Coronavirus Health

Jefferson County is in the critical level of COVID-19 spread, according to state data.

Critical spread, also known as the red status, means that there is a daily incidence rate of 25 or more cases per 100,000 people.

At a public health briefing Tuesday, Louisville health officials predicted that the escalation in status was “rapidly approaching”. At the same conference, officials said the weekly case count was the highest it had been in 6 months.

Kentucky as a whole is also reporting some of its highest numbers since February. Wednesday’s report saw a 10.08% positivity rate and more than 2,500 new cases.

The number of deaths is also increasing. While the rise in COVID cases has been happening for months, the increase in deaths is new. Health experts say that when cases rise, it is typical to see deaths go up a few weeks later.

A majority of the cases are among unvaccinated populations. There have been some breakthrough cases, where a fully vaccinated person contracts the virus, but that accounts for less than 1% of all fully vaccinated people, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Unvaccinated populations make up a majority of hospitalizations and deaths as well, and are at the highest risk of severe, possibly fatal symptoms. 

At a press conference on Thursday, Dr. Steven Stack, Commissioner of the Department for Public Health, said that this surge was nothing like the last one. 

The surge is largely attributed to the more contagious delta variant. 

“The delta variant spreads twice more effectively than the alpha variant,” said Stack. “It also has much higher viral loads and early anecdotal evidence is that it may hurt younger people, and yes, perhaps maybe even kids more than the earlier versions of the virus.”

As case numbers rise, many organizations have started to update their guidelines to align with the CDC’s recommendations. 

Executive offices in Frankfort, Louisville Metro government buildings, Ford Motors and Jefferson County public schools have all mandated universal masking, regardless of a person’s vaccination status.

At the press conference, 11 healthcare providers, including Norton Healthcare, Baptist Health and U of L Health, announced vaccine requirements for their staff.. 

Governor Andy Beshear has yet to instate a statewide universal mask mandate, but he signaled he’d be open to the idea. 

“That is not off the table. We will be watching, especially the hospitalization numbers. We will not let what is happening in Florida and other places happen here,” said Beshear

Beshear said local leadership and the private sector could play a significant role in getting people to follow CDC recommendations. 

He pointed to examples of businesses like Churchill Downs requiring employees get vaccinated. 

Health officials recommend masking and getting vaccinated to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce chances of severe symptoms and hospitalization. 

COVID numbers for the state can be found on this dashboard, which updates daily. Information for Jefferson County can be found here.

Breya Jones is the Breaking News Reporter for WFPL.