Doctors estimate 1 in 15 people have COVID-19 infection in Jefferson County

January 11, 2022

Dr. Sarah Moyer, director of the Louisville Department of Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW), was joined by Dr. SarahBeth Hartlage, the department’s associate medical director, and Dr. Mark Burns, an infectious disease specialist at UofL Health, to provide an update on COVID-19 as the omicron variant continues to spread at an alarming rate, leading to another week of record-breaking case numbers.

“It’s clear from our wastewater data that COVID is everywhere. We are seeing levels 10 times higher than at the peak of the delta wave in August,” Dr. Moyer said. “We know from the wastewater as well that omicron has virtually replaced delta and is now the main variant in our community sewage samples.”

Dr. Moyer said wastewater data in the following communities are showing extremely high levels of COVID-19 infection and is urging residents in those neighborhoods to get tested.

  • Shawnee
  • Fern Creek/Cedar Creek
  • Newberg/Heritage Creek
  • Fairdale

“When you look at the areas of the city with the lowest vaccination rates, they also have some of the highest wastewater levels of COVID and the highest number of infected people today,” Dr. Moyer said. “In those communities, we are concerned that there’s probably twice as many people positive.”

Doctors with LMPHW said numbers currently show 3% of the city’s population is infected with COVID-19.

“Doubling that means 6%, or six out of every 100 people in a room would test positive. That’s one of every 15 people that you see is positive for COVID,” she said.

Here are the key COVID-19 data metrics for Jan. 11, 2022:

  • Louisville remains in the alert level red with an incidence rate of 303.5 cases per 100,000 population.
  • There were 16,287 new cases over the previous week.
  • There were 26 newly reported deaths.

Hospitalization data:

  • 413 patients currently hospitalized
  • 77 patients in ICU
  • 42 patients on ventilators

Vaccines:

  • 73.1% of Louisville residents have received at least one dose of vaccine
  • 62.9% have completed the vaccine series
  • 40.1% have received a booster dose

“If there is a silver lining to having this many cases in the community it is that it has perhaps spurred some folks, who were on the fence, into getting vaccinated or getting their booster shot,” Dr. Hartlage said. “We are seeing a slight uptrend in the number of folks going out and getting vaccinated right now.”

COVID-19 causes a strain on hospital systems

The number of people being hospitalized with COVID-19 continues to grow. In just seven days, 90 more people have been admitted to the hospital with COVID-19. This month’s record high of hospitalizations of 413 patients, surpasses the previous record of 399 COVID-19 patients in December 2020.

Dr. Hartlage said even though the omicron variant of COVID-19 may present a milder infection for some people, those who are unvaccinated, immunocompromised or people who do not know they are at high-risk could still become severely infected with the virus.

“With the number of cases that we have being so high, even if a very small percentage of that number requires hospitalization, that’s going to place a significant strain on our already overburdened health care system,” she said.

Dr. Burns, at UofL Health, has been seeing COVID-19 patients throughout the entire pandemic.

“The biggest problem is the people who are still anti-vax. They are still representing the largest amount of our population in the hospitals that I cover, as far as people who are admitted and people who are also in critical care units and on ventilators,” he said. “The message, of course, is still if you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated. If you’re eligible for a booster, get your booster.”

COVID-19 Testing

A new public testing site, operated by Bluewater Dx Lab, opened Monday in the orange lot at Churchill Downs. During the first day, more than 1,200 people were tested at the location. The site is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Pre-registration is required.

Dr. Hartlage said while PCR tests are the gold standard, antigen tests can provide rapid results. However, she said do not completely trust you are negative for COVID-19 with a rapid test if you are showing symptoms.

“If you have symptoms, first of all, you should be at home,” she said. “If you have symptoms and you test positive on the antigen test you should consider yourself to have COVID. If you have symptoms of COVID, but your antigen test at home is negative you may want to consider repeating your test in a couple of days. We’ve found it is less sensitive to the first couple of days of infection (omicron variant). If you have symptoms you may want to seek PCR testing.”

Dr. Moyer said testing is one of several key tools we have in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“This is why masks are so important. All of us are around COVID. All of us. Vaccines and boosters can provide protection to get you out of the hospital. Testing lets you know to stay home and away from others, but the mask protects you from the one in 15 that may be infectious and probably out in the community,” Dr. Moyer said.

If you test positive for COVID-19, Dr. Moyer strongly recommends to:

  • Follow Kentucky’s quarantine guidelines.
  • As much as you can, separate yourself from other people in your home. If you are unable to isolate or need supplies to do so safely, please call our helpline for safe housing and essential needs at 502-912-8598.
  • Tell your close contacts that they may have been exposed to COVID-19. An infected person can spread COVID-19 starting 48 hours (or two days) before the person has any symptoms or tests positive. By letting your close contacts know they may have been exposed to COVID-19, you are helping to protect everyone.

View this week’s COVID-19 briefing with public health officials here.

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