Delta variant spreads in the county

The Best Times Digital Edition

August 19, 2021

By Jennifer Dunlay

The Delta coronavirus variant is throwing a wrench in plans to ditch the masks and return to pre-pandemic life. 

Between July 1 and Aug. 6, positive cases of COVID-19 increased by nearly 800% in Johnson County due to the spread of the Delta variant. This jump in cases caused Johnson County health officials to strongly recommend masking in indoor public areas in early August. 

To keep schools open in a safe manner, a mask mandate order was enacted by the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners. The mask mandate is in effect until May 31, 2022, unless amended or revoked. Although the threat exists for children to become very sick with COVID-19, adults who are unvaccinated or immunocompromised are at highest risk for a severe health outcome from this virus variant.

Even with these additional protection measures in place, Dr. Sanmi Areola, director of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, says the best way to protect yourself and those you care about from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. 

“We have three highly effective and safe COVID-19 vaccines that will prevent you from becoming seriously ill and ending up in the hospital or even dying. Everyone over age 12 should get vaccinated so we can protect those who cannot – children under age 12 and those who are unable to get vaccinated for medical or religious reasons,” he said.

Although a small number of breakthrough cases have been reported to the health department, 0.4% of those vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and 0.1% of those vaccinated with Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, nearly all of the recent infections, hospitalizations and deaths comes from those unvaccinated. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) a very small percentage of fully vaccinated people can become infected with COVID-19 and spread it to others which is why health officials are now asking every one to wear a mask in public indoor places whether they are vaccinated or not. Those who do experience a breakthrough case tend to have no symptoms or mild symptoms and rarely require hospitalization. 

Areola says it’s especially important that transplant patients, those with chronic illnesses like heart disease or diabetes, or anyone undergoing treatment for cancer or taking immunosuppressants should continue to take the same pandemic precautions they did before they were vaccinated – wearing a mask, avoiding crowded indoor places, keeping distance from those you don’t live with and frequent handwashing. 

He advises that gathering outdoors is a safer alternative and encourages everyone to wear a mask if you can’t keep distance from people you don’t live with whether you are 
vaccinated or not. When planning a visit to a long-term care facility, Areola says it’s a good idea to call ahead and ask about their visitation policy as it may have changed recently.

As flu season approaches, the health department continues to recommend everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu vaccine when it becomes available this fall. Those over age 65 can get a high-dose flu shot and a vaccine to prevent pneumonia. 

Like the COVID-19 vaccine, the flu shot protects you from getting infected with influenza or reduce the severity of flu symptoms if you do become infected. The health department will be offering both the regular and high dose flu shots this fall at its Olathe walk-in immunization clinic.

Visit or call 913-715-2819 for more information about how to get a COVID-19 vaccination in Johnson County. You can also text your zip code to 438829, visit or call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 888-720-7489) to find a vaccine provider anywhere in the United States.

Jennifer Dunlay is risk communicator at the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.