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“Light at the end of the tunnel” visible in Washtenaw County, health leaders say a year after COVID

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Washtenaw County, Michigan — Many of the staff at Jimena Loveluck and the Washtenaw County Health Department spent more than a year without vacation.

As Chief Health Officer in Washtenaw County, La Black has taken over to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed 238 people in the last 12 months and explained 19,548 possible confirmed infections throughout the county. It was done.

Initially, people speculated on how long the virus would spread. A couple of weeks soon became a couple of months. Due to her experience in combating public health, especially the HIV / AIDS epidemic, La Black said she went crazy that it would be here in the long run.

“We couldn’t fully predict all of this because we didn’t know about the virus and its effects yet, but we felt that this could be a long distance for our health department. And for us as a community, “Rub Luck said.

The current goal of Washtenaw County is to create an environment where it is as easy to get a COVID vaccine as it is to get a flu shot. Loveluck said he was proud of his work in the health sector as vaccines became more available than ever before, but he knew that even more challenges could be unavoidable. I will.

Residents of Washtenaw County can now schedule their own COVID vaccine reservations

“For many of us, this was the biggest professional and personal challenge we faced,” said Rub Luck.

First few months of coronavirus spread

Loveluck became a county health officer in 2019. Prior to that, he was an adjutant to the Department of Health, creating grants to attract new funds and staff. She also served as President and CEO of Ypsilanti’s HIV / AIDS Resource Center for 15 years.

A few weeks before the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Michigan was reported on March 10, 2020, the Department of Health was monitoring travelers, Mr. Labrack said.

Governor Whitmer declared a state of emergency as the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Michigan

Before the COVID test became available, a series of tests were done to rule out influenza and other possible viruses. And all the tests were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, but this wasn’t an efficient process, Labrack said.

“I remember waiting for the first positive test result. Every day I was waiting for notifications from the CDC about suspicious cases, their stories, and what their possible exposures were. I remember what I experienced, “says Loveluck.

It wasn’t until late March that the healthcare system was conducting COVID testing locally. Still, I couldn’t do the test with my current ability.

“The test was very difficult early on. I had to show symptoms. It wasn’t just going to CVS like it is now,” she said.

Loveluck remembers how quickly the pandemic accelerated. She said this was a sign that it would take more than a few months to end the spread of the virus.

Assuming that the coronavirus may be in public places, Washtenaw health officials warn

On March 12, 2020, Washtenaw County reported the first confirmed case, with an additional 34 cases and one death by March 22. The Department of Health reported.

“For the situation we are facing, whether or not it is a surge, such as the surge on the University of Michigan campus, I use my authority as a public health officer to add There were times when we had to impose restrictions. We asked employers to select employees before expectations for the entire state, not just the enterprise, increased, “said Lablack.

University of Michigan students were told to stay home while cases of viral mutants increased

The Faculty of Health and the University of Michigan have partnered on two orders recommending that all students living on or near the Ann Arbor campus stay there. One occurred in the fall semester of 2020 when more than 1,000 cases were identified in the UM community, and the other occurred in January when the health sector responded to the rapidly expanding fear of B.1.1.7. did. variant.

Inequality worsened by the effects of a pandemic

The health sector has focused on addressing the fairness of health throughout Washtenaw County, which is emphasized by the pandemic.

“We’ve seen that the color community is particularly affected by COVID and how certain geographic areas of the county are affected. It shows how much more to do. “I will,” said Loveluck.

In Washtenaw County, 9.4% of vaccinations are received by blacks, who account for 12.3% of the county’s population, 13% of coronavirus cases and 22% of deaths. According to the data, whites make up 74.1% of the county’s population and receive 76% of the first dose of the vaccine.

Inequality combined with early mixed messaging has made it more difficult to adhere to mitigation strategies such as wearing masks and increasing social distance, Loveluck said.

“From a public health perspective, it was confusing before there were clear signs that wearing a mask would be beneficial not only to the individual but to the people around him.”

According to the request for public assistance, Washtenaw County has seen a 250% increase over the past few years. County report.. Early on, some people lacked the resources to change their normal behavior, Labrack said, and many did not have the ability to cover their faces when it became the norm. I added that.

“That meant distributing masks when we had them. That meant getting donations of cloth masks early, and the hand sanitizers that many community members really needed. It also meant donating to other supplies such as masks and cleaning supplies, “said La Black.

Vaccines give hope that the end is near

She said she was excited to be in the pandemic immunization phase, as Syndra James, the health department’s emergency preparedness manager. According to James, the light at the end of the tunnel is visible, but the process isn’t going as fast as some people wanted.

The Washtenaw County Health Department received the first 1,950 COVID-19 vaccine shipments on December 17, and began vaccination shortly thereafter. Since then, the health sector has steadily increased the number of vaccinations per week, but there is still not enough supply to vaccinate all qualified people.

Washtenaw County Health Department receives first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine

Washtenaw County Health Department receives first COVID-19 vaccine shipment

Around the box containing 1,950 COVID-19 vaccinations, health officer Jimena Loveluck, biologics clerk Rachel Avedisian, Rebecca Longhany, outreach and education nurse coordinator, spokesperson Susan Ringler Cerniglia, There are Gregory Dill, county administrator Charlyn VanDeventer, and a public health educator.

“Since everything started, we all wanted to reach this point where we could get the vaccine. The hard part is knowing that there aren’t enough vaccines to do more. That’s what James said.

James has worked as a site coordinator at the Ipsilanty Vaccine Clinic in the Faculty of Health at the Convocation Center at Eastern Michigan University. She said she was in contact with Eastern Michigan University staff and local law enforcement agencies at the venue to ensure that the clinic was operating effectively.

“We want this to be a good experience for them and we want to be a trusted partner in the community and show that we want to continue to be that legacy,” James said.

The health department also has another clinic at Pierce Lake Elementary School in Chelsea.

Officials say a second COVID vaccination site will open in Washtenaw County as vaccine supply increases

As of March 17, 35,304 first and second doses were given by the health department, with 90,152 Washtenaw residents receiving at least one dose from health care providers throughout the county.

Improvements have been made to speed up the vaccination process throughout the county as the booking request process and waiting list have been removed. By the end of February, 20,000 people registered and Waiting for an appointment.. Still, the challenge of vaccination remains, Mr. Labrack said.

“We are pleased that everyone over the age of 16 will be eligible in April, but we hope that the vaccine supply will increase on a regular basis,” says Loveluck.

The reservations available are based on vaccine supply, so it may still take weeks for people to schedule reservations. A new online self-scheduling process allows people to book future clinics when they become available.

According to officials, new appointments will be added at least weekly or when an existing appointment is cancelled. To make a reservation click here..

Read more from Ann Arbor News:

Michigan positive test rates and daily coronavirus cases continue to grow

Michigan does not know when COVID-19 vaccine allocation will increase

9,000 newly qualified Washtenaw County residents awaiting COVID vaccination appointments

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