2021, June 29, Tuesday
Terra Uhing is the Executive Director of Three Rivers Public Health Department. She talked with us today about Covid, the community at large, and Blair specifically. Beyond the interview you are about to read, there are two facts you should know:
- Although most major US databases show there are no new cases in Washington County since May 18, that is NOT true. To get the most current numbers, you need to go to the Three Rivers site. Do NOT rely on national numbers.
- The people at Three Rivers are working hard to help us. They are commited to help because they have families on the line just like all of us. Regardless of what they get “right” or “wrong,” they do a job that is both impossibly-difficult, and radically-underappreciated.
Now, for the interview…
BLAIR TODAY: I know the weekly updates ended. Is there a chance the weekly updates will begin again?
TERRA UHING: As of right now, I have no plans to bring them back. But, if we need to, we may do so.
BLAIR TODAY: What would you say to the “average person,” who wonders if things are “safe” now?
TERRA UHING: We’re in the middle of a pandemic. Everybody needs to understand Covid is not going away. We have to figure out, and learn, how to live with that, or what’s best for us. So, that gives everybody the opportunity to make those decisions for yourself based on your own health history, based on your family circumstances – who you’re around. I can’t make a “blanket statement,” and say, “Hey, yes, this is okay. We shouldn’t be worried.”
We are seeing some things right now that are pretty scary. In regards to these “Delta variants,” a lot of people think they don’t need to get vaccinated. And, if we don’t see un uptick with the vaccinations here it worries me about what we may see here in a couple weeks.Terra Uhing, Three Rivers Health
BLAIR TODAY: I want to be clear. Your opinion is this is a fluid situation, and there is not a pat answer as to whether “it’s safe” or not?
TERRA UHING: Exactly. It all depends. And, not knowing your history, your own medical history, who you live with, young folks in your house not vaccinated, if you have some people with immune-compromised systems. Or, if you have parents, or aunts and uncles or other family members that have underlying health conditions… This is still very, very serious to those people. Things change for us every single day. What I tell you today at 11 AM might very well be different by 4:30 this afternoon. I wish we could say, “Yes, it’s over.” I know lots of people wish this Covid would go away – they’re done dealing with Covid. But, unfortunately, it’s still very much here. And, I think there’s even more of it in our community than what we understand just because there’s not a lot of testing going on right now.
BLAIR TODAY: Three Rivers was instrumental in keeping things calm over the last year – one of the leading health departments in the country. What have you learned over the last year that will guide the next phase of this?
TERRA UHING: We learned – and, I think we are fairly good at being able to mobilize quickly – get information out there to the communities we serve. Not try to cause fear. But, really give people a good transparent understanding of where we are. So, I think we learned nothing is ever the same – we can say something right now, and it can be different in 15 minutes. And, we have to be able to be ready to mobilize, provide good factual information, but more importantly provide services to the communities that we serve. The other thing I want to really make sure is that your hospital there in Blair – Memorial Community Hospital and Health System – were absolutely instrumental. We could not have done what we did without them. We set up “Test Nebraska” all over the state. They were actually the first hospital or health system in the state where we piloted “Test Nebraska” at. That’s why I think we so fortunate within our health jurisdiction – we had every single one of our hospitals that were the best partners ever. They provided testing when we needed them to provide it. And, they also did a ton of community clinics. And, then obviously taking care of the sick patients that came through their Emergency Rooms and clinics. So, I want to make sure we point that out to you because our hospitals are heroes.
BLAIR TODAY: The “Delta variant” is all over the news. Is there any specific guidance you have for people in Blair?
TERRA UHING: We do have the Delta variant here within the health district. It’s confirmed in Saunders county. We’re learning every single day. And, unfortunately we’re tied to other health districts that have large events. It’s ever-changing. We’re trying to do our very, very best with our case investigations to understand those connections and epilinks, and what’s happening in our communities – that’s what able to help us strive and understand, really, what this looks like and we need to be doing. So… Delta variant – we’re worried about it. We’re trying to learn more. And, as we get more of this variant testing in and we’re getting the sequence-testing done, that’s how we’re going to continue to learn more.
BLAIR TODAY: Is there anything I’ve not asked that you want the public in Blair to know?
TERRA UHING: We have a brand new website. It was just put up in the last couple weeks. There’s an interactive data dashboard where I think there’s lots of really, really good information. And, I want to caution people – we all want to be done with Covid. We’re sick of talking about Covid. But, just please, if you can get vaccinated, we want you to get that if you’re so-inclined. Because that’s the only way this will help us get through this even quicker. And, more importantly, know where you are going, and know what your risk levels are, and what’s the best decision for you and your family.