Ky. Covid cases up 63%; experts warn new variants threaten the vaccinated and unvaccinated

Published 6:00 pm Thursday, May 26, 2022

Kentucky’s weekly Covid-19 report largely mimics what is going on across the nation: 63 percent more new cases than the prior week, a rising positive-test rate remains on the rise and a 42% increase in the number of Kentuckians hospitalized with the virus this week than last. And danger ahead.

Experts are warning that two new subvariants of the virus, Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, are not just a risk to those who are unvaccinated, but also to those who are vaccinated.

“It’s not gonna get better,” Dr. Eric Topol of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, Calif., said on PBS NewsHour last week.

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Topol said the variants are “transmitting at levels that are really inconceivable,” with a great deal of “immune escape,” and “Our immune system doesn’t see the virus as it saw previous versions of the virus.”

He said the Covid-19 vaccines remain effective against the variants, but less so, at an 80-85% rate, leaving four times as many vaccinated people vulnerable to severe disease and hospitalization as before.

Meanwhile, “The virus continues to spread at an alarming pace nationwide, with daily reports of new cases increasing threefold since the start of April,” The New York Times reports.

The state’s weekly report, for the last Monday-to-Sunday reporting period, showed 6,443 new cases of the virus, an average of 920 cases per day. That’s 63% more than the 565 daily cases the week before. Of last week’s new cases, 16% were in people 18 and younger.

The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus last week was 9.35%, up from 7.19% the week before. This rate has been increasing steadily for six weeks, rising from a rate of 1.97%. The figures do not include results of home tests.

The state attributed 96 more deaths to Covid-19 last week, an average of 13.7 deaths per day. The week before it was around 24 deaths per day. The state pandemic death toll is now 15,830.

Kentucky hospitals reported 340 Covid-19 patients Monday, up 101 from 239 a week earlier. Numbers of intensive-care patients (30) and patients on mechanical ventilation (eight) remain low.

The statewide seven-day infection rate is also on the rise. That rate is now 19.64 cases per 100,000 residents, up from 11.95 daily cases per 100,000 the week before.

Twelve counties have rates higher than the statewide rate; the number is small because Jefferson County, the state’s most populous, has a rate of 45.8 cases per 100,000. Other counties higher than the state rate were Hardin, 35.5; Menifee, 33; Fayette, 28.8; Henry, 25.7; Woodford, 25.6; McLean, 24.8; Oldham, 24.6; Boyd, 23.2; Campbell, 21.4; Clark,21.3; and Simpson, 20.

This week’s CDC risk map, which considers both cases and hospitalizations, says 12 Kentucky counties are in yellow, indicating a medium level of coronavirus transmission. They include: Union, Henderson, Jefferson, Greenup, Carter, Boyd, Lawrence, Johnson, Magoffin, Floyd, Martin and Pike.

The Times ranks Kentucky’s infection rate 28th among states and Washington, D.C., with a 55% increase in cases in the last 14 days.

Fortune reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided the magazine with the 14 states where the probable variant cases are and said that they make up less than 0.1% of circulating virus samples collected in the week ended April 16. It has not yet been detected in Kentucky.

But Fortune notes that lab testing is down in the U.S. and that the U.S. only sequences a small fraction of test received.

Vaccinations went up last week in Kentucky. The Washington Post reports that in the last week, an average of 3,543 doses were administered per day, an 18% increase over the week before. The Post reports that 61.2% of the state’s eligible population, 5 and older, are fully vaccinated and 44.5% of the fully vaccinated people have received a booster shot.