2020 required ‘all hands on deck’ approach
By Kaitlyn Clay, Staff Writer, [email protected]
Carrie Herthel, administrator of the Harrison County Health Dept., approached the commissioners at their meeting Monday morning to go over the 2020 annual report for the department.
“This was truly an all-hands-on-deck approach from every single member of each department this year,” Herthel shared. “The pandemic has put a spotlight on public health like never before, and the department served as the core resource for our community through hard work, compassion and transparency.”
According to the report, there were 2,693 cases of COVID-19 in Harrison County in 2020, with 37 deaths as a result of the illness. Nearly 16,000 tests were distributed within the year between two testing facilities.
About $206,000 was allocated from county riverboat dollars to go toward COVID funding, which provided numerous office supplies, personal protection equipment, contractual services, overtime and more for the health department. Herthel told the commissioners she had submitted this amount to the federal emergency management agency for potential reimbursements and expects to hear back soon about the matter.
Another area Herthel reported on was the health department’s environmental division, which is responsible for providing oversight for all private septic systems, monitoring trash sites and investigating mold, lead and other health hazards.
The county has seen an increase through the years in environmental complaints, which require inspections from the department. In 2018, there were 139 complaints. The number rose to 214 in 2019, and in 2020 there were 264 complaints.
The environmental division had also seen an increase in septic site inspections. Because of the increase in demand for this department, the Harrison County Council allocated funds in its budget for 2022 to fund another environmental specialist position to help with the increase in duties.
The Maternal and Child Health division provides prenatal care and women’s health services to under-insured or uninsured women in the area. In 2020, the division saw a total of 2,266 clients, down from 2,668 clients in 2019.
The total number of women with abnormal PAP tests increased slightly to 14%, but is still lower than the high of 24% in 2014.
Herthel said that HIV tests continued to be negative for all clinic prenatal clients in 2020. Also, no additional Hepatitis C cases were identified in 2020, a decrease from the two positive in 2019.
During the report, Herthel shared that positive cases of gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted infection, nearly doubled, from 16 positive cases in 2019 to 30 in 2020.
Another area the health department oversees is vital records, with the health department registering each birth and death within the county. In 2020, there were 369 total births in Harrison County, a decrease from 399 in 2019. Of those 369 births, 195 were females and 174 were males.
Of the total 383 deaths that were recorded in the county for 2020, 195 were males and 188 were females. This was the highest number of deaths in a year in the decade, with 2019 having the second highest with 333.
Of the physician cases, the highest causes of death were cancer, cardiac-related deaths, dementia and COVID. Of the coroner cases, the causes of death were mostly due to accidents, suicide and cardiac-related causes.
The highest count of a specific cancer type was lung, with 16 cases, followed by pancreatic and breast.
Thirteen drug overdose deaths occurred in Harrison County last year, most of which were due in part to using methamphetamine, fentanyl, cocaine or other drugs.
The commissioners thanked Herthel and her team at the health department for compiling this information for the public.