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Stephenie Mellinger, administrator of the Madison County Health Department.

ANDERSON — The holidays can be a little happier this year for Madison County residents. COVID-19 deaths appear to be on the wane, according to recent data from Madison County Health Department. Data was not available for November.

In April of 2020, outbreaks in long-term care facilities were named as being partly responsible, said Stephenie Mellinger, administrator for Madison County Health Department.

“We had 48 COVID deaths. That was the really awful year. We had a lot of deaths at a long-term care facility,” she said.

Vaccine efforts began in January 2021, Mellinger said. But by that time, the two existing strains were declining, making room for a stronger strain, the Delta variant.

Delta struck Madison County near the end of 2021, Mellinger said. With it, deaths kept mounting into January 2022, with 64 deaths occurring that month.

Indiana averaged 14,100 cases per day by Jan. 23, according to the New York Times. The state had a seven-day average of 75 that same week.

Omicron made its way to Madison County in the spring of 2022. Omicron differs from Delta in that it doesn’t produce as severe symptoms, but is more contagious, Mellinger said.

Madison County Health Department received the new booster in late September. The booster contains added protections against Omicron.

Whether or not COVID is the exact cause of death depends on the person writing the death certificate, Mellinger said.

“Lots of our death records suggest comorbidities or have them listed. Some of them will say just COVID-19, Some of them say COVID-19 and then pneumonia, cancer or other co-morbidities,” he said. “It really depends upon the person writing the death record.”

Comorbidities such as cancer, diabetes (both types), heart disease and others can put someone at risk for a severe case of COVID-19, according to the CDC.

COVID’s impact will be felt by many this holiday season. COVID-19 has taken over a million lives in the U.S., according to data from the CDC.

Safety and festivity are not mutually exclusive. Mellinger’s tips for keeping one’s holiday safe and fun are to practice handwashing, stay home if sick, and cover a cough with an elbow.

All COVID vaccines and boosters are available free at the Madison County Health Department.

Follow Caleb Amick on Twitter @AmickCaleb. Contact him at caleb.amick@heraldbulletin.com or 765-648-4254.

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