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Jefferson County health officials report slight decline in COVID-19 cases

A line of about six people wait in line outside a strip mall, where a free COVID-19 testing site has been set up. 1010 Clarks Lane, Louisville, KY. Dec 26, 2021
People wait in line for COVID-19 testing in Louisville Dec. 26.

Louisville Metro officials say if the recent drop in COVID-19 cases continues, it could signal the end of the current omicron surge. 

SaraBeth Hartlage, assistant medical director at the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, reported during a news conference Tuesday there were around 14,000 new COVID cases in the county over the past week. 

That’s compared with more than 16,000 the week before. 

The incidence rate is now at 265.3 cases per 100,000 residents — down from the recent record of over 300. 

That’s well over the threshold for being considered in the highest category of viral spread, 25 or more cases per 100,000 residents. It’s denoted by a county being red on theKentucky Department for Public Health map. 

“We are still 10 times the red limit and it is that way across the entire county, every zip code, every corner of every little pocket you look into,” Hartlage said. 

But she said even if this is an early sign of a decline in cases, there are still some hard weeks ahead. 

“It does look like we’ve crested that wave and the cases are beginning to come down,” she said. “But as I said last week, the nature of statistics is that there are just as many cases on the backside of the curve as there were on the front side of the curve, so we are still in for quite a few more cases to be collected over the coming weeks.”

The test positivity rate in Jefferson County is around 32%. 

“We are hopeful that this kind of record surge that we’re seeing is going to start declining here pretty soon, but we’ve got to be humble to this virus,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said during the news conference. “We've certainly learned that over the years and we’d never want to forget that.”

Doctors also discussed the impact this surge has had on parents of children ineligible for vaccination, and pregnant women with concerns about vaccination for themselves. 

“With a lot more community cases, there are a lot more cases in our daycares,” said Dr. Sarah Moyer, Louisville’s chief health strategist. “...Not because of it spreading in the daycare but because people are exposed and are bringing it in and that [has] caused multiple quarantines for parents.”

Dr. Edward Miller, an obstetrician with U of L Health, spoke to the safety and need for pregnant people to get vaccinated. 

“What we've found is that while pregnant women are not more likely to contract COVID, when they do, if they are unvaccinated, they are more likely to contract severe COVID,” he said. 

This can lead to a greater likelihood of requiring oxygen or mechanical intubation, and having a pre-term birth. 

He said he understands that it’s a personal choice but advised women to talk with their doctors about vaccination. 

“If you're not vaccinated yet, the best thing you can actually do is get vaccinated during pregnancy because there is great data that it's safest for you and has the best benefit for baby,” he said.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.

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