How health agencies are handling COVID-19

March 18 – In any given week, Uncas Health District staff travel to at least three or four events and may administer a COVID-19 vaccine to two people at one event, the director said Patrick McCormack – possibly someone who was hesitant and one who didn’t get the bivalent booster, who came out for the Omicron variant.

This is a far cry from the days when 200 vaccines were scheduled per day.

Now, local public health workers are integrating COVID-19 into other public health strategies, offering flu shots and blood pressure tests when they visit places like the Franklin Senior Center, St. Vincent de Paul Place and “mobile health centers” at Three Rivers Community College and Griswold High School. This is done using a van purchased using American Rescue Plan Act dollars.

The health district covers Bozrah, Franklin, Griswold, Lebanon, Lisbon, Montville, Norwich, Preston, Salem, Sprague and Voluntown.

Three years into the pandemic, the day-to-day operations of the two local health districts and the state Department of Public Health are vastly different, but staff continue to do COVID-19 prevention and mitigation work. ― and applies lessons learned and resources added in the pandemic to other public health issues.

As of Thursday, the state had reported 12,258 deaths associated with COVID. There were 156 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 ― but not necessarily due to COVID-19 ― a decrease of 67 from the previous week.

The federal public health emergency is set to expire on May 11, and health departments are still figuring out what that means for them. The Department of Health and Human Services says most insurance plans will fully cover COVID-19 vaccines, but “out-of-pocket costs for some treatments may change”, and private insurers will no longer be required to cover testing laboratory or at home.

McCormack said under a federal contract, Uncas has funded the purchase of more home testing kits and is expected to receive more soon to distribute to the public.

McCormack said the Uncas Health District still has one full-time nurse and one part-time nurse funded by COVID-19 relief dollars, and they are now focused on connecting with people who are homebound and raising awareness at events, bringing the vaccine with them.

He still has regular meetings with municipal leaders in Norwich and Griswold, where he reviews COVID-19 recommendations and data.

“What I found out is that I’m not just doing a COVID update,” he said. “When the norovirus started peaking, I updated that. When the seasonal flu started peaking, I updated that.”

He also said Uncas and the Ledge Light Health District will alternate presenting to the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments at SCCOG meetings.

Ledge Light’s deputy director of health, Jennifer Muggeo, said it was “an interesting time to navigate” as public health personnel, as there is a shared desire to move beyond COVID and we are currently in a good position with cases, but recall coverage is low and Connecticutans are still facing serious illness and death from the coronavirus.

Ledge Light covers East Lyme, Groton, Ledyard, Lyme, New London, North Stonington, Old Lyme, Stonington and Waterford.

Muggeo said Ledge Light continues to work with Griffin Hospital, the Medical Reserve Corps and community pharmacies to make it easier to get people vaccinated. Vaccines and boosters are available for anyone six months and older at the New London Public Library on Fridays.

She said if people test positive, Ledge Light staff are available to talk about access to treatment and protecting those they live with.

“The concept of contact tracing has sort of dissipated, in terms of interviewing people to find out who they’ve been in contact with,” Muggeo said, and the focus is now more on doing the tracing. to be a source of information and support.

“One of our contact tracers is still having these conversations with people about COVID, but has also started getting involved in some of our work to connect with families around childhood vaccinations,” she said. . “We still need to have the same kinds of conversations with people in our community when a child has high blood lead levels or when a child has a foodborne illness.”

Muggeo said staff are still learning what the end of the public health emergency will mean for community members, and then will assess how staff can fill the gaps.

Dr. Lynn Sosa, acting epidemiologist at DPH, said the department is largely considering how its business will or won’t change with the end of the public health emergency. This includes discussions about data collection and reporting frequency.

Governor Ned Lamont’s office released data on COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths every day earlier in the pandemic, whereas now it’s only Thursday. Sosa said the state continues to report data to the CDC, which will not change.

One of DPH’s main messages now is to get people to get bivalent booster. According to the CDC, as of March 8, 83.1% of Connecticut’s population had received the initial two-shot series, but only 24.6% had received the bivalent booster.

DPH spokesperson Chris Boyle said that, especially since omicron, the department has been able to speed up and slow down activities as needed.

“Part of what we’re trying to do is figure out how the work we’re doing for COVID-19 fits into our day-to-day work,” Sosa said, “because again, COVID-19 is not not gone; it’s here to stay.”

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How health agencies are handling COVID-19

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