The Carroll County Health Department is introducing a new initiative as health officials continue efforts to ensure the COVID-19 vaccine is accessible and convenient for county residents.
Their Health on Wheels RV will make its debut on June 13 during the Food Truck Sunday Funday at the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster, providing vaccines to those attending the event.
“I’m looking forward to that day ... encouraging people and making it as easy as possible for people to get vaccinated,” Maggie Kunz, health planner, shared with commissioners during a COVID-19 update during Thursday’s meeting.
She said the department is still looking to bring the new RV to “places across the county” and is working with municipalities to coordinate its presence at different community events.
“It’s still important to get as many people vaccinated as we can so we can keep this disease down and not have an uptick in the fall,” Ed Singer, the county’s health officer, said earlier during Thursday’s commissioners meeting.
Free transportation to vaccine sites is also being offered, Kunz said, noting the Carroll Transit System has already transported 60 people to those sites since February. “It’s really exciting we were able to deal with that barrier for them to help them get vaccinated.”
Commissioner President Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, said several other barriers exist that keep people from getting vaccinated.
“I’m trying to figure out ways to minimize those barriers,” he said. “Is it communication? Is it concerns and fears?”
The commissioner noted the vaccine rates among the 65 and older age group “look good” but in other age groups, the rate is still under 70%.
“Folks who felt most at risk of getting COVID have probably been vaccinated and right now we are trying to reach out to people who don’t feel like they’re at as much personal risk,” Kunz said. “We really want people to just use good sources and learn more about the vaccine, the safety, the testing, the efficacy and the risks of long-haul COVID …
“The risks of COVID are so much greater than the risk of getting some annoying side effects for a couple of days.”
She mentioned there are “a lot of reasonable misconceptions” but encouraged people to “look beyond their first or second source of information” and to seek out “.gov or .edu” websites rather than .coms.
As of May 31, the health department administered 49,682 doses of the vaccine and had vaccinated 1,750 adolescents.
Based on health department data, 54.4% of the overall county population has been vaccinated, receiving at least one dose, with 47.3% being completely vaccinated.
Earlier in the meeting, Kunz told commissioners the rate of community transmission in the county is the lowest it’s been since the beginning of the pandemic.
She said the county’s testing positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that returned positive results over the past seven days, dropped to 0.8%.
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“That’s excellent,” she said. “We’re happy to see … a downward trend in cases.”
According to the Carroll County Public Schools COVID-19 data dashboard, there are 18 students and no staff members out with the virus, easily the lowest totals of the 23 weeks students have been in school. (These are not necessarily new cases and some of the 18 students could’ve been among the 29 listed in last week’s data.)
The COVID-positive numbers in CCPS have dropped six weeks in a row since 85 students and 13 teachers had the virus the week of April 21. The highest total of the year was 113 people with the virus (70 students, 43 staff) the week of Jan. 13.
CCPS also keeps data for students showing COVID-like symptoms. That number has dropped to 138 people (130 students and eight teachers) this week after reaching a peak of 250 the week of April 28. CCPS officials have pointed out that many COVID-19 symptoms are similar to allergy symptoms, common in the spring.
Kunz said hospitalizations in the past have remained steady even with lower case rates but now the department is “finally seeing some lower numbers” as far as COVID-19 patients.
No coronavirus-related deaths were announced in the last week. If that stands, it will be only the second week since Nov. 8 without a Carroll County resident dying of COVID-19, the other being the week of March 7.
“That’s really gratifying to see,” she said.