Delta variant becomes dominant COVID-19 strain
On Tuesday, Dr. Sarah Moyer, Louisville’s Chief Health Strategist joined by Dr. SarahBeth Hartlage, Associate Medical Director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, announced that COVID-19 cases have doubled in the last week, as the Delta variant has now become the dominant strain of the coronavirus in Jefferson County.
Dr. Moyer stated that, “With less than half the city’s population fully vaccinated, Louisville remains in a pandemic with a virus that is twice as contagious as it was last summer.”
Contact tracing efforts have and continue to illustrate that residents are back to near pre-pandemic activities; with positive cases and their close contacts reported, occurring at work, birthdays, weddings, and other public places. Of these cases, almost all are among individuals who are unvaccinated.
Here are the key COVID-19 data metrics for July 19, 2021:
- Louisville remains in the yellow alert level but due to increasing cases Dr. Moyer expects the city to be in the orange alert level by next week
- There were 414 new cases over the previous two weeks, 2 new deaths were reported
- Cases increased mostly in the 0-19 and 20-44 age groups
- Hospitalization data:
- 43 patients currently hospitalized have COVID-19
- 13 patients in ICU with COVID-19
- 7 COVID-19 patients on ventilators
- All who are hospitalized are unvaccinated
- 851,463 total vaccine doses given in Metro Louisville since December
- 55.5% of Louisville residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 47.2% have completed the vaccine series
Dr. Moyer noted that across the U.S., the surge of infections is occurring in hotspots/states where vaccination rates are low such as Missouri, Arkansas, Nevada and Mississippi-placing strains on local healthcare systems.
With less than half the city’s population fully vaccinated, Dr. Moyer said, “Louisville is on the verge of seeing those same results. If we don’t see vaccination rates improve, we run the risk of seeing those same trends in Louisville in the next month.”
Public Health Guidance for Schools and Parents
In three weeks, public and private schools in Louisville will begin the 2021-22 school year with in-person learning. With students under the age of 12 not being eligible for vaccination, and current high levels of community transmission in camps and sports activities, Dr. Beverly Gaines, President and CEO of Beverly M. Gaines & Associates, expanded recommendations in light of the return to in-class instruction during the pandemic, and what she hears from patients regarding vaccinations ahead of the start of the new school year.
Current CDC guidance for COVID-19 prevention in K-12 Schools state that masks should be worn indoors by all individuals age 2 and older who are not fully vaccinated.
“Mask wearing is very effective at preventing transmission of not just the coronavirus, but other respiratory infections as well. When the mask mandate was in place, we saw a significant drop in childhood respiratory illnesses such as RSV and the flu. Masks, good handwashing, social distancing – all the layers of prevention help protect children from the virus,” said Dr. Gaines.
Dr. Gaines also noted that while parents were more hesitant in getting the vaccine, her office has seen a robust increase in response to the Pfizer vaccine being approved for children ages 12 and up-a reassuring trend the she hopes continues. Dr. Gaines reiterated how higher institutions of learning, such as Simmons College of Kentucky, are requiring its students and staff to be fully vaccinated before arriving on campus, and she would like to see more schools follow suit because of the concerns around a potential surge in cases in the fall.
“I hope we see more requirements of vaccines at schools and in daycares,” Dr. Gaines said. “Not just with employees, but with the children, because we see the incidence of cases happening in younger people leading to more hospitalizations. As schools move back to being in session, another surge in cases can be expected.”
Per Dr. Hartlage, currently the health department has identified several clusters of infections throughout the community at childcare centers and a youth sports tournament where many of the cases were in children.
While vaccination is a choice, it is one that kids under 12 do not have the luxury of making. With approximately 112,000 kids under 12-years-old in Jefferson County, we are counting on the adults to help keep them safe from this potentially deadly virus.
Across Louisville, hundreds of thousands of people have been safely vaccinated – as well as millions of other Americans across the country -- clearly demonstrating they are safe. As a result, Dr. Hartlage encourages residents to get vaccinated if they haven’t, as fully vaccinated individuals will be protected from the severe illness, hospitalization and death that is caused by contracting the virus.
“Please get vaccinated today. Getting covid-19 is preventable. No one has to suffer severe illness, long lasting health effects, or death. We have 3 vaccines that work.” said Dr. Hartlage.
Individuals who need assistance scheduling a vaccine appointment or finding a vaccine clinic can call the LOU Health Helpline at 502-912-8598 or visit vaccines.gov to find providers near them. They can also text their zip code to GETVAX (438829) for English or VACUNA (822862) for Spanish to receive an address of nearby vaccination centers.
The Department of Public Health and Wellness is working with several community partners to offer pop-up vaccination clinics. A full list can be found at www.louisvilleky.gov/vaccines.
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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.