Metro Louisville had a record high number of new coronavirus cases and deaths last week.
During the mayor’s briefing Tuesday, Metro Louisville chief health strategist Dr. Sarah Moyer said the Metro is experiencing another surge, with 4,140 new confirmed cases and 59 deaths last week.
“And just thinking about how close we are to the finish line and how that could possibly have been prevented really just pains me to think about that,” Moyer said. “So please now, it really is the time to recommit to staying strong and doing those things that we know that works.”
The hope of nearing a “finish line” comes with the city’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, she said.
Mayor Greg Fischer said they expect to meet their goal of administering about 4,000 doses of vaccines this week at the city’s drive thru vaccine distribution site at Broadbent Arena, which opened Jan. 4.
“Everybody’s just very positive, working hard to get vaccines to many of our frontline health care workers in our tier 1a that we can, and it’s just really energizing to see what’s taking place out there,” Fischer said of the mass distribution site.
Metro Louisville associate medical director Dr. SarahBeth Hartlage said they hope to finish the 1a phase of vaccinating about 40,000 health care workers, medical first responders, and long-term care staff and residents in the next few weeks — the long-term care facilities “are being vaccinated according to a federal contract with Walgreens and CVS, so pharmacies are taking care of those directly.” Then they’ll be able to move onto the next phase, which includes non-medical first responders, educators and people aged 70 and older.
They’re trying to stay nimble, “continually adjusting,” as they communicate with state and federal officials on guidance and dosage allocation, she said.
“We’ve not had a single wasted dose here,” Hartlage said, adding that when they have “one or two left at the end,” they’ve been able to administer them to the on-site volunteer health care workers.
There has been “last-minute scheduling” though, she continued, due to “exceeded expectations” in the first week of operating.
“We had scheduled 1,000 people to come through the site and we opened up 1,000 extra spots and so there was some last minute scrambling… to get enough people out here to give doses to, but we’ve made adjustments for that going into this weekend. The scheduling should be much more consistent going forward,” she said, adding that they are ready and able to increase capacity to administer vaccinations.
Moyer said they were initially concerned about people’s willingness to get vaccinated, but interest is actually exceeding their expectations.
“I think the interest, right now, far outstrips our… number of vaccines and so we are excited about that.”
About 70 to 80% of the community will need to be vaccinated to “turn this pandemic around,” she said.
Public health and infectious diseases experts caution that it will take time to get enough people vaccinated, and they advise the continued uses of masks, social distancing and hygiene measures even after getting vaccinated.
“So far the studies are still showing that people who have gotten the vaccine from the clinical trials that they have not been able to transmit the coronavirus to their spouses or to anyone,” said Dr. Mark Burns, infectious disease specialist and assistant professor of medicine at University of Louisville Health.
“They haven’t shown that that’s happened yet. But still, even people who get the vaccine, they still, at this point, should use the same precautions… because it’s still incumbent upon everyone to get the vaccine so we can bring all the numbers down.”