SAGINAW, MI – After testing positive for COVID-19 despite receiving a vaccine, a member of Saginaw city council said he hoped to serve as an example to deter an increasingly lax public during the pandemic .
“We have to start putting on our damn masks when we’re around a lot of people,” said City Councilor Bill Ostash, who believes he contracted the virus last week while socializing in public without a face mask.
âAnd people have to continue to sanitize their hands when they leave their homes. Now is not the time to let our guard down. “
Ostash said he plans to make this advocacy to his constituents when he virtually attends the Saginaw City Council in-person meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, July 26 at City Hall, 1315 S. Washington. Ostash will join the rally via a video feed played on council chamber televisions.
“I am concerned for the well-being of people,” he said as he was in quarantine from his home.
âIf I had caught this virus and hadn’t been vaccinated, I don’t know what would have happened to me. If I had caught this virus and didn’t know how to get tested, I could have passed it on to others who weren’t vaccinated – maybe even at Monday’s meeting. “
Ostash was absent from a July 12 council meeting because he had traveled with her husband and a group of friends to Provincetown, Massachusetts. Vaccinated in April, the city councilor said he hoped to enjoy a vacation – his first since before the pandemic – as months-long health and safety guidelines were lifted across the country. Feeling comfortable in the Provincetown environment, Ostash said he likely contracted the virus there when he “lifted his guard” while socializing in a group without his face mask.
âPeople everywhere stopped wearing their masks and became too relaxed in public, and I was one of them,â Ostash said. âIt’s an extra layer of protection that we need to keep practicing. “
Public health experts say vaccines are remarkably effective against COVID-19, reducing the rate of transmission and alleviating symptoms that have been shown to be fatal for hundreds of thousands of unvaccinated people across the United States in 2020, before the vaccine is widely available.
Still, healthcare professionals say there remains the possibility that those vaccinated could contract the virus. In many cases, these people have no symptoms, creating scenarios in which they may unknowingly spread the virus to unvaccinated people who are most vulnerable to severe symptoms.
In Saginaw, “the vast majority” of recent virus-related deaths involved unvaccinated people, said Dr Delicia Pruitt, medical director of the Saginaw County Health Department.
“It’s the unvaccinated people who are sickest and dying in hospitals right now,” Pruitt said. “Sometimes there will be someone who is vaccinated who needs to be hospitalized, but this is rarer.”
Towards the end of Ostash’s holiday week on the east coast, word began to spread about an outbreak in Provincetown following the July 4th festivities. As a result, public health officials have advised people to resume wearing masks indoors, including those who have been vaccinated.
Knowing he may have been on display in Provincetown, Ostash requested a test when he returned home on Sunday, July 18. Showing no symptoms at the time, the city councilor said the move was largely out of caution. He had planned to attend the Old Saginaw City Lawnchair Film Festival in Saginaw that evening.
But movie night never happened. The morning test showed he was a carrier of the virus. When Ostash returned to Saginaw that afternoon, he confirmed the diagnosis with two more tests.
As of Monday morning, symptoms began to appear, he said.
âI woke up and at first my nose was running,â Ostash said. “Half the day went by, then I started to have a fever.”
The city councilor said the strangest symptom was the congestion he felt.
âIt was a different kind of pressure I felt on my chest than when I had a cold,â he said. âThat’s what worried me the most: the congestion. Because I knew if it turned into a respiratory problem, maybe I should go to the hospital.
Ostash said he also suffered from a sore throat and fever, and lost his sense of smell and taste.
âWhen I eat, I can smell the vinegars in my mouth, but I can’t taste them,â he said. “When I sniff a scented candle, it’s like sniffing unscented wax.”
Ostash said the severity of symptoms decreased over the week, although they continue to come back in waves now, albeit less severely.
The city councilor said he plans to stay home in isolation until at least Friday, July 30, although that time frame may lengthen if his symptoms persist.
95 out of 100
Pruitt said the Ostash situation is not as rare as some may believe.
“We know that vaccines in some cases are 95% effective,” she said. âSo if you’re exposed 100 times to a group of people where someone is positive for the virus, you can get the virus five times. No vaccine is 100% effective.
Still, said Pruitt, global data shows the vaccine decreases the severity of symptoms for those who test positive after being injected into the arm.
âWe have had groundbreaking cases in Saginaw, people who get sick even though they are vaccinated, but normally these are the mildest cases,â she said.
As for Ostash’s message to keep people wearing masks in public: Pruitt said she approved of this move for people who want that extra layer of protection.
âIf you feel uncomfortable you should wear a mask,â she said. âThis is something that a lot of people forget: you can wear a face mask at any time. “
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