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Jefferson County Health Officials Prepare For COVID-19 Delta Variant

St. Louis Public Radio is answering your health and safety questions about COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

With the rates of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths rising in Missouri, the Jefferson County Health Department recently joined St. Louis and St. Louis County in issuing a health advisory about next steps.

Currently, there are no confirmed cases of the new delta variant in Jefferson County, said communications specialist Brianne Zwiener of the Jefferson County Health Department.

“But that doesn't mean that we won't get them,” Zwiener told St. Louis on the Air. Public health officials are fully expecting confirmed cases in the coming days and are continuing mass vaccinations efforts.

Jefferson County Health Officials Prepare For COVID-19 Delta Variant
Hear how Jefferson County's health department has navigated the pandemic so far — from updated advisories regarding the delta variant to public health campaigns.

“We are trying to make people aware that the Delta variant is new, it's different, it is highly transmissible, and that it does come with a risk of hospitalization and severe disease,” Zweiner explained on Monday’s program.

In conversation with St. Louis Public Radio executive editor Shula Neuman, Zweiner discussed how Jefferson County is navigating the pandemic. The county has seen more than 250 COVID-19 deaths and more than 24,000 coronavirus cases so far.

The county’s public health officials have been monitoring their COVID-19 situation via a color-coded system that's based on the Harvard Global Health Institute model.

For most of 2020, the region was in a red zone, which is the highest risk level. But its health department started seeing a shift as strategic informational campaigns helped increase vaccination rates in the county. The region is currently in the yellow zone, which Zweiner explained is the second-lowest status, but she said the latest data have the county creeping toward the orange and red zones.

“We are continuing to push education, continuing to push the information from CDC, from the FDA about the effectiveness of the vaccines, what we know in regards to vaccines and variants,” she added.

One such public health message is the health department’s “Why I Vaxxed” campaign. For it, local leaders, health workers, teachers and community members record a video stating why they got vaccinated and “what [they’re] hoping that we can all do to come together for the greater good of Jefferson County.”

Zweiner added that the county also followed national trends by making the switch from mass vaccination and testing sites to smaller pop-up clinics and mobile vans, or as she called them: COVID-cruiser vans.

“The vibe, so to speak, had changed,” she said. “We're reaching people [who are] not necessarily opposed to getting the vaccine, they just haven't had it presented to them in a way that makes sense.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. Paola Rodriguez is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.