COVID-19 Vaccine Vials

COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine vials in a row macro close up. 

The Franklin County Health Department reported 18 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, Feb. 23, bringing the total number of cases since the pandemic began to 8,925.

Among those testing positive Tuesday were a 6-year-old girl from Washington and a 10-year-old boy from Union; one girl in her teens; two men and two women in their 30s; two men in their 40s; one man and woman in their 60s; five women in their 80s; and one man and one woman both in their 90s.

As of Tuesday, the probable case count stood at 1,815, with probable deaths at 22. The number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths remained at 147.

There were five active cases reported in long-term care facilities in Franklin County, which accounts for both residents and staff. The health department reported a total of six Franklin County residents hospitalized between Mercy Hospital Washington and Missouri Baptist Sullivan.

Mercy Hospital Washington President Eric Eoloff said as of press time Tuesday there were three patients hospitalized at the facility with COVID-19.  

“All three are from Franklin County, and none are presently in our ICU,” Eoloff said. “So far this month, we have had three Franklin County patients die of COVID-19 complications here. In January, that number was 16 Franklin County residents.

To date, 9.3 percent of Franklin County residents have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Franklin County Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker — who serves as the public information officer for the county regarding the pandemic — said the county does not have any more vaccine clinics scheduled but “is seeing what (the county) can get scheduled in the very near future.”

Brinker said the county has been notified it will be receiving an additional 300 doses of the vaccine this week.

“Hopefully we will be (receiving the vaccine) on a regular basis,” Brinker said. “We really look forward to the days when we can get a streamlined supply in from the federal government. The state is doing all they can to make sure it gets dispensed now.”

Brinker said, as of Tuesday morning, 17,731 people were registered to receive the vaccine through the Franklin County Health Department. 

With the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in the final stages of approval, Brinker said it’s likely it will become available to Franklin County residents.

Mercy Clinic Washington and Four Rivers’ vaccination efforts are still underway according to Eoloff.

“To date, we have provided nearly 13,000 vaccinations, including first doses and second doses,” Eoloff said. “We have the ability to vaccinate between 300 and 400 residents per day, but we need more vaccine to reach that pace consistently.”

Eoloff said the clinic received 570 first doses last week and was expecting another 1,100 first doses Tuesday.  

“When we receive these doses, we quickly make appointments for those on our registration site, which has in excess of 20,000 local residents signed up,” Eoloff said. “So we can use up the 1,600 first doses in a week’s time and only get to a small percentage of residents on the registration site. The bottom line is we need more vaccine.”

Eoloff said the mask mandates by the city of Washington and Franklin County were helpful in reducing the spread of the virus, and he said it is still important for community members to continue to follow virus mitigation measures. 

“At the time those mandates were implemented last November, we were at our highest spread rate of the virus in the county and at the highest hospitalization rate here — nearly one in three residents tested was positive for COVID-19, and we were on overflow with very sick patients,” Eoloff said. “The spread rate has been falling ever since the two mandates were put in place, and today the positivity rate of those tested is nearly one in 10 residents countywide.”

The health department reported the testing positivity rate over the last seven days stood at 9.2 percent.

Until herd immunity is reached in the county, the virus can still spread to those who have not been vaccinated or those who do not have antibodies from surviving the virus, according to Eoloff.

“At present, we believe we are somewhere near 18-20 percent of the county residents who are protected,” Eoloff said. “We have a long way to go to get to 70-80 percent immunity, which is the threshold for herd immunity, where the virus can no longer successfully reproduce and eventually dies out.”

Eoloff said, “We will beat this virus, but we need the community to continue to make smart choices to protect themselves and their neighbors until we get enough people vaccinated.”