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Vaccines offer best defense

With Covid-19 cases still rising, Carlton County Public Health and others are bringing the vaccinations to the people. On Wednesday night, there were clinics at school open house events in Wrenshall and Barnum. They’re working on a clinic in Blackhoof for Sept. 11, and still advising other residents to seek out vaccines at local hospitals, health care clinics and pharmacies. Some 70.4 percent of county residents ages 16 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, with the number of vaccinations in August almost double what it was in July.

“We are trying to set up clinics where we see the need,” said public health nurse Jenny Barta. “It could be a business or a school or some other community location, they just have to ask.”

Vaccination remains the best protection against getting Covid-19, the CDC and Barta both stress.

“Vaccines have transformed this pandemic,” Barta said, “because these efficacious vaccines offer so much protection.”

Yes, there have been breakthrough cases where a vaccinated person contracts Covid. Those are climbing because the number of cases are increasing, but they remain well under 1 percent of cases in the state.

That’s why even vaccinated people should mask up indoors in public, Barta said, along with taking other precautions to prevent transmission of the coronavirus. That applies to schools too, she said.

“You’ve got a large population of unvaccinated people coming into close quarters indoors, it’s a prime place for the virus to transmit easily, especially because the Delta variant transmits about two times more easily than the original [Covid-19 virus],” she said. “And the viral load is 1,000 to 1,200 times greater, which makes it even more transmissible.”

Barta disagreed with recent comments locally that there is no scientific evidence that masks work to prevent transmission of the virus.

“We know masks are not 100-percent effective, but there are plenty of studies that show they slow down and help prevent the spread, especially when both people are wearing masks,” she said. “It’s a tool to help slow the spread.”

The CDC recently reported on an unvaccinated teacher in California who removed her mask to read aloud to students in May, after experiencing Covid symptoms but before receiving Covid test results. Of the 24 students in the class, all too young to be vaccinated, 12 tested positive for Covid. The attack rate in the two rows seated closest to the teacher’s desk was 80 percent.

In total, 27 cases, including the teacher, were identified at the school.

In its updated guidance for Covid-19 prevention in schools, the CDC first stresses that “vaccination is the leading public health prevention strategy to end the Covid-19 pandemic.”

After vaccination, the CDC recommends universal indoor masking “by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status” because of the highly contagious Delta variant.

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