Boone County COVID numbers are decreasing, experts say prevention still matters
Boone County COVID case counts are decreasing from December highs. According to case counts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 83 COVID cases were reported at the end of January - down 115 cases from the third week of December.
KBIA's Laine Cibulskis sat down with Boone County public health planner Sara Humm to get behind the numbers and discuss what residents should know about keeping themselves and their community safe.
Laine Cibulskis: All right, so - what preventative strategies for COVID and flu and other respiratory infections - what does that look like this season?
Sara Humm: Just like, kind of what we've been talking about for coming up on four years now. Kind of still the basics as far as prevention for respiratory illnesses, and that's: get vaccinated if you're able to - for most people, they are eligible for flu and COVID shots. Of course, people who maybe have certain health issues - we ask them to have a conversation with their doctor first just to make sure that that is something their doctor recommends, and that is for individuals six months and older. And then for the RSV vaccine, that is for a different age group - not everyone is eligible for that. So again, we recommend people talk to their doctor about that. But definitely getting vaccinated is number one on that list for prevention. The next thing is to do the simple things: wash your hands, make sure that you cover your cough, cover your sneeze. Of course, if you're sick - stay home. We don't want to pass the the germs around our schools or workplaces. As much as possible, we'd like to keep that number down.
Laine Cibulskis: How has January been for those infections?
Sara Humm: We are seeing lower numbers than we did see in December for COVID, but even when we're talking about December, it never really got that high. The highest we had in December was the week ending December 23rd, and there were 198 cases in that week. However - big however - these are cases that have been reported. So, you know, for folks who may be be testing at home and test positive, we don't necessarily know that they have.
Laine Cibulskis: And how does that compare to last year's January - do you know off the top of your head?
Sara Humm: I don't remember about last January - two Januarys ago though, is when we had the biggest spike that we had ever seen in the pandemic. So January of 2022 was a massive spike. So we are definitely not seeing that like we had in the past. But even when we're looking at this year, compared to what we've seen since basically October, we're definitely trending downward in the number of cases that we have been seeing.
Laine Cibulskis: Are there any other kind of specific prevention strategies or programs that the public health department has focused on?
Sara Humm: There is a brand new program - Test to Treat - it's a federal program, and there's kind of two components of it. So if you're someone who is uninsured - or if you're on Medicare, Medicaid, VA or Indian Health Services - you can sign up to get at-home test kits and be eligible for telehealth. And then if you do test positive, access to medications, things like that. If you're privately insured or you have employer insurance, you can enroll. If you have a positive test, and then you can receive free telehealth and medication if prescribed.