The Barnstable Effect | New



To understand the abrupt about-face in hiding recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, State of California, and Humboldt County Public Health, you need to take a close look at what happened. in Barnstable County, Massachusetts.

Going into the weekend of July 4, it looked like Barnstable County had COVID-19 largely under control. Nearly three in four eligible county residents have been fully immunized, with 82 percent having received at least one injection. On July 3, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported that Barnstable County, which has a population of approximately 213,000, had a 14-day average of zero new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population per day. In short, things looked promising.

But over the next two weeks, according to the CDC, “multiple summer events and large public gatherings took place” and cases quickly followed. In total, the CDC report traces 469 cases to Massachusetts residents who attended these events and rallies, although local officials say the total number of cases is well north of 800. Among the cases being tracked by the CDC , 74% were traced to fully vaccinated people. . Of these groundbreaking cases, nearly 80% were symptomatic, with patients most often reporting coughs, headaches, sore throats, muscle pain and fever. Five hospitalizations were linked to the cluster of cases, including four people who were fully vaccinated, two of whom had underlying health issues.

Genomic sequencing of the cluster of cases found two things to note. First, almost 90% of the cases were the highly contagious Delta variant, which health officials described as the 2020 version of COVID-19 on steroids and now accounts for 85% of all new cases in the United States. Then, alarmingly, sequencing indicated that the revolutionary fully vaccinated patients carried a similar viral load – or the amount of virus present in a sample, an indicator of how much virus an infected individual sheds and therefore how contagious it is. – as unvaccinated. counterparts. The report also notes that asymptomatic spread among fully vaccinated people may be under-represented.

Even in preliminary form, the data was seen as a game changer, according to internal CDC documents leaked to the Washington post, and reportedly urged authorities to take immediate action even before the official release of the data on July 30. Specifically, the CDC has issued a recommendation that everyone, regardless of their immunization status, resume masking in indoor public spaces in areas of “high viral spread” or “significant,” which includes Humboldt County. (read more on page 21). This recommendation was quickly followed by those of the California Department of Public Health and Humboldt County.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Fox News that the Massachusetts data have been supplemented by data from other studies from around the world and that “the trends seem clear.” But Walensky stressed that vaccination continues to protect against serious illness and death, pointing to data showing that of 164 million Americans fully vaccinated, only 6,239 (0.0038%) were subsequently hospitalized with the virus. .

“If you are vaccinated you are protected against serious illness,” she said.


In Humboldt County, two of 236 hospitalizations related to COVID-19 and none of the 54 associated deaths have been confirmed in fully vaccinated individuals, and the county reported that about 25% of samples that underwent genomic sequencing in June returned as the Delta variant. But data on breakthrough cases and local prevalence of the Delta variant remains very limited.

At a July 21 press conference, health worker Ian Hoffman explained that reporting real-time data on breakthrough cases is simply not possible due to staff limitations, noting that this information must be obtained through contact surveys and then verified, while staff struggle to keep up with other data collection and reporting functions.

“We collect huge amounts of data on COVID every day,” he said. “It’s already a colossal job.

Likewise, he said that although the public health lab has started genomic sequencing in-house, it is a long process. But Hoffman said as local trends become clearer, public health will report them to the community.

What is very clear is that the number of local cases is increasing sharply and now rivals those from any period to date of the pandemic.

In the week before Newspaper went to press, the county has confirmed 280 new cases of COVID-19 with a test positivity rate of 10.4%, far exceeding the national average of 7.8%, 11 new hospitalizations and one death from ‘a resident in his thirties.

On August 3, the city of Eureka also reported that samples taken from its wastewater collection facility as part of a national COVID-19 monitoring program showed virus concentration levels above 99% of others. samples from all over the country.

“These new local data, including both the increase in the number of cases and now the results of sewage testing, are cause for concern,” Hoffman said in a press release. “Everyone must continue to do their part to protect themselves and each other.”

Hoffman has previously said that a spike in the number of cases on its own is unlikely to trigger additional local mitigation measures such as business closures or mandatory masking, which he said would not be put into effect. work only as a last resort if hospital capacity is threatened. According to a statewide database, 20 local residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19 as the Newspaper went to press on August 3, including seven in intensive care.

Locally, health officials and doctors continue to advocate vaccination as the best way for individuals to protect themselves and prevent the spread of COVID-19. In an Aug. 3 press release, Hoffman urged residents to take safety precautions in their daily lives and limit gatherings outside their homes given the rise of the Delta variant.

“Everyone is frustrated that this is going backwards given all the progress that has been made,” he said. “Think about how much risk you can tolerate, what makes sense for you, your family, when deciding what activities to do in public. “

In a Facebook post on July 30 – the same day the county reported a single-day record of 69 new COVID-19 cases – First District Supervisor Rex Bohn urged his supporters to take the virus and the mitigation measures seriously, claiming he had just spoken with Roberta Luskin. -Hawk, CEO of St. Joseph Health.

“She’s scared,” Bohn wrote, adding that she thinks the next four to six weeks will be crucial. “The fear I heard in his voice was real. They have 16 hospitalized at the moment. [and] with our highest case count today since this started, we’re in troubled waters. … There are staff shortages at the hospital that will affect other care and needs. I am vaccinated. I’m afraid. I will do better with my mask, be more aware of others and pray for all of us. “

Thadeus Greenson (he / him) is the editor of the Journal. Contact him at 442-1400, ext. 321, or Follow him on Twitter @thadeusgreenson.



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