Coronavirus

Louisville-area COVID-19 hospitalizations remain low after coming down from the omicron surge in January, but doctors say vaccines are still crucial in preventing future outbreaks and serious illness. 

At University of Louisville Hospital, there were 17 COVID patients Friday, compared with 75 just over a month ago. 

On Friday, Baptist Health Louisville had 12 such cases, Norton had 10 across all hospitals in its system, and there were only two patients between Clark and Floyd counties – both at Baptist Health Floyd in New Albany. 

Dr. Mark Burns, an inpatient disease specialist at U of L, said that with so many people vaccinated and boosted, and with improved COVID treatments, “it seems that we are in a much better place than any other time previously.” 

But he added a note of caution, nodding to the lack of vaccine equity world-wide.

 “I don’t think we can totally close the chapter on COVID unfortunately,” he said. “As long as we have people who are unvaccinated, this virus will continue to replicate and mutate.”

He hopes vaccinations and boosters will help protect against a major surge from the omicron BA.2 variant, which he said makes up a little less than half of Louisville COVID cases right now. 

The strain was first detected in Louisville wastewater in late February, and researchers reported in late March that it had been found in high concentrations at two of its testing sites.

Dr. Chuck Anderson, chief medical officer at Baptist Health Louisville, said there could be some community herd protection built up from those who have received the shots or who were infected with omicron a few months ago.

“We hopefully have a lot of immunity and immunity from vaccination that may be keeping BA.2 down to a lower level,” he said.

Over half the residents in Indiana and Kentucky have been fully vaccinated. 

Anderson’s hospital also saw a drop in COVID hospitalizations a few weeks ago, and he said while it’s stayed around that level, there are none in the ICU. 

He said the drop in cases comes at a good time – the hospital is busier than normal as people return for procedures they put off in the pandemic, like elective surgeries and other health care needs. 

Dr. Burns also urged those who are immunocompromised or over 50 to get a second booster if they’re more than four months out from their first one.

The FDA and CDC took action last week to authorize the second boosters for these groups. 

“Let’s say if you’ve over age 50 and you’re in good health, then you can sort of walk to get these second boosters,” Burns said. “If you have a lot of complicating problems … you’re much older, chronic medical issues, maybe immunosuppressed, you should probably walk fast or run to get this booster.”

 

Aprile Rickert is WFPL's health reporter.