COVID-19 for a second time more than 90 days after their initial case.

As of July 26, 2021, there had been 130 reinfections in Boone County since late last year, which is 0.7% of all the cases that have been reported in Boone County since the beginning of the pandemic.

According to Columbia’s Coronavirus Information, that’s 20,673 cases since last March.

“So, we've had some questions about that kind of “natural immunity,” if you will. That if you've had COVID before, you don't need to get vaccinated – and you do need to get vaccinated,” Humm said. “So, both [reinfections and breakthrough cases] are under 1%. So minor, but certainly, we encourage folks that even if they've had COVID, to get vaccinated.”

Humm said that due to these breakthrough cases and reinfections, as well as the overall increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Boone County, the health department issued an advisory in early July – recommending that folks wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

There is still some uncertainty as to whether vaccinated people can spread the virus, so Humm stressed that vaccination remains the best tool we have to combat COVID-19 because it greatly reduces the chance of serious illness, hospitalization or death.

And she added that she hopes the entire community will stay vigilant in other risk mitigation practices, as well. – like social distancing, staying home if people feel feeling unwell and washing hands.