CHESTERTOWN — After 15 months Kent County is almost at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to William Webb, the county health officer.
“This is a presentation I have been waiting quite a long time to give. … We not only have light at the end of the tunnel, we are about at the end of the tunnel,” he said at Tuesday’s Kent County Commissioners meeting.
The COVID-19 metrics for the county continue to be down significantly since January of this year. As of last week, there were 18 active cases in the county with a 2.3% positivity rate and one reported death since the first week of May.
“The number of new cases is declining each week,” Webb said.
He attributes this change in fortune to the success of the COVID-19 vaccines. At least half of the county’s population has been fully vaccinated, with Kent ranking in the middle of all 24 jurisdictions in the state. That being said, the demand for vaccine is waning.
“Clearly with only 50% of the population fully vaccinated we still have a significant number of individuals who have chosen not to get vaccinated at this point. That is a question of vaccine hesitancy, that is an individual choice that our population is able to make, we have been actively working with outreach efforts ... in populations with lower-than-average vaccine (rates),” he said.
Webb said there are a lot of incentives for getting vaccinated, while others who choose not to get it “are rolling the dice with the disease.”
“The health department doesn’t encourage that approach,” Webb said. “If you don’t want to get vaccinated that’s your choice, but you live with the consequences.”
Due to the drop in demand, the health department is shifting its focus from the mass vaccination site at the Kent County Community Center in Worton to smaller mobile clinics and is accepting walk-in appointments.
By the end of June, the plan is to move all remaining vaccination clinics back to the health department.
“If anybody in Kent County wants to get vaccinated, and you’re eligible to get vaccinated we will make it happen for you. If needed we will make house calls, boat calls, or tractor calls,” he said. “Whatever the barrier is, we want to go out of our way to make sure you get protected.”
While the public health emergency is over, Webb said he does not see the COVID-19 virus going away and encouraged people to continue to wash their hands and wear a mask if they are unvaccinated, especially in public settings or around large groups of people.
“The quickest way to get rid of the mask is to get vaccinated,” he said.
County residents who need assistance gaining access to a vaccine, whether it be for transportation reasons, or they are homebound, should contact the health department at 410-778-1350.
In other business, there will be a public hearing on the proposed Fiscal Year 2022 budget on Tuesday, June 8 at 10 a.m. in the commissioners hearing room. Written comments are due by noon on June 7 and can be submitted in person, via email to email@example.com, or by letter to The County Commissioners of Kent County, 400 High St., Chestertown, MD 21620.
The commissioners approved two new hires in the Department of Public Works and one for the Local Management Board to fill current vacancies.