Is Another Big Wave of COVID-19 Coming to Kentucky?
Some local health professionals may say that they have seen a gradual increase in new cases. The rebound follows a sharp drop in cases following a summer wave driven by the delta variant.
“I think…if you look at the whole country, we’re clearly seeing a new wave,” said Dr. Jon Klein, vice dean for research at the University of Louisville School of Medicine.
“When you look at the places that are increasing strongly, I find it difficult to find evidence that we are an exception,” said Klein, a member of a local COVID-19 task force of health officials. “We just have too many people who haven’t been vaccinated.”
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Cases are on the rise again in Europe and parts of the United States, putting pressure on health systems, Klein said.
But Klein said it’s hard to predict how serious a new wave of COVID-19 cases in Kentucky could be as more people have been vaccinated or may be immune to having the virus.
“We don’t know what the combined effect of infection and vaccination will be,” he said.
New infections and the number of positive cases of COVID-19 have been increasing for a few weeks after a decline in mid-October.
On Monday, Kentucky reported 44 new deaths and 822 new cases — the highest Monday in four weeks. Saturday and Sunday — with 2,048 and 1,018 new cases, respectively — were also the worst Saturday and Sunday in a month.
The increase in COVID-19 is not good, Governor Andy Beshear said, but “we don’t necessarily think there is cause for concern”.
It’s unclear, he said, whether this increase will flatten out as a new plateau or a “bouncing ball.”
“So we’re going to have to watch this very, very closely,” he said. “Our tests have been pretty stable, so something real is happening.”
If we continue to see an increase over the next two to three weeks, “then we know where we might have another increase,” he said. “But again, we have the tools to stop it,” referring to vaccines and booster shots.
The percentage of positive cases in the state, after weeks of higher numbers, fell to 4.98% on Oct. 31, the lowest since mid-July. But it is rising, reaching 6.56% on Monday.
At his press conference last week, Beshear also noted that the number of new cases of COVID-19 is increasing among people who have been vaccinated, which he says underscores the need for people to get booster shots.
“Declining immunity is real,” Beshear said. “We are seeing more people who have been vaccinated in the hospital.”
Last month, about 8% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 in Kentucky between March 1 and October 20 were vaccinated. Last week, that percentage had jumped to about 16%, Beshear said.
Booster shots are now available to anyone 18 years of age or older, six months after the last dose of the two-shot Moderna or Pfizer vaccines and two months after the single-shot dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
dr. Peter Hasselbacher, a retired physician and medical professor at the U of L, said he is concerned that cases of COVID-19 have started to increase after it appeared to have leveled off.
“It’s gradually going up,” says Hasselbacher, who publishes periodic reports about COVID-19 in Kentucky on his Kentucky Health Policy Institute blog. “We’re expanding a little bit slowly. It could get worse soon.”
Hasselbacher is concerned that with Thanksgiving and other holidays approaching, with more people traveling and attending gatherings, COVID-19 cases could rise again in Kentucky.
“I hope for the best, but I think we have to prepare for the worst,” he said.
Kentucky continues to increase vaccination rates and health officials believe the recent expansion of the vaccine to ages 5-11 will help.
More:Governor Andy Beshear greets children receiving COVID-19 vaccine shots at West Louisville clinic
Beshear said 59% of Kentuckians have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 71% of those 18 or older have been vaccinated. More than 504,000 people have received booster shots in the Commonwealth, he said.
But Hasselbacher said there are still too many unvaccinated Kentuckians, allowing the virus to continue circulating and potentially mutating into yet another form.
Klein said it is possible that a new variant could emerge that is worse than the current highly contagious delta strain of the virus.
“As long as we have people who are not vaccinated and become infected, we are at risk of more variants,” he said. “The way we can all work together is if you don’t get vaccinated, you get vaccinated.”
And if he qualified, he said, “go ahead and get your booster.”