Johnson County Health Department Public Health Director Julie Bush said that Johnson County residents could "breathe a little easier," alongside healthcare workers and JCHD employees, as the effects of COVID-19 begin to lessen.

Bush said that approximately 39-percent of Johnson County residents had received their vaccination and that cases have dropped to some of the lowest levels seen since the pandemic began -- with recent weeks seeing as few as seven active cases in the county. The effects of social gatherings on Memorial Day weekend remain to be seen, Bush said, but that she was hopeful that, with current vaccination rates locally and the respect she's seen given to the CDC's guidelines in our community, cases would continue to drop or remain the same.

"We're very close and I know, we, and a lot of other businesses are as well, planning on how to reopen and how do we get back to some kind of normal ... and how do we reopen safely instead of just swinging the doors open and going all in," Bush said. "The weather's getting nice and people want to get outside, so we're planning a lot of outdoor events too, so that's good, and we're starting to meet more and some meetings are moving from Zoom to in-person but distanced or outside, and I'm glad. It's time."

The health department is now working on getting back to some of their other work, as the demand on their time has lessened greatly since the regulations have relaxed and cases, and the resultant need for contact tracing, have dropped. Bush said that the employees of the health department were breathing a collective sigh of relief and felt good about how they performed during the COVID-19 crisis.

"We're breathing a little easier, trying to get back to some of the work that we were doing pre-COVID, some of those other projects that we were working on," Bush said. "I'm just glad to be getting back to some kind of normal — it's been a bit of a challenge for health departments, we've all been pretty busy. We're the ones that you don't know that you need us until you need us. It's always been a more behind-the-scenes thing, and none of us wanted to be pushed into the spotlight, but there we were. It's been a challenge, so we're glad to get back to regularly scheduled programming, if you will."

As of presstime June 8, the JCHD's statistics showed nine active cases in the county, with 2,208 of 2,244 total cases recovered, and one currently hospitalized. The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed the lives of 27 Johnson county residents.

Bush said she wanted the community to continue to keep distance when out and about if not vaccinated, and to have events outside if possible — as well as encouraging the public to get a vaccination if they can, as there are more options available than those that have recently made headlines for causing blood clotting issues.

Vaccines are now available from many different providers, including pharmacies and Paul B. Hall Regional Medical Center, Bush said, and all residents aged 12 or more can receive a vaccine.

"You know, Johnson County has done really well overall, as far as following the guidance, we haven't seen a ton of cases here like you've seen in other places and we've been impacted, of course, and we've had several victims, but nothing like it could have been ... I think they've done a great job," Bush said.