What to expect from COVID in 2022;
Blevins says 54.3% percent of Boyle residents are vaccinated; National average is 62%

Published 9:21 am Tuesday, January 4, 2022

When 2020 ended with the COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing, many people hoped that 2021 would bring the end of it, as vaccines were introduced. But even with vaccines widely available, the pandemic continued through 2021.

The race to combat COVID-19 with vaccines produced unprecedented and much-needed results. Vaccines were created and released faster than almost any other vaccine in history.

But the politicization of vaccines in early 2021 caused fear and misinformation about them. The Times noted, “the political divide over vaccinations is so large that almost every reliably blue state now has a higher vaccination rate than almost every reliably red state.”

Experts said the vaccines create immunity in most people for around six months. Even if people who are vaccinated get the virus, their chances of dying from it lessen significantly. Death rates proved to have gone down in states where more people are vaccinated.

Boyle County Public Health Director Brent Blevins said he thought most people in the county did the best they could under the circumstances to prevent spreading illness.

“I think most people are conscientious about being careful and trying to do the best they can to either not become sick, or if they are sick, to quarantine or isolate themselves,” Blevins said. “I think there’s always room for improvement but overall, we’ve done a pretty decent job here in this area.”

He also said he believes the government took an appropriate amount of action in 2021 compared to the major lockdown and major reopenings in 2020.

The government started offering free vaccines early on and continued to encourage and incentivize people to get vaccinated when vaccination rates went down. Later in 2021, President Joe Biden introduced a vaccine mandate for private businesses, which divided the country even further on the issue.

“It’s very difficult when you start talking about people’s personal rights and issues like that, as compared to quarantine and isolation and how to factor those in, and still being respectful of people’s need to work and function in society,” Blevins said.

In Boyle County, the current rate of people fully vaccinated is 54.3%, which is on par with the state average, but lower than the national average of 62%. The percentage of booster shots in fully vaccinated people in Boyle County is 40.3%.

Poorer states and countries had some trouble getting access to vaccines, and have lower vaccination rates. Kentucky is one that’s suffering from lower vaccinations and higher death rates.

The death rate in Kentucky since vaccines came out is almost the same as in 2020. Kentucky has one of the highest death rates in the U.S., partially due to the low vaccination rate.

Blevins said it may also be the result of Kentucky’s overall poor health. Kentucky has continuously ranked in the bottom worst states for rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, tobacco use, and other diseases. Since COVID-19 attacks the immune system, it has a worse effect on people who are already immunocompromised because of tobacco-related diseases or other diseases.

“As a state, one of the best things we can do in the future to protect ourselves is work on our personal health,” he explained.

Several coronavirus variants emerged in the beginning of 2021. The Alpha, Beta, and Gamma variants spread in some places, but Delta became the dominant variant early in the year.

Previous pandemic predictions had people hope that cases would completely die out by mid-2021. But the Delta variant and vaccinated people’s weakening immunity sent cases sky-rocketing in the fall.

Cases in Kentucky reached an all-time high in September. In Boyle County, almost 100% of ICU beds were taken up. Blevins said the pattern of variants will probably continue in 2022.

“If you look at the pattern we’ve had over the last two years: we have a variant come out, we have a lot of cases for a while, we kind of plateau and those go down, then we don’t have any for a while; it’s kind of done that up and down for about two years, and it seems to me that’s probably going to be the current pattern we have continuing forward for a while,” he said.

The omicron variant, which is the fastest-spreading variant so far, has made its way to Boyle County. Right now, cases in Kentucky are on the rise after the holidays.

The current positivity rate in Boyle County is 12.7%, up from an average of 4-7% over the last two months.

Cases will likely continue to rise as more people get tested and report cases after gathering for the holidays.

Blevins said people can continue doing the recommended things to prevent sickness. People can get vaccinated, quarantine as needed, practice social distancing, wear masks, and wash hands.

Even though the pattern of variants may continue, Blevins hopes they will lessen in severity over time and eventually die out.

“With the number of people vaccinated, and the number of unvaccinated people who have become sick, between vaccination and natural antibodies, hopefully, the variants will become weaker and die down over time and won’t be as severe as Delta was, as far as people in the hospital, and as quick as Omicron is.”