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Joyce Endee

Health officials urge caution amid rising COVID cases

by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter
July 22, 2021
REGION — While COVID-19 cases across the country have risen substantially, with variants wreaking havoc, Cos County cases are relatively low, but there has been slight uptick.

Making New Hampshire news is the case of nine fatal breakthrough cases — breakthrough meaning each person who passed away was fully vaccinated; however, those deaths may not necessarily have been caused by the virus.

We spoke with VP of Patient Care Services at Weeks Memorial Hospital, Jennifer Bach-Guss who brought us up to speed and took some time to explain why some of those breakthrough cases may have resulted in a fatality.

Noted, is that statewide, nine of those fatalities, four were over the age of 80, four were between the ages of 60-79 and one was between the ages of 40-59. Four of the individuals who passed were living in a longterm care facility.

To date, across New Hampshire, there have been roughly 440 breakthrough cases, with roughly 60 of those as a result of a COVID variant. In comparison to the rest of the country, New Hampshire's community transmission rates remain low. The vaccination rate in the Granite State is 58 percent, ranking seventh in the country. Vermont topped the list at 66 percent.

Bach-Guss explained, "What I do know is that some of the recent fatalities did not test positive for COVID until a postmortem test was conducted. So, they were considered to have passed from natural causes. One way to explain is to say if you get hit by a truck and died and you have COVID, you died because you were hit by a truck."

The CDC reported that the Pfizer vaccine is 60 percent effective against the newly highly contagious Delta variant.

"People who are not vaccinated should seriously consider vaccination, because even with the breakthrough cases, vaccination offers the highest level of protection, and if a person has not completed their series, they should," said Bach-Guss.

She added, "Those who have serious underlying conditions should continue to practice social distancing and practice good hand hygiene when they're in public."

Experts say that wearing a mask for an added layer of protection in a crowded area is a good idea.

As for Cos County, Bach-Guss says numbers are a bit high.

"They're a bit high, but not terribly high. What I'm seeing is small family groups, such as groups of two or three who were not vaccinated become infected," she explained.

Most of those cases are reported out of the Berlin area.

The next big challenge, according to Bach-Guss, is to get immunizations approved for younger children as they return to school.

"I think we will see a bit of an uptick during the fall, when school starts again," she said.

Right now, children ages 12 and up have been approved for the vaccine. Pfizer is slated to have a vaccine ready for children down to the age of five before school starts.

Many parents are struggling with whether or not to have their younger children vaccinated.

To that, Bach-Guss said, "I would say that is really going to be what makes the difference this fall, as to wether or not children have a normal return to school, and whether or not they can stay in school."

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
Varney Smith
Garnett HIll
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