Southern Seven Health Department invites anyone who lives in the Southern Seven counties to take a quick, online survey to gauge interest in the COVID-19 vaccine throughout the Southern Seven region.

The anonymous survey has seven questions and takes less than one minute to complete. A link to the online COVID-19 Vaccine Acceptance survey has been posted on Southern Seven’s Facebook page and on its website at www.southern7.org The survey can also be visited directly at www.surveymonkey.com/r/WP5LDX6

“This is just one of many outreach tools we’re launching at the Southern Seven Health Department to help us understand how many folks would like to roll up their sleeves and get the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Nathan Ryder, outreach coordinator for Southern Seven’s Contact Tracing program. “The COVID vaccine probably won’t be available to the general public until spring or early summer, but we want to do our homework early. This helps us with the planning process to deploy vaccines more broadly throughout the region in 2021.”

The survey will be available for the next month.

The first shipment of 160 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine was received by Southern Seven staff on Wednesday. Dec. 16, and transported to Union County Hospital in Anna. Frontline healthcare workers at that facility started to receive their first COVID-19 vaccinations on Thursday, Dec. 17. Frontline healthcare workers are considered to be paid or unpaid employees who serve in healthcare settings and have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials.

“The arrival of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is an important step in the fight against this pandemic in the Southern Seven region,” said Teresa Wilburn, director of nursing for Southern Seven. “I’m proud to have been a small part of the process in the delivery to one of our hardest hit counties. Frontline workers will be some of the first people to receive the vaccine, and I’m looking forward to the months ahead when it could be available for everyone in our communities.”

Based on current guidance from Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), Southern Seven expects to receive a weekly shipment of vaccine. These vaccines will be distributed throughout the seven counties — Alexander, Hardin, Johnson, Massac, Pope, Pulaski and Union — based on guidance from IDPH and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).

Currently, COVID-19 vaccinations are being provided to frontline healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities under Phase 1A of the CDC’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program. Phase 1 is characterized by having access to a limited amount of COVID-19 vaccine.

“We’re beginning to get phone calls from people who are very interested in getting the COVID-19 vaccine, and they’re wondering when it will be their turn,” Ryder said. “We ask that people stay patient. Once COVID-19 vaccine supplies stabilize and become more readily available, we’ll have a better idea of when each group under the CDC’s Vaccination Program might be able to pull up their sleeves to get vaccinated.

“Right now, it looks like the general public will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine in late spring or early summer,” he continued. “Until there is a broader rollout of COVID-19 vaccines throughout the nation, it’s important for everyone to continue following those tried and true guidelines for slowing the spread of this disease: mask up, keep your social distance, and wash or sanitize your hands frequently.”

For questions regarding COVID-19, contact Southern Seven at 618-634-2297, on Facebook or at www.southern7.org.

Southern Seven surpasses 1000 free COVID-19 tests

Southern Seven reports that 162 free COVID-19 tests were completed at the drive-thru, mobile COVID-19 testing event on Saturday at the Massac County clinic location.

“So far, this is the largest turnout Southern Seven has seen at the free testing events,” said Shawnna Rhine, Southern Seven’s community outreach coordinator/public information officer.

Following Saturday’s testing, Southern Seven has conducted 1,063 free COVID-19 tests in its region since mobile testing began in September.

Saturday’s Massac County event was the 13th drive-thru test Southern Seven has hosted in partnership with IDPH. This event followed previous mobile testing in the region and events have been held in each of the seven counties Southern Seven serves.

IDPH and HR Support conducted the free tests. The nasal swab test yields results in as little as three days. Anyone needing a COVID-19 test, even those without symptoms, can be tested without an appointment or doctor’s referral.

“As the virus continues to sweep across the region, Southern Seven encourages all residents, or anyone who thinks they may be at risk for contracting this disease, to get tested regardless of symptoms, especially if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive,” Ryder said. “It is through testing that the health department can effectively track this disease and prevent its spread to our most vulnerable populations. The health department continues to see community transmission of COVID-19 at social events and gatherings at alarming rates.”

For more more information about the COVID-19 Mobile Testing Unit or for questions regarding COVID-19, contact Southern Seven at 618-634-2297 or visit them on Facebook.

Massac County records six additional COVID deaths

Since the last edition of the Metropolis Planet, six more deaths in Massac County are confirmed as the result of COVID-19, the Southern Seven Health Department announced Tuesday.

Reported Dec. 16-22 are: one female in her 60s; two females in their 80s; one male in his 80s; one female in her 90s; and one female in her 100s. No other information will be released on the death, due to issues of privacy related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, according to Shawnna Rhine, Southern Seven’s community outreach coordinator.

Through Tuesday, Southern Seven confirmed 21 deaths due COVID-19 in Massac County.

The county had 10 new cases on Tuesday — one in their 20s; two in their 30s; one in their 40s; four in their 50s; and two in their 60s. Massac County now has 819 total cases, 435 of which are recovered and 363 are active.

Southern Seven reports 65 deaths in the region — Alexander, Hardin, Johnson, Massac, Pope, Pulaski and Union counties — since the start of the pandemic. There have been 4465 cumulative total cases in the region.

As of Tuesday, according to the IDPH, there were 6239 new individuals with COVID-19 identified in the state, bringing the confirmed total to 911,308 individuals with 15,414 deaths.

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