COVID-19 cases decline for second week, but “red” alert status remains
Experts share guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID in the workplace
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (September 14, 2021) – Mayor Greg Fischer and Dr. Sarah Moyer, Chief Health Strategist for the city, today were joined by Nick Hart, assistant director of Environmental Health at the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health & Wellness, and Robyn Smith, an attorney specializing in employment law, to provide an update on COVID-19 in the community. The panel discussed requirements and standards for worksites to protect employees from the virus.
Louisville Still in Red Alert Level
“It’s encouraging that we’ve seen a decline of positive cases for the second straight week,” said Dr. Moyer. “But we are still in a red-alert level because the Delta variant continues to spread across our community and cause severe illness, particularly in people who are unvaccinated.”
“Downward is a great trend, but it wasn’t all good news,” Moyer said. “Our positivity rate went back up last week to 13.15%, which means there are more cases out there than we know about. Practicing all the layers of prevention – masking, spacing, good ventilation, staying home when sick, and especially more people being vaccinated, is the way for us all to reduce our risk of getting COVID. And if you need help finding a place to get a vaccine, the most powerful prevention tool we have, or help making an appointment or a ride to that appointment, please call our Lou Health Helpline at 502-912-8598.”
Here are the key COVID-19 data metrics for September 14, 2021:
- Louisville remains in the red alert level with a daily incidence rate of 54.6 cases per 100,000.
- There were 2,933 new cases over the previous week.
- There were 18 additional deaths over the previous week in individuals ranging in age from 33 to 89.
- Individuals 20 -44 are experiencing the highest number of cases followed by those who are 0-19.
- Hospitalization data:
- 363 patients currently hospitalized have COVID-19.
- 105 patients in ICU with COVID-19.
- 73 COVID-19 patients on ventilators.
- 62.4% of Louisville residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
- 54% have completed the vaccine series.
Dr. Moyer also noted that COVID vaccines are not only the best layer of protection against the virus, but they are also cost-effective. While the vaccines are free to everyone, Medicare reimburses healthcare providers up to $150 to fully vaccinate an individual. However, the average cost to hospitalize someone with COVID-19 is almost $22,000 and it increases to almost $50,000 if a person requires a ventilator.
“COVID vaccines protect you. They almost always prevent you from going to the hospital with severe illness, but they’re also much more cost-effective,” she said.
“We know vaccines are safe. Vaccines work. And they are the way for us to get back to doing all the things we love,” said Mayor Fischer.
Flu Shots Encouraged
Dr. Moyer also encouraged everyone 6 months and older to get flu shots as soon as possible. While flu season was almost nonexistent last year due to the many mandates and restrictions that kept mobility in the community to a much lower level than previous years, Dr. Moyer said she’s worried flu could reach a severe level this year in the absence of those restrictions.
“Flu and COVID are diseases that are hard on our respiratory systems,” she said. “And our hospitals are already experiencing great stress and strain due to the high number of people hospitalized due to COVID. Let’s all do our best to stay out of the hospital and urgent care centers because we’re sick with flu. Just like we can implement many layers to prevent COVID, those same layers can prevent us from flu. So please layer up and schedule your appointment today for your flu shot.”
COVID Enforcement for Workplaces
Nick Hart said the Department of Public Health and Wellness continues to get complaints against businesses alleging unsafe practices and procedures to protect employees and patrons from COVID. Complaints usually fall into two categories: employees complaining their employer is requiring them to come back to work even when they’ve tested positive for COVID and have not completed their isolation period or employees complaining that employers are allowing positive employees to work therefore exposing others to COVID.
Hart said in the absence of state-mandated restrictions, the department uses complaints as an opportunity to meet with business leaders and review best practices to promote safer operations and limit the spread of COVID. He added that the department is available to offer consultations to businesses and encouraged businesses to reach out to the LOU Health COVID Helpline at 502-912-8598.
Attorney Robyn Smith offered some insights on President Biden’s recent announcement requiring the U.S. Labor Department to require all businesses with over 100 employees to mandate vaccinations or require weekly testing for employees who choose not to be vaccinated.
“While we are waiting for the federal government to announce when this will be rolled out, I do think businesses that are wise, especially those with 100 or more employees, will get out ahead of it and will be communicating with employees, requiring regular testing as well as collecting documentation for employees who are vaccinated,” Smith said. “The main goal will be to balance the public need for safety against what is reasonable for businesses to implement.”
Smith stated that either federal or state Occupational Safety and Health offices can receive complaints and enforce rules related to COVID workplace safety. OSHA provides guidance to help employers and workers identify exposure risks to workers who are unvaccinated or otherwise at risk, even if they are fully vaccinated.
“You have to supply your employees with safe workplaces and that’s part of what you accept as employing Kentuckians,” she said. “Employees can complain if they feel their workplace isn’t safe. OSHA inspectors will investigate and take corrective measures.”
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View this week’s COVID-19 briefing with public health officials here.
The city’s COVID-19 data dashboard, a complete list of COVID-19 testing sites, vaccine information, prevention and contact tracing can be found at www.louisville.gov/covid19. The LOU HEALTH COVID19 Helpline is also available: 502-912-8598.