The journey we have all been on since COVID-19 entered our lives almost two years ago has been a rollercoaster in what seems like constant ups, downs, twists and turns. As your local health department, we have strived to meet the daily challenges this pandemic has brought and meet the public health needs of the communities we serve.
As we look back over the past year and wrap up 2021, we want to extend our gratitude to the many individuals, agencies, organizations and leaders in our community that have contributed in meaningful and impactful ways in the COVID-19 response efforts. This time last year, we were receiving shipments of COVID-19 vaccines and had just begun to vaccinate health care workers, along with our partners doing the same. Watauga County has made incredible progress this past year, with 55% of the total population fully vaccinated and 59% with at least one dose (data as of December 28, 2021), with over 23,500 doses administered by AppHealthCare thanks to so many who eagerly volunteered their time and energy to vaccinate the community.
“We began the pandemic response with the goal of saving lives. That goal has not changed, but our approach has evolved so that we can continue to be effective. Though we are all tired and ready for more normal, we do know that COVID-19 vaccines have made a difference,” said Jennifer Greene, Health Director.
The top graph shows deaths that occurred before vaccines became broadly available to the community and deaths that occurred from May 2021 forward. The bottom graph demonstrates deaths by age groups. Deaths have continued after vaccines were available, but the majority of deaths since have been among people who are not fully vaccinated. Both graphs reflect data as of December 28, 2021 for Alleghany, Ashe and Watauga Counties combined.
We are thankful for all of the healthcare workers who have remained on the frontlines day and night caring for those who are sick, administering vaccines and tests, and experiencing the grief that comes with the loss of a patient they have cared for. We are thankful for the many partnerships that have strengthened our collective response efforts. Our healthcare providers, schools, businesses, nonprofit organizations, local governments, and leaders across sectors have helped us move forward together.
“We are so appreciative of the many individuals in our community who have been vaccinated and those who’ve encouraged family members to be vaccinated. Those who sent us notes of encouragement or volunteered to be part of response efforts have lifted our spirits and helped build a stronger community response to this virus. If you haven’t yet been vaccinated, we urge you to get vaccinated now and get a booster if you are eligible. We will get to the other side of the pandemic by working together,” said Greene.