Health officials urge COVID precautions

By The Examiner staff

As new COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the area, as in all 50 states, the Jackson County Health Department and other metro area health department urge the public to increase the battle against the virus, particularly through vaccinations but also with face masks and social distancing. 

More:Local COVID-19 vaccination sites

“The COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to significantly reduce the risk of serious illness, hospitalization and death,” the 10 health departments said in a joint release Friday, as the delta variant has caused rapid increases in cases and hospitalizations around the metro area. 

The city of Independence had renewed recommendations for face masks and social distancing – as well as continued encouragement to get vaccinated – a week earlier. 

According to the Jackson County Health Department, which covers the county outside Kansas City, the rolling seven-day average of new cases in Eastern Jackson County stood at 72 on Sunday morning, up from 52 a week earlier. Through most of June, that number had hovered below 20.  

More:Local COVID-19 testing sites

The rolling 14-day positive test percentage in Eastern Jackson County, which had been below 5 percent through June, had risen to more 11 percent by Sunday. 

As of last Wednesday, the county Health Department had confirmed 33,202 cases (more than 300 in less than a week) and 551 deaths (five more the past week) across Eastern Jackson County since the pandemic began. The county’s dashboard includes Independence. The department said it counted more than 6,200 new tests over the past week, at least 1,000 more than several prior weeks. 

Vaccinations continue to creep upward by just tenths of a percentage point weekly. 

According to the Mid-America Regional Council’s dashboard, 39.3 percent of the population in Jackson County had been fully vaccinated as of Sunday, still slightly below the statewide average that ranks on the lower end nationally. The county figure includes 46.5 percent for those 12 and older, 49 percent of those 18 and older, 73.5 percent of those 65 and older. 

Metrowide, 42.7 percent of the population, more than 54 percent of those 18 and older and nearly 83 percent of those 65 and older have been fully vaccinated. 

The metro health group said those who are unvaccinated but have resumed normal activities without adequate protection are the most at risk, especially for those who are immunocompromised. Because vaccination rates in the area are so low, the group strongly recommends anyone 12 and older get fully vaccinated, and it also encourages everyone – vaccinated or not – to maintain social distancing of six feet or more, even outside and particularly if you don’t know the vaccination status of those around you. 

Those who are unvaccinated should wear a mask in public places indoors, while in crowded places outdoors, and during activities with close contact with those who are unvaccinated – more than half of the people in the metro area. Crowded places such as restaurants, bars, fitness centers and theaters raise the risk for unvaccinated people. 

“Please assume that 1 in 2 people in any crowd or gathering may be unvaccinated,” the metro group said. 

Currently, COVID-19 vaccines have not been approved on an emergency basis for any person under the age of 12, and for ages 12-18 the Pfizer vaccine has been approved. Vaccine clinics are free and have been readily available without appointments throughout the area.