State monitoring COVID-19 variants

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

As Americans gather to celebrate Independence Day this weekend, many are enjoying the ability to do so without a mask.

But variants of the COVID-19 virus are now starting to circulate in the country. A focus has been put on one of the variants, called the Delta variant.

But there are several variants that are being watched, said Shawn Werner, administrative director of the Dubois County Health Department.

"The state is monitoring multiple variants," Werner said. "The Delta variant, the one that's being talked about, is a little more contagious from what they have been seeing from the previous strains."

Variants are different strains of a virus, such as SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), that arise as a virus mutates or changes, according to Indiana State Department of Health information. Viruses naturally mutate as they multiply to make more virus particles, and new variants are expected over time. Some variants will die out, while others may persist and become common if they are more easily spread. Variants may also become more resistant to treatments or vaccines.

"Some of the spreading variants are concerning because they can be spread much more easily than other strains and can cause more severe infection," state officials said in a report about variants.

Just over 5,000 variant cases have been found in Indiana. That includes 3,846 of the Alpha variant, 516 of the Gamma variant, 416 of the Epsilon variant, 196 of the Delta variant and 29 of the Beta variant.

Werner noted that the 196 total for Delta variant cases is close to the lower end of the variant tally. "But doesn't necessarily mean that it couldn't spread faster," he said, "and that number couldn't go up."

Officials have found that the current vaccines are effective against the variants that have been detected in the state.

"The more people we can get vaccinated, the better the immunity," Werner said, "and the more protection we have."

The Dubois County Health Department is still offering vaccines, and has all three available. But appointments must be made through the right method, so that workers can have the correct vaccine ready.

"It's hard to manage three vaccines in one schedule," Werner said. "We'd have no idea know which one they're coming for."

People can call the health department directly to make an appointment for the Pfizer vaccine, which is available for those age 12 and older, or the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Call the immunization department, 812-481-7056, to set an appointment.

To get the Moderna vaccine, also for adults, use the state's vaccine website, www.ourshot.in.gov, to schedule an appointment.

Information on COVID-19 and variant cases can be found on the ISDH dashboard at https://www.coronavirus.in.gov/2393.htm, which is updated every day at noon.

The state health department reported one new COVID-19 case in Dubois County on Friday.

A total of 6,228 positive cases have been reported in the county since the pandemic began, and 118 deaths related to the virus. A total of 21,251 county residents have been tested.

ISDH reported Friday 302 new cases across the state, bringing the statewide total to 754,724 cases. A total of 13,439 Hoosiers have died from the virus. Another 424 probable deaths have been reported.

The hours of operation have changed at the testing site at the former Ruxer Golf Course building at 400 S. Clay St. in Jasper. The site is closed on Sunday and Monday. It is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Rapid COVID-19 tests (BinaxNOW COVID–19 Ag Cards) are available at the Dubois / Spencer / Martin County COVID Testing Site during business hours while supplies last. These are rapid tests for use using a nasal swab collected from individuals who are suspected of having COVID–19. The sample MUST be collected within the first seven days from onset of symptoms. They will not be used on anyone who has been asymptomatic. Results should be available about 30 minutes after test. To schedule an appointment for a rapid test please register at DuboisCountyTesting.as.me

To register for an appointment to obtain a PCR COVID -19 test please visit https://scheduling.coronavirus.in.gov/. You will have to click “I don’t have an invitation code”. If you do not have internet you can call the phone number above, if no one answers please leave a message and they will call you back. Results should be available within 2-5 business days. If you do not get your results you can call the Indiana State Dept. of Health at 1-877-826-0011.

If you have questions, you can contact 812-329-0523 or the Dubois County Health Department at 812-481-7050.

Other options for COVID-19 testing are:

• Memorial Hospital Emergency Department (800 W. Ninth St., Jasper): Patient is evaluated by a provider, who determines testing and treatment. Open 24 hours a day.

• CVS (multiple locations): Tests anyone with or without symptoms. Availability based on locations. Schedule an appointment through https://cvs.com.




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