Following the first documented case of the Omicron variant in the United States on December 1st, the number of overall infections have been growing nearly exponentially- and now Bates County is in the crosshairs. While local health departments are no longer obligated to provide case numbers, area healthcare workers readily confirm the sheer gravity of the situation; and Mid America Live spoke to Dr. Lindsey Henderson, owner of Butler Urgent Medicine for some insight. “I can tell you the uptick is because people aren’t vaccinated, aren’t wearing masks or wearing them correctly, and are not respecting any sort of social distancing” she emphasized in our virtual conversation last week “And because Omicron is definitely here and is so, incredibly easily spread because of how the high the viral load is.”
Dr. Henderson went on to say that “even though we (physicians) don’t believe it colonizes in the lungs, the sheer number of people getting sick means the death and case rates are going up again. You can still have side effects of Omicron that are pretty bad.”
Natural immunity with Omicron appears nearly impossible to acquire, according to Henderson. She strongly advises against trying to get Omicron to build passive immunity and the safest protection is still the vaccine. She cited a Czech folk singer who intentionally got COVID so she could get a 90 day vaccine pass to get into venues. Unfortunately, she passed away. “People are still dying of this, but the vaccinated don’t seem to be nearly as sick from it.”
We also spoke with Bates County Coroner Greg Mullinax, who says Covid deaths have affected Bates County more acutely in this current surge of the virus. He continues to see Covid-related deaths in hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice. He noted one observation that it’s becoming slightly more common for people continued next page> who become sick to stay home and not seek any treatment. “While I don’t know a person’s reason for doing that, there lots of possibilities - the cost perhaps, or the feeling that you wouldn’t be able to be treated due to overload, or the lack of transportation, etc.”
He went on to say that another stressing chapter to this surge is that some have died in Emergency Departments awaiting transfer to inpatient care. Some of these people have remained in an ER for many days awaiting a transfer and ultimately there has been nowhere to go.
“If you’re reading the news and feeling like there’s been more deaths lately than normal, you’re not wrong - Covid related deaths were almost a daily occurrence over the last 10 days, and other natural deaths (which tend to ebb and flow anyway) have also been up over this time last year.”
Mullinax noted there is an underlying problem that fortunately, his office has already addressed. “You might have seen on the news last week that in Kansas City there are some issues related to capacity - storage space for the deceased. Last year, with the cooperation of other offices which are funded through Law Enforcement, my office was fortunate to obtain a Mobile Response Unit. The idea was two-fold; it is equipped for disasters and multiple-fatality response, which we previously lacked. But it also provides refrigerated storage for decedents. While the current death trend in Bates County has not exceeded local capacities, the unit is available should that most unfortunately occur. While I would be very happy to never use it, there is some comfort in having an available plan locally.”
With those sentiments from our local professionals, many are asking what additional resources do we have? At the forefront, there are two, courtesy of the U.S. Government:
First, the Biden administration recently unveiled plans to make 400 million N95 masks available for free at pharmacies and community health centers across the country — an effort the White House is touting as the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history. Locally, they should be available at Walmart.
Second, one billion at-home rapid Covid tests are available, for free, to Americans to use as needed. To order yours, go on line at www.covidtests.gov and provide some basic information. Delivery time is estimated at 7-12 days via the U.S. Postal Service.