County health recommends continued mask usage

Chad Frey
The Kansan

The Centers for Disease Control offered new guidelines for the use of facial coverings last week — namely that fully vaccinated people can remove their masks. 

The Harvey County Health Department recommends continued mask usage where social distancing cannot be observed — citing the number of unvaccinated county residents.

However, the Harvey County Health Department is a bit skittish with that recommendation. 

""If you don't know the people around you, you want to keep people protected. .... We are going to continue to recommend this because we have people who have not been vaccinated," said Lynette Redington, director of the Harvey County Health Department. "With the UK variant in our county, that is highly contagious." 

The department reported Tuesday seven cases of the UK variant in the county. 

The department is recommending mask use for everyone in crowds, indoors and in places social distancing cannot be observed.  The county board of health, which is the county commission, took no action that would formalize the recommendation or create a mandate of any kind. 

The commission did remove a mask usage requirement for county employees and in county facilities — with the exception of the Health Department. The Health Department is considered a healthcare facility, and mask use will still be required within that building. In other facilities, mask use will be recommended for those who have not been vaccinated. 

The current vaccination rate for the county stands at 473.3 people per thousand for those 16 and older. About 533.8 people per thousand have received at least one of the two shots for vaccination. 

"We are one of the highest counties in the area in getting shots in arms," Redington said.

Also last week emergency authorization was granted for the use of the the Pfizer vaccine for those ages 12 to 15. 

"Authorization is different than approval. When you get approval that is when it becomes a mainstream vaccination like flue or others," Redington said. " .... Nine out of 10 people in the nation have access to a vaccination within five miles of themselves."

Currently the hospitalization rate is down to a pair, with  five recently.  Redington said none of the hospitalizations involved vaccinated individuals.