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Official: High vaccination rates lead to low transmission of coronavirus

Lycoming County and Union County have been upgraded from “low” to “moderate” test-positive rates per 100,000 people within the past week.

While those numbers are adjusted to reflect the rate per 100,000 people in the county, and can be tipped over by as little as two people, that doesn’t mean the warnings should be ignored, according to Barbara Hemmindinger of the Lycoming County Health Improvement Coalition.

“It’s an early warning monitoring system,” Hemmendinger said. “That’s what we want to watch.”

The last thing Hemmendinger wants to see in Lycoming County is what is currently happening in Greene County, Missouri, where the city of Springfield is located.

Springfield is currently a hotbed of COVID cases, and Hemmendinger said ICU staff in Springfield are reporting shortages of ventilators and respiratory therapists to help care for city residents and nearby rural parts of the state.

According to Hemmendinger, Springfield, Missouri, is the second hottest spot in the United States for COVID cases and around 34.9 percent of its population is fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.

“Thankfully, that’s not here, but we want to keep it from getting here,” Hemmendinger said.

As of last Thursday, 40.2 percent of Lycoming County’s population is fully vaccinated, while 33.6 percent of Clinton County’s population is fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, Lycoming County sports a 10.6 new confirmed cases per 100,000 people, while Greene County reports a 394 new confirmed cases per 100,000 people.

Hemmendinger said it is fortunate there is not, at the current moment, a lot of COVID cases going around in Lycoming County. However, once they do arrive, they can spread like wildfire–especially the highly contagious Delta Variant. The best protection against COVID is still full immunization by means of vaccination.

“Unless a person is fully vaccinated, which does not occur until at least two weeks following that person’s final dose (of the vaccine), that individual is not adequately protected against the Delta variant,” Hemmendinger said.

Hemmendinger referenced Lana Zerrer, the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital in Columbia, who was quoted in the New York Times as saying the best time to get vaccinated was three months ago — but the second best time is today.

Vaccination is a proactive measure to combat COVID, according to Hemmendinger–not reactive. If the new Delta Variant were to make its way to Lycoming County, getting vaccinated after it has arrived would not be as effective as it takes two weeks after receiving the shot for the vaccine to work.

Adding in a two to four week waiting period between shots for two-shot vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna, and those seeking vaccination may have to wait up to six weeks for an effective defense against an uptick in cases–which is far too late if the Delta Variant decides to rear its ugly head in the area.

Hemmendinger said in addition to looking at rate of transmissions in the county, the public should also keep an eye on the percentage of people who test positive. According to her, the county wants to avoid exceeding a 5 percent test rate–and Lycoming County is at 2.4 percent right now.

“If it continues to climb, we need to be even more concerned,” Hemmendinger said. “We need to watch the steepness of any increases in test positivity. How quickly those cases are increasing or decreasing is a sign of whether or not we’re looking at some other surge locally.”

Despite that, Pennsylvania is in the top five states in the country with the lowest rates of transmission of COVID, but Hemmendinger said that the average is not distributed equally across all counties in the state. Counties that are well-vaccinated are going to have fewer cases per population than counties that are not-so-well vaccinated.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States has a vaccination rate of 48 percent — and Pennsylvania is up to 51 percent.

However, Union County lags behind at 45.5 percent, followed by Lycoming County at 40.5 percent and Clinton County at 33.8 percent.

In the United States, around 67.3 percent of the adult population has received at least one dose of a vaccine, and in Lycoming County only 55.2 percent of all adults have received at least one shot.

On Wednesday as well as on July 21 and 28, from 1 to 4 p.m., the Williamsport YMCA will host a walk-in COVID-19 vaccine clinic provided by River Valley Health and Dental Center. As an incentive, the YMCA will offer a free day pass to anyone who receives a vaccination on-site, and “Let’s End COVID!,” a group dedicated to ending the spread of the pandemic in Lycoming County, will offer $5 Sheetz gift cards as well.

On July 19, UPMC will administer vaccines at the Lycoming County Fair.

On July 20, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., River Valley Health and Dental Center will offer vaccines in the Lycoming County Fair’s Red Cross building.

On July 24, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., at the Pennsylvania Grange on US 15 in Montgomery, River Valley Health and Dental Center will administer vaccines.

COVID-19 vaccinations are completely free and do not require ID to receive.

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