COVID-19 is on the rise again across the nation and Hardin County is no exception.

The Lincoln Trail District Health Department reports a 252% increase in new COVID-19 cases from June 28 to July 17. The six-county service area is averaging about 20 new cases each day, said Health Promotion Manager/Public Information Officer Terrie Burgan.

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services reported 45 new cases reported Wednesday and Thursday in Hardin County.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is clearly not over,” Baptist Health Hardin Vice President and Chief Medical Officer John Godfrey said in a statement Wednesday. “Baptist Health Hardin’s inpatient COVID-19 cases were improving but lately, overall, cases are increasing. Our unvaccinated patients presenting for care are very ill and being admitted. In the last five days, we have had six COVID patient deaths, all of whom were unvaccinated.”

Overall, Hardin County has had 10,277 conformed COVID-19 cases since March 2020, and 171 reported deaths from COVID complications through Thursday afternoon, according to the cabinet.

BHH Vice President of Patient Care and Chief Nursing Officer Sharon Wright, who also is the incident commander for COVID-19 at the hospital, said they are seeing an increased number of hospitalizations, an increased number of deaths, and increased numbers in their critical care unit with COVID, which has remained open since the start of the pandemic. She said they have never reached a point and time where they had zero COVID patients.

According to Wright, the majority of the patients they are seeing have not had the vaccine. She said the Centers for Disease Control described it best when they called this round “the pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

“At this point, it is a preventable hospitalization if you have had the vaccination. You may still have COVID, but your chances of becoming hospitalized or on a ventilator or dying are dramatically lower if you’ve had the vaccine,” she said.

Burgan said many officials have voiced low vaccination rates — LTDHD stands at 42.5% for its six-county region — in conjunction with the high transmissibility of the COVID-19 delta variant as possible causes of the resurgence.

On Monday, Gov. Andy Beshear and Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, provided an update on the delta variant that is spreading in the commonwealth.

“We have the most aggressive variant that we have seen to date in our battle against COVID. It’s a serious, even deadly, threat to unvaccinated Kentuckians,” Beshear said in a news release.

Communities have the power to reverse current COVID-19 trends, Burgan said.

“Each vaccinated individual helps to build herd immunity, which reduces viral spread and protects those who are unable to receive the vaccine,” Burgan said. “It is more important than ever that everyone does their part to help our community achieve herd immunity.”

As of Monday, the governor said 2,248,235 Kentuckians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Sixty-one% of Kentuckians 18 or older have been vaccinated, but only 51% of Kentuckians age 40 to 49, 46% of Kentuckians age 30 to 39, and 36% of Kentuckians age 18 to 29.

As the delta variant continues to spread across the United States and hospital COVID-positive intake numbers climb again, many questions remain around vaccine effectiveness and vaccination rates, and what these numbers could mean moving into the fall.

Recently, a small panel of experts across the University of Kentucky and UK HealthCare participated in a discussion on these issues and what they mean for Kentucky.

So far, Vince Venditto, Ph.D., an assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences in the UK College of Pharmacy who has extensive background in vaccine design and immunology, said that while evidence is evolving with regard to the delta variant, the COVID vaccines are doing what they are supposed to do against it so far.

“The vast majority of the people who are going to the hospitals right now with COVID infections are not vaccinated,” he said in a recent UK news release. “This is evidence that the vaccines are working. They are inducing the appropriate immune response to keep us protected, keep us out of the hospital and prevent death.”

The release said evidence suggests that a vaccinated person can get the delta variant, but they tend to have relatively mild infections.

“As restrictions lessened in our communities, we knew increased cases could be a possibility,” Godfrey said. “... We also know that vaccination reduces COVID’s severity. As the delta variant sweeps across Kentucky, know this strain is much more infectious than what we encountered last year.”

In many ways, Wright said the current increase of cases reminds her of the beginning of the pandemic. When they first started, testing was a challenge and there were only certain sites in the country that were available for testing.

“We couldn’t do the testing here and we’re seeing it is similar now with the delta variant,” she said. “There are very few centers right now in the country that can test for the delta variant and it takes several weeks to determine if it really was that variant.”

During the first-round, however, she said there was more community involvement in preventing the spread, but not so much now.

“I think, again, we are tired. We don’t want to keep wearing the masks. We want to return to our regular life and there has been a lot of misinformation about the vaccine,” she said. “A nurse this week said, ‘It’s back.’ I didn’t have to ask her. I knew exactly what she was talking about.”

Mary Alford can be reached at 270-505-1417 or malford@thenewsenterprise.com.

Mary Alford can be reached at 270-505-1417 or malford@thenewsenterprise.com

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