Virus variant confirmed in Allen County

By Mackenzi Klemann -

LIMA — Several cases of a highly-contagious coronavirus variant have been confirmed in Allen County, which has seen an increase in coronavirus cases this spring, particularly among younger adults.

Allen County Public Health’s emergency planner, Brandon Fischer, said on Wednesday that 57% of coronavirus cases confirmed in April were found in adults 40 years old or younger.

Thus far, only 4,500 adults under 40 have received a coronavirus shot in Allen County, or less than 30% of adults and teenagers between the ages of 16 and 40, which puts young adults at greater risk of infection.

But the extent to which the B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the United Kingdom is unknown, as the Ohio Department of Health is testing random samples collected throughout the state to determine where the variants are spreading.

“We knew that that variant was most likely here, but now we have confirmation of that information,” Fischer said during a press conference at Lima City Hall on Wednesday.

Fischer said the best defense for the public is to continue wearing masks and washing hands frequently, and to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Allen County has resumed its mass vaccination clinics after a brief pause last week due to ongoing Centers for Disease Control (CDC) investigations into the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which Allen County Public Health had been using for its mass clinics at the former Knights of Columbus Hall.

The health department is now using the two-shot Moderna vaccine as an alternative while the Johnson & Johnson investigation continues. Allen County Public Health will also start accepting walk-ins during its mass vaccination clinics and is planning to partner with local businesses to host on-site immunizations, as the health department and other agencies try to make the process more convenient.

Virus variants continue to be a problem for Ohio, even as new infections have plateaued across the state and 4.4 million Ohioans have been vaccinated against the virus.

“The pandemic is quickly evolving into a tale of two groups of Ohioans,” said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, chief medical officer for the Ohio Department of Health.

Vaccinated Ohioans enjoy robust protection against the virus and are less likely to spread it to others, Vanderhoff said during a press conference Wednesday.

“Unvaccinated Ohioans simply lack the same protection against the virus,” he said, “which is now more contagious and able to put younger people at much greater risk, including the risk of ending up in the hospital. The new variants have evolved to stick more easily to ourselves, so it takes less of the virus—less exposure—to make a person sick.”

By Mackenzi Klemann

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