Mayor Terry Gardner hosted a press conference with Dr. Martha Whyte of the Region 7 Office of Public Health to inform citizens of the recent outbreak that has been reported in the city of Minden. The clusters seem to have originated from two unnamed churches in the city, along with reports that vaccinated individuals were getting the virus.
“In Minden over the last week we have seen a cluster of cases … most of them are based out of two churches, and about 35 to 40% of the people who are positive are unvaccinated, so that is concerning too,” said Dr. Whyte.
Dr. Whyte went about clarifying information regarding the outbreak, as well as continuing to support that people get vaccinated, as the vaccine can lead infected individuals to have a milder case of COVID and avoid hospitalization.
“It’s multifold why we should get vaccinated. The first is to protect ourselves. The chance of you getting sick is very low. If you do get sick it’s going to be a much lighter case for you,” said Dr. Whyte.
“Of course we can see exceptions, but by far most people will have a mild to minimal case. And very few people get hospitalized, and we really have not seen deaths in people who are vaccinated and get COVID. By far, 90% plus of people who get vaccinated, will not be hospitalized and will not end up dying from COVID.”
She also mentioned that a benefit of the community getting vaccinated as a whole is that there is a lower chance for outbreaks such as these, and also a lower chance for the virus to mutate and become something worse.
“The second reason we want to get vaccinated is to protect our community. The more of us that get vaccinated, the more the immunity level in the community rises. And the less likely we are to have this virus in our community … and grow and change into something that we don’t want it to be.”
A question that was asked was that of the specific strain of COVID. While it hasn’t been confirmed, Dr. Whyte stated that the doctors working on the outbreak say it’s acting a lot like the Delta variant that has sprung up in recent weeks.
“We feel that this is going to end up being the delta strain. We know we’re having a tremendous number of delta cases in Arkansas. We have had sporadic cases in our region, not just Minden. What the docs who are doing the test are telling me, they believe it’s the delta variant,” said Whyte.
“That’s a very contagious variant, we know that it spreads rapidly. Last week I was telling people the percentage of cases in Louisiana that were delta variants was about 30%, it’s not 60% just a week later.”
It was also asked whether or not the vaccinated individuals had all gotten a particular vaccine, to which Dr. Whyte responded, “It’s been all of them. We haven’t seen one predominant vaccine that was seeing breakthroughs over others.”
She also went on to clarify that the report that Minden was leading the state for the number of new cases. While it is not leading the state in a flat number of cases, the cluster that has originated in the city given out population is cause for concern.
“Minden is not leading the state in numbers. What’s concerning us is the numbers that we’re seeing all over the state, we’re not seeing a cluster like this,” said Dr. Whyte.
“It’s not just Minden, and I want to be very clear, I think what I said that may have been misconstrued is that on a national level, they are looking at Northwest Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma as areas of concern for the country for possible development of even new strains that could be worse than the Delta strain, because we have so few people vaccinated, and we do have limited procedures in place to protect ourselves,” said Dr. Whyte. “I think the city of Minden does have an increased risk right now. Is it leading the state, no, and we’re definitely not leading the country.”
Lastly, Dr. Whyte went over how citizens can proceed to live their daily lives while being cautious of the recent outbreak. For the unvaccinated, the rules are pretty much the same as they were throughout 2020. Practice social distancing, wash your hands, wear a mask when out in public, and try to avoid large gatherings.
For the individuals who are vaccinated Dr. Whyte provided some rules of thumb on when such individuals should continue to wear masks. “If you’re vaccinated and you are outside where you are distanced. No. If you are vaccinated and you are around people you know are vaccinated, I would say no. If they’re not feeling well, I would ask both them to put on a mask and put a mask on myself. If you’re in a group situation where you don’t know the vaccination status of the people around you, I would wear my mask,” said Dr. Whyte.
“We want to be proactive so we don’t give this virus a chance to grow and change and mutate and become not only more contagious but also more deadly. That’s our huge fear, is that it will do both, and we don’t want to see that.”