LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Health experts on Tuesday discussed the Delta variant and where the Jefferson County community stands in relation to protection from and the prevention of COVID-19.
Nearly one month since Gov. Andy Beshear lifted mask and capacity restrictions in the state, it is vital for people in the community to realize that the virus is still present in Jefferson County (and other communities), said Connie Mendel, deputy director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness. With the Delta variant becoming a concern to public health officials across the world, Mendel said individuals in the community need to know where the city stands in relation to the virus, vaccinations and to educate themselves on its risks.
“It’s really important that we all understand that the virus has not gone away,” Mendel said. “There are cities and counties around the country who have such high vaccination rates they’ve recorded very small cases of COVID-19, but we aren’t there yet.”
To date, there have been five cases of the Delta variant reported in Louisville. Through the Co-Immunity Wastewater monitoring conducted by researchers from the University of Louisville Environme Institute, they can determine where in the community the variants are prevalent. Ted Smith, associate professor in the Department of Medicine at UofL, said the variant was present in south-central Preston area of Louisville. He added that in the last two weeks wastewater testing shows it spread in the north and eastern parts of Louisville, which correspond with areas that demonstrate low vaccinate rates.
Mendel said unvaccinated people are at an increased risk of becoming severely ill, hospitalized and dying from the Delta variant providing a reason why public health experts need to monitor and track the virus in the community. She said contact tracers with the health department reported that fewer people are responding to calls when identified as contacts with positive cases.
“Answering our calls, responding to our texts and cooperating with us means we can first and foremost help people with any medical assistance or essential needs while they are sick,” she said. “Secondly, it means we can stop the spread and prevent other people from getting sick.”
Mendel emphasized if someone tests positive for COVID-19 or is in close contact with someone who tests positive, it’s still essential to isolate or quarantine to ensure the virus isn’t spread to others who are unvaccinated or who can’t be vaccinated.
Here are the key COVID-19 data metrics as of July 5, 2021:
- Louisville remains in the yellow alert level
- There were 193 new cases over the previous two weeks, four new deaths were reported
- Hospitalization data:
- 33 patients currently hospitalized have COVID-19
- 11 patients in ICU with COVID-19
- 7 COVID-19 patients on ventilators
- 835,674 total vaccine doses given in Metro Louisville since December.
- 54.7% of Louisville residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 46.4% have completed the vaccine series.
Dr. Sarah Moyer, chief health strategist, said that while Louisville’s population is making some progress with vaccinations, the community as a whole is disproportionately vaccinated placing the city at a huge risk of severe outbreaks due to the Delta variant. She added that the Delta variant, similar to other variants such as the B.1.1.7 (Alpha) variant in January, began in small numbers before eventually becoming the dominant strain. Dr. Moyer said she expects the Delta variant to become the dominant strain within the next month.
Moyer encouraged 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.
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.
Delta variant in Louisville
Dr. Paul McKinney, professor and associate dean in the University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences, addressed the level of concern public health experts have regarding the Delta variant of COVID-19. He said residents should be very concerned about this variant due to its classification as a “Variant of High Concern.” He explained that a variant in this classification means it’s more transmissible, likely to spread more rapidly in the communities where it’s documented to be present.
McKinney sits on the CDC’s Advisory Committee of Immunization Practice, which develops recommendations on the safe and effective use of vaccines in the U.S. He said the variant is still susceptible to immunization and has not eluded protection provided by COVID-19 vaccines.
“It (Delta) is not one that has eluded protection provided by vaccines. It is still one that we can control with immunization quite well provided with the Moderna, Pfizer or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. As worrisome as the variant is, the vaccine is highly protective. People who are immunized fully against the virus should not be concerned about having a significant risk of illness, hospitalization or death,” McKinney said.
He said the primary focus today should be on getting people vaccinated because the virus will spread quickly once introduced amongst unvaccinated individuals.
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