City addressing inequities in COVID-19 vaccinations

February 09, 2021

On Tuesday, T Gonzales, Director of the Center for Health Equity joined Mayor Fischer in a discussion on the impact of COVID-19 on Louisville’s minority communities and strategies to ensure the equitable distribution of the vaccine.

Gonzales said major contributors to health disparities are low-level access to the internet and transportation outlets, and understandable distrust in government by Black and brown populations.

“Many of these individuals have difficulty getting to healthcare facilities due to the lack of reliable transportation,” Gonzales said. “Some of our Black and Latinx residents may not have access to a trusted healthcare provider, which causes constraints on getting accurate information when it comes to public health.”

Gonzales noted that the same barriers to quality healthcare are the same that cause disparities to vaccine distribution.

Gonzales said that the proportion of white individuals vaccinated, 81 percent, is higher than the percent of the population at 71 percent. Compared to the city’s Black population that comprises 22 percent of Louisville’s population with only 11 percent vaccinated. In addition, individuals who identified as multi-racial make up 2 percent of Louisville’s population, but data shows that 6 percent of that population has been vaccinated.

Jefferson County is the largest county in Kentucky and many individuals that fall into the tier 1A and 1B groups as healthcare workers, first responders and educators commute to work in Louisville. This contributes to the discrepancy in vaccination rates and population size.

Mayor Fischer echoed his concerns on the health inequities with COVID-19. “Since the beginning of this crisis, we’ve seen nationally how our Black and brown communities have suffered disproportionately in terms of new cases and deaths,” he said.

Speaking further, the Mayor said that the city continues to work with community partners to address these issues through testing outreach in high-risk areas and efforts in providing updated, accurate information through trusted community leaders and influencers.

 

New Covid Variant

Dr. Sarah Moyer, Louisville’s Chief Health Strategist, announced that Jefferson County reported its first case of the COVID variant B.1.1.7. The variant strain B.1.1.7 was first identified in the United Kingdom in last fall. 

Dr. Moyer said that studies are still ongoing on the B.1.1.7. variant, but health officials understand that this mutation spreads faster and is more contagious. She urged people to continue the safety mitigations and recommended getting tested weekly as it helps protect your family, the workplace and the community.

"We can't let our guard down," Dr. Moyer said. The mask-wearing and social distancing are working and still as important as it was at the beginning of the pandemic."

Here are the key COVID-19 data metrics for the week of February 9, 2021:

  • There were 2,202 new cases over the previous week.
  • Hospitalization data:
    • 16.3% of patients currently hospitalized have COVID-19.
    • 74 patients in ICU with COVID-19 as of February 9, a decrease from 102 the week prior.
    • 49 COVID-19 patients on ventilators as of February 9, compared to 74 last week.
  • COVID-19 cases are in every ZIP code
  • The age 20-44 demographic accounts for the majority of cases at 42%
  • 18,000 first doses of vaccine given last week in Louisville, 117,745 total doses given since December
  • 10% of Louisville residents have received at least one dose of vaccine
  • With high-level community spread, interactions with individuals outside the household put residents at a greater risk of bringing an infection home. Once a member of the household is infected, it is likely to spread to others.

Observation of COVID-19 in patients and vaccine effectiveness

During Tuesday’s COVID-19 update, Dr. Valerie Briones-Pryor, an internal medicine physician at the University of Louisville Hospital, addressed questions and common misconceptions related to the virus and the vaccine.

Dr. Briones-Pryor said that the body develops antibodies when building natural immunity to a virus or infection. While this is true for COVID-19, Dr. Briones-Pryor stated that the problem with COVID-19 is that health experts are not sure how long the antibodies that develop from the infection last.

“Just a few studies say that when you get COVID naturally you probably will develop some protection for about three months,” Dr. Briones-Pryor said. “As we get further into this pandemic and we sit at eleven months in, we are starting to see some reinfection. Just because you’ve gotten COVID in the past, doesn’t mean you can’t get COVID again.”

Additionally, Dr. Briones-Pryor said protection from the vaccine doesn’t equate to immunity from ever contracting COVID-19. Instead, she said the vaccine stimulates the immune system to recognize the virus so that people can fight it with their own antibodies, avoid severe illness and complications due to the virus.

“This is what the vaccine does,” Dr. Briones-Pryor said. “That is why social distancing, mask-wearing and washing hands is very important, especially since everyone in our community isn’t vaccinated yet. You can still catch COVID and carry it with you. I don’t want to see you in the hospital, and we don’t want it to cause all of the bad things that we’ve seen.

First Responder Data 

Currently, 59 members of LMPD, Louisville Fire, Metro EMS, Metro Corrections and the Sheriff’s Office are off-duty due to COVID-19:

  • 38 are off with positive tests and in self-isolation
  • 17 are off and quarantined due to exposure to someone who tested positive
  • 4 are off with symptoms, pending test results

 

Positive test numbers for first responders/public safety since the incident began:

  • 537 positive tests
  • 496 have fully recovered and returned to duty

 

Metro Corrections inmate data:

Total Tested: 5,840

Total Positive: 389

Total Recovered: 358

Total currently under medical isolation: 31

Total tests pending: 0

# # #

To view the entire COVID-19 weekly update with Public Health officials click hereThe city’s COVID-19 data dashboard, a complete list of COVID-19 testing sites, information on symptoms, prevention and contact tracing can be found at www.louisville.gov/covid19. The LOU HEALTH COVID19 Helpline is also available: 502- 912-8598.

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