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Health director: COVID-19 impacting younger populations in Mohave County

Mohave County Public Health Director Denise Burley updated the Mohave County Board of Supervisors on the COVID-19 situation in Mohave County at their Monday, Oct. 4 meeting. (Miner file photo)

Mohave County Public Health Director Denise Burley updated the Mohave County Board of Supervisors on the COVID-19 situation in Mohave County at their Monday, Oct. 4 meeting. (Miner file photo)

KINGMAN – Mohave County Public Health Director Denise Burley told the Mohave County Board of Supervisors on Monday, Oct. 4 that while the county continues to experience the second-highest COVID-19 positivity rate in the state, weekly case counts have been decreasing each week since late August.

She termed the reduction “very good news.”

But Burley said COVID-19 transmission in the county remains high with a case rate of 271 per 100,000 and a 17.4% positivity rate.

She also said the county is seeing a decrease in cases in school-aged children. However, she said case counts are still high for school-aged kids, “with a large amount of those numbers coming from the 13-15-year-old age group.”

Burley reported that deaths by week of diagnosis remain high with an average of more than 10 per week since July. September saw a 17.4% increase from August from 46 to 54 deaths.

“As you know, the average age has changed,” Burley said. “The whole pandemic, we’re talking the past 18 months, the older populations were impacted more so early on and now what we’re seeing is that the age is changing, and that has dropped.”

“Mohave County is seeing a large number of deaths in the younger age groups compared to the start of the pandemic. In September, nearly 40% of deaths were in the under 60 category with an average age for the entire month of 67.1,” she said.

The county has seen a 22.6% decrease in hospitalizations over the previous month, with Burley adding that hospitalizations remain “high and elevated” in the community. She said staffing remains a concern for hospitals.

“That’s a bigger issue and a bigger concern,” she said of staffing. “I think it is something they continue to try to rectify, but their struggles are real. Those are nationwide and statewide; those are not just Mohave County issues.”

She said the majority of COVID-19 cases continue to be among the unvaccinated population at 91.6% in August and 91.1% in September. Burley reported that the delta variant continues to be the primary variant of concern in the community.

Burley also addressed recent recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding booster shots. Burley said additional doses are recommended for those who are immunocompromised. Those individuals can receive a third dose of the vaccine 28 days after the second dose. The CDC also recommends booster doses for certain groups, which can be administered six months after the second dose.

Supervisor Hildy Angius of District 2 asked for some clarification on booster shots as well as what vaccines have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Burley said the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines remain under an emergency use designation and that the Pfizer vaccine has received FDA approval.

In regards to boosters, Burley said the county has all three vaccines available and that it is recommended that people get a third or booster shot of the same vaccine they previously received. Angius also asked that the county provide the community with additional information on its website in regards to what has and hasn’t been approved by the FDA and any potential unknown risks associated with vaccines not yet approved.

In fielding questions from Supervisor Ron Gould of District 5, Burley said breakthrough cases are accounting for 2.7% of deaths and 4% of hospitalizations in the county. According to Burley, there have been 616 vaccine breakthrough cases in the county to date. For those who have gone three months after recovery before being diagnosed with the virus again, that figure is 1% of the total number of reported cases.

Supervisor Travis Lingenfelter of District 1 inquired as to the logical end of COVID-19 reports, saying that the information is also available for the community via the Arizona Department of Health Services website.

“I think at the start of the year was different than it is in October, but I’ve been on this board for 10 months now and we’ve gotten them almost every day if not every day, and gosh, that’s a lot of time and expense to do those,” Lingenfelter said. “There has to be a logical end, I think as one board member, to get you guys back to doing what you should be doing and directing people to their primary care providers, which is what they should be doing. And if they want to know about the data they can go to the state website to get the data.”

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