“The threat is still real:” As cases once again soar, health officials urge people to get vaccinated

Jordan Meier
Dr. Tim Stebbins, and other county health officials, addressing the increase in COVID-19 cases throughout Crawford County in the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts on Tuesday

PITTSBURG, Kan. — As they have many times over the last year, local health officials gathered in the lobby of the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts Tuesday morning to address the recent spike in COVID-19 cases and to urge people to continue to get vaccinated.  

“The single greatest protective element from the virus is the vaccine,” said Public Health Officer Dr. Tim Stebbins, “and we are encouraging anyone not vaccinated to seek the vaccine.” 

Just over a month ago, Crawford County’s case numbers were down to single digits each week, but as the volatile Delta variant has entered the scene, cases have once again risen to almost triple digits with five additional deaths within 10 days.  

“The variant is more transmissible and is causing worse infection even in the younger population that tolerated the previous variants well,” Stebbins said.  

Stebbins said this week alone they have already had 50 plus new cases. While acknowledging that the increase is more than likely the aftermath of the Fourth of July celebrations, Stebbins also emphasized that essentially all of the new cases come from those that are not vaccinated.   

According to Stebbins over 90 percent of all new cases in the country and 99 percent of all recent covid-related deaths are from the nonvaccinated population. In Crawford County, Stebbins said roughly 49 percent of the population has had their first dose of a vaccine, while only 40 percent have had both shots and are considered fully vaccinated.  

Stebbins, along with the other healthcare officials, urged those without a vaccine to get vaccinated.  

“The current vaccines are highly effective against all current strains of the virus, including the Delta variant,” Stebbins said. “The vaccines are effective and safe.” 

Dr. Linda Bean said this latest spike is almost more frustrating than others because the vaccines are available, people just have stopped going to get them.  

“The threat is still real,” Bean said. “We had a very hard last year and we are still facing the same threat, but what puts us differently at this moment in time is that it’s preventable. We have vaccines, we have tools that can treat it and so we are sitting in a very different place, but we have to utilize those tools that we have.”  

Stebbins agreed with Bean, adding that at least this time around they have treatments they can offer those who are sick.  

“At least there are opportunities for us to prevent this going forward,” Stebbins said. “Last year when we were doing this, we told people to do nothing because that’s all that we could do for them. This year, we have vaccines, we have a lot more knowledge, we have treatments, and so that puts us medically in a little bit better place.”  

Crawford County Health Department Director Teddi Van Kam said the most common reason she has heard for people resisting getting the vaccine is that they want to wait to see the long-term effects the vaccinations have.  

“We’ve kind of hit that wall of people that are rather resistant [to getting the vaccine],” Van Kam said.  

Stebbins and others in the healthcare community are urging those without a vaccine to continue to wear a mask in public as well as practice other social distancing protocols. However, Stebbins reiterated that the most effective action to combat the pandemic is to get the vaccine.