Mercy Hospital

Mercy Hospital pictured from the intersection of Third Street and Highway 47 Wednesday, Sept. 16.

The Franklin County Health Department’s number of reported COVID-19 cases passed the 10,000 mark Friday. An additional 187 cases over the previous week brought the countywide total since the pandemic began to 10,093. An additional 2,438 probable cases have been reported.

The number of new cases is greater than the weekly totals reported the previous two Fridays, July 23 and July 16, combined. It’s also greater than the weekly totals reported June 4, June 11, June 18, June 25, July 2 and July 9 combined. 

Of the 187 new cases reported Friday, the average age of those infected is 40, and the most common age is 33. Eighteen of those who tested positive were 65 or older, and the remaining 169 were younger than 65. 

The county also reported its 180th COVID-19-related death Friday, a 57-year-old Sullivan man who died in June. An additional 32 deaths have been recorded as probable. 

The report also lists four cases in long-term care facilities, which accounts for both residents and staff. The last time a case was reported in a long-term care facility was more than three months ago, on April 21, when one case was reported. The last time four or more long-term care cases were reported was March 6. 

In Washington, the seven-day new case average jumped to 8.8 Friday, up from 3.3 reported last Friday, July 23, according to a weekly report from Emergency Management Director Mark Skornia.  

The city plans to partner with Mercy to offer free first-dose Pfizer vaccinations at the Washington Town & Country Fair from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 4-8. Appointments are not required, and the vaccines will be administered in the Mercy First Aid building, between the food court and motorsports area. Patients can schedule the second dose appointment at any Mercy vaccination location. All who receive the vaccine will be entered into a daily drawing to win free fair merchandise.

Dr. Ann-Elizabeth Mohart, chief medical officer for Mercy Hospital Washington, said the timing of the fair is concerning to Mercy staff as cases across the state continue to increase. The vaccination rate in Franklin County — 40.8  percent of people fully vaccinated as of Friday — is not enough to achieve herd immunity, which she said will be needed to avoid further “breakthrough cases” of people who were vaccinated but were later infected and became very sick with COVID-19.

“Vaccinations always depend on two things: whether it’s a good vaccine and whether the human who receives it has a strong enough immune system to react to it and create immunity. So if someone is immunocompromised or they’re elderly, they probably can’t mount a super strong reaction even with the vaccine. That’s to be expected,” Mohart said. “That’s why it’s imperative that we be good citizens and demonstrate responsible behavior. Those people who don’t have strong immune systems rely on the rest of us to do the right thing.”

Mohart also said reports that the available COVID-19 vaccines have caused illnesses, such as inflamed heart muscles or surrounding tissue, in a small number of people should not deter anyone from getting vaccinated because people are more likely to develop those issues and other heart problems because of COVID-19 than because of any of the three available vaccines.

“Parodoxically, the virus itself causes a lot more scarring and damage on the heart than any vaccine,” she said. “Every known medicine, if you put it in billions of people, is going to have some side effects, but you’re talking about one in a million people who get the vaccine who will have these effects. Their safety is excellent compared even to medicines we use every day like aspirin.”

The county report lists 11 county residents hospitalized with COVID-19-related complications. The last time 11 or more county residents were reported hospitalized was Feb. 12. Dr. Clay Dunagan of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, to which Washington’s hospital belongs, said Tuesday afternoon that around 40 percent of the COVID-19 hospitalizations in the region are people under the age of 45.

Mercy is currently caring for 13 patients at the Washington hospital and monitoring more COVID-19 patients through its home health systems.