Covid-19 In Kentucky Expanding at Increasingly Exponential Rate. What, me worry?

Despite only partial data collection, 108 of Kentucky’s 120 counties are “in the red zone” for community spread. None are at less than “substantial” incidence rates. The explosion of cases is most marked in counties with smaller populations. Recommended public and personal health responses are widely ignored despite increasingly exponential epidemic growth of new cases, test positivity rates, and overall incidence rates. Hospital, ICU, and ventilator utilization are on the move upwards albeit at slower rates. As school opening approaches in early August, the proportion of new cases in individuals age 18 or under is beginning its expected increase. Much the same can be said about most of the rest of the country as the BA.5 variant of the virus continues its run.

In addition to the as-yet ill-defined medical condition of “Long Covid,” the country is suffering from an overall Covid-fatigue that expresses itself clinically and politically as giving up trying to do anything to mitigate the spread or morbidity of Covid-19. Having probably contracted Covid-19 twice myself– three times if you count my Paxlovid rebound– I am understanding of, or at least have some sympathy for those who feel we are powerless to do anything to recover the lifestyles we may have enjoyed previously. It is my opinion that adopting a posture of futility is a bad error.

Much is being written by individuals with more public experience and authority than I. In its monthly update to Kentucky practitioners by the Department of Public Health last week, it was reported that vaccination and booster shots are associated with a more than three-fold decrease of risk of contracting Covid-19. The risk of death from this infection is more than 16-fold less. Over the past year, 67% of Covid-19 deaths in individuals over 60 were unvaccinated. For those younger than 60 a staggering 90% of Covid-19 deaths were in the unvaccinated! Death is not the only thing that can go wrong to our collective physical or economic health.

Except for perhaps worsening of pimples, protecting oneself and others by masking when feasible does not worsen one’s health and will protect against other respiratory illnesses. It astounds me that so few of use utilize this simplest of non-medical public health measures!

That which does not kill us can still make us weaker!
(Apologies to Nietzsche!)

The longer the epidemic runs in force, the longer the disabling disruptions to our daily lives and economy will also take their tolls. We will likely have to learn to deal with a new endemic disease, but for now, can do better.

Enough rambling. A few charts follow.

Peter Hasselbacher, MD
Emeritus Professor of Medicine, UofL
26 July 2022

Incidence Rate map as of 7/25/2022. 108 Counties in the red.

Over past two years, Test Positivity Rates strongly correlate with emergence of new cases.

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