FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – With more of the COVID-19 vaccine rolling out, many people think of it as good news and a much needed Christmas gift. All the while, health officials are asking the community to remain vigilant throughout this holiday season.
Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Matthew Sutter said the area did well following proper safety advice over the Thanksgiving holiday. People kept their dinners small, so cases have not spiked like he had originally predicted. He’s now encouraging people to keep that momentum through Christmas and New Years Day.
“People need to keep their diligence going forward through the holidays, which is tough because everybody wants to get together,” he said. “Maybe you put off Thanksgiving and now you think, ‘well at least I can get Christmas in,’ but if we do that we’re likely to see a big surge in cases and overwhelm our hospitals still.”
Over in Europe, the British government warned that a new strain of the virus is “out of control.” Several European countries have now restricted travel to the U.K. Sutter said people in Northeast Indiana need not worry about something similar happening here.
“I’m not convinced there’s a new strain yet,” he said. “It’s something that needs further study and they’ll be looking at it, but right now there’s really no convincing evidence that there’s something new in the U.K. There have been several officials in Britain who have talked about this new strain but the scientists in the U.K. are not saying that same thing. There is no convincing evidence yet that there is significant change in the strain.”
The vaccine’s arrival has brought hope our region. For now it’s only for frontline healthcare workers. Stutter says long-term healthcare facilities are next. After that will most likely be people over the age of 75, essential workers outside of healthcare such as police officers and firefighters, and teachers.
The mainstream population may have access to it by late April. Sutter said if the pandemic is to end, enough people need to take it.
“If we can get 70% or more of the population to take the vaccine and if the vaccine continues to be as effective as so far the studies look to be, that changes everything,” he said. “We know that it works really, really well in keeping people from getting sick and going to the hospital. We don’t know if they can still have mild infection that they can still pass.”
Sutter noted that while cases are declining, hospitlizations are still high. That’s another reason maintained diligence is needed. If Allen County case numbers continue to decline for another week, the state will change the area from a red designation to an orange one on Wednesday, December 30.