In a Tuesday update delivered to the Greater Greenbrier Covid-19 Task Force, the Greenbrier County Health Department estimated that fewer than 50 percent of county residents currently are wearing masks in indoor public venues.

That is likely a factor in the recent surge in the county’s Covid-19 infection rate — with most of the new cases occurring in children and young adults — but another is the drop-off in vaccine seekers.

The problem has worsened to the point that Greenbrier County Commissioners weighed in on the topic at their Tuesday meeting. At the same time they voted to reduce virus screening measures at the courthouse entrance, commissioners doubled down on enforcement of the gubernatorial mandate that visitors to the building wear masks.

“We need to make sure everyone is wearing masks,” Commissioner Tammy Tincher said. “It’s a responsible thing to do.”

Commission President Lowell Rose cited the recent spike in community-spread virus cases in voicing his support for vaccinations.

“A lot of people haven’t gotten vaccinated yet,” he commented. “I would urge everyone to get vaccinated for (the sake of) their own health.”

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To help restart the county’s vaccination push, the health department on Monday posted on Facebook a lengthy explanation of the risks in being vaccinated versus the statistically greater risks in being infected with the virus due to being unvaccinated.

In the Facebook post, health officials noted the GCHD has administered a little over 16,000 vaccines, and community partners have given out another 5,000 doses. Acknowledging that those numbers don’t match the state Department of Health and Human Resources site’s numbers, the GCHD defends its own figures as accurate, asserting that the DHHR site “is not current,” a problem that has persisted throughout the pandemic.

“In our county, we have had less than 10 people who have gotten at least one vaccine that have also gotten Covid-19 infection,” GCHD posted. “We only know of two people (updated Tuesday to three people) that have been considered ‘fully immunized’ and have contracted the virus in our county.”

GCHD explained that to be considered fully immunized, an individual must have either received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or the single required dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and be at least 14 days out from the last vaccine.

Health officials acknowledged that a small percentage of people can still be infected with the virus after being fully immunized. The 95 percent efficacy rating of each vaccine means that out of 100 vaccinated people, 95 will not become infected thereafter, and the five people who do become infected will not have severe symptoms.

Studies are ongoing as to whether people who are immunized and still get infected with the virus are infectious and can be contagious.

“One of the biggest and (most) concerning things that we are seeing is the long-term effects from having Covid-19 infection,” GCHD posted, noting that some studies indicate that as many as 40 percent of people of all ages, including children, who recover from the virus can be expected to suffer from long-term cardiac and pulmonary problems.

“Despite starting strong in our county and state with the vaccination effort, we have reached a lull and (are) running out of available arms to put shots in,” Greenbrier health officials said.

The Facebook post also pointed out that in order to travel outside the country, an individual usually has to show proof of vaccination, and that many employers are also moving forward with such requirements, although some state legislatures are hustling through laws that would prohibit businesses from asking for proof of vaccination.

As of Tuesday, Greenbrier County had 99 active Covid-19 cases and 65 deaths attributed to the virus. Another 2,556 residents were considered recovered from an infection.

“If you want to get vaccinated, please call us,” the GCHD urged. “We will even come to your business or special events if there are enough people interested. Together, we can fight this.”

To contact the Greenbrier County Health Department, call 304-645-1787.

— Email: talvey@register-herald.com

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