The County Board of Health met Wednesday, December 16th for an informative meeting. It wasn’t just an informative meeting though- it contained a proposal (one which the board anticipates discussing at the next meeting). The proposal (by Jim Seifert of Troy), while at the end of the meeting, was sufficiently surprising that we included it in part 1 last week.
The meeting began with Jan Ivers (board chair) discussing viruses and predicting another pandemic. Then, County Commissioner Mark Peck presented on the legal foundations of the Board of Health and gave a brief “how it all works” explanation. After, Kathi Hooper (Director of the County Health Department) explained the board’s budget.
Presentation about Testing: Lyn Thompson, a laboratory scientist, spoke via zoom about testing for the virus. She spoke with great enthusiasm about her topic, three tests: Molecular Diagnostic, Antigen test and Antibody test. According to Thompson, the four important characteristics of a lab test are: accuracy, timeliness, sensitivity, specificity.
A couple big things about the molecular part of it [testing], what it does not do: It does not tell you if the patient is infectious. It does not tell you if the patient is contagious. “Lyn Thompson
Thompson clarified that the test itself simply detects or does not detect the virus. Antigen testing looks for a protein, rather than DNA, and is less specific and less sensitive but a quicker test. Antibody tests, meanwhile, are more useful for determining if someone has had a virus than if they are currently infectious.
A lot of these tests are only supposed to be done on symptomatic patients. Specifically the antigen test is really dependent on the person has to be symptomatic with covid-like symptoms in the first five days.”Lyn Thompson
Thompson continued to explain that delaying an antigen test could result in a negative result, even in someone who had Covid-19, if they delayed long enough. Furthermore, an asymptomatic patient with Covid-19 could still have a negative result with an antigen test.
Presentation on Collaborative Medical Care: Sara (presumably Dr. Sara Mertes of Cabinet Peaks Medical Center, new member of the health board) spoke about the procedures used to both care for patients and avoid potential exposures. When a patient tests positive, the information is given to the Health Department, which does follow-up and contact tracing with the patient.
Cabinet Peaks Medical Center is able to send patients home with a monitor, which checks for drops in oxygen levels or tachycardia (rapid heart rate). Unfortunately, these monitors require WiFi or cell service, so are of limited utility.
Presentation on Contact Tracing: Jenn McCully, Lincoln County Public Health Manager, discussed what happens when the Health Department is notified of a covid case. Contact tracing assumes that someone is contagious either two days before symptoms, or two days before the positive test (whichever is sooner). Isolation is supposed to be at least 10 days, and to include being isolated from other household members. It will also include occasional calls and check-ins from the department.
Presentation on Vaccinations: Dr. Kelli Jarrett, of the Northwest Community Health Center, gave an overview about how vaccines work. Then, she went into more detail about the Covid-19 vaccine. The vaccine is an mRNA vaccine, which makes it somewhat different from the vaccines we are used to.
The reason that mRNA technology is actually really nice, especially in this circumstance is that it can be scaled up much faster than our current vaccine technology.”Dr. Kelli Jarrett
Dr. Jarrett provided a detailed overview of the safety data for the Pfizer vaccine, and observed that the number of adverse reactions seen in the trials is comparable to commonly used vaccines (adverse reaction can include pain, fever or muscle aches; it needn’t be severe). The efficacy rate of the vaccine seems to be quite high.
The presentations wrapped up with contact information: Anyone with questions for specific presenters should contact Kathi Hooper, the director of the County Health Department.
Finally, the meeting closed with a comment from Jim, the Board of Health member representing Troy. Seifert proposed giving businesses an A/B/C/D rating, primarily based on mask wearing (both of employees and customers). His proposal seems to entail members of the county health department inspecting and rating businesses.
The Board of Health next meets on January 13th. According to Board Chair Jan Ivers, Seifert’s proposal will probably be on the agenda.