KPHD: Don’t transmit COVID this holiday season

Dr. Gib Morrow recently compared COVID-19 to the AIDS epidemic.

It’s the 40th anniversary of the AIDS pandemic and its treatment is about at the same stage as COVID. “There are highly effective options in both,” he said at a Kitsap Public Health District Zoom meeting.

The county health officer said lack of education about each pandemic, along with people refusing treatment, has led to more deaths than needed to happen. Inadequate global distribution of treatment also has been a major problem.

Of course, the timeline is no comparison, as it took much longer to find treatment for AIDS. The first case was in 1981, and AZT didn’t come around until 1996. “It was a terrible and trying time,” he said, adding health care felt “powerless.”

In remembrance of World AIDS Day, Morrow did say treatment is widely available, but Kitsap County still sees new cases every year. But the end goal is to see the disease untransmissible, he said.

Holiday season

Morrow said the holidays can be a dangerous time for spreading COVID with all of the different types of gatherings. “It’s a problematic time,” he said. “Going to holiday events is an exposure.”

For those age 18 and older he said: “Get your vaccine. They are safe and effective. Local, state, national and global studies all show how effective they are. You’re far less likely to get hospitalized or die.”

In Kitsap County, Morrow said COVID cases are already going up due to “a post-Thanksgiving bounce” as parties, travel and more contact with people led to disease transmission. He said in mid-September there were 300 positive cases per 100,000 people, and it dropped to as low as 76 per 100,000, but numbers are increasing again.

On a positive note, Morrow said a year ago the KPHD set a goal of having 70% of residents vaccinated against COVID. “We did it,” he said. However, tens of thousands of people are still at-risk.

Those who don’t get the vaccine should still try to keep others safe by staying home when they don’t feel well, get tested frequently, mask and social distance. He said hospitals are still at critical levels. “Help them and ourselves.”

Public comments

County residents made a variety of comments at both ends of the spectrum.

Linda Sewright of Bainbridge Island said she wants the KPHD to make it a requirement for people to be vaccinated before eating in local restaurants. She asked: If King, Jefferson and Clallam counties can require it, why won’t Kitsap?

“We’ve been under lockdown since March of 2020 and have not been able to eat indoors at any restaurant since then, only doing take-out at a handful of establishments,” she writes.

Julie Fritz of Poulsbo took the opposite stance. “I am writing to urge you to do everything you can do to enact a permanent prohibition on the use of any type of health passport by government or private entities. Very simply, they are coercive and unAmerican,” she writes.

Fritz continues saying people don’t get the vaccine for a variety of valid reasons, including allergic reactions, and they do have side effects as more than 4,000 people have died. “Although vaccine passports are being touted as vital tools that will restore normalcy…they threaten our basic human rights, our civil rights and our democracy…”

Linda Jeanne Hagan writes that, “We must use our critical thinking to get to the truth of what is happening and ignore the propaganda being spoon-fed to viewers of the corporate media.”

Heather Budd writes, “I need KPH to serve as a more-informed and dynamic support for schools. When I bring complaints to the school board, they quote me that they are taking advice from Kitsap Public Health but if KPH has no medical professionals on the board … then I don’t feel confident that my son is being provided the safest school policies when it comes to preventative COVID measures…”

Amy Jackson says in her letter to the board that the shots must not be working the way they are supposed to because COVID continues despite 70% ot the county being vaccinated. If vaccine passports are required, “You will only hurt small businesses, again. Don’t force more small businesses to close right at the busiest time of year.”

Budget approved

County health administrator Keith Grellner talked about next year’s budget, which later was passed by the board.

First, the board passed an amendment as Kitsap will receive more federal funds to deal with COVID, raising the overall budget to $18.5 million.

A chart shows that grants and service fees from contracts pay for a “bigger piece of the pie than they normally do,” at 47%, even though there are no service fee increases, he said.

With 140 employees, paying personnel takes up 77% of the budget. While union talks are ongoing, non-union workers will get a 4% raise.

Grellner explained that 32 employees work in the COVID program, which helps keep the community open, keeps kids in school, and helps the economy by keeping workers and customers from getting sick.

He pointed out that if COVID numbers improve the county “will scale back if possible” the amount of federal funds used in the program.