Christian County confirms a record number of COVID-19 cases for 3rd consecutive week

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Christian County continues to set records for the number of new coronavirus cases.

Christian County health officials on Thursday confirmed 1,108 new cases of COVID-19, pushing the county’s incidence rate to 224.6 — an all-time high for the third week in a row. Last week, the rate was 202.7.

It’s the most cases ever confirmed in one week and it is still almost certainly an underrepresentation since the count doesn’t include any positive cases confirmed by in-home testing.

Of the cases confirmed, 285 — or nearly 26% — were among individuals 18 and younger, said health department spokeswoman Cloie Rager. It’s a trend mirrored statewide and nationally.

Due to an increased demand for services and the high volume of new cases, the health department was unable to provide statistics for breakthrough cases, Rager said. From Dec. 22 to Jan. 13, approximately 23% of infections were among vaccinated individuals. However, these cases are typically less severe, according to health experts, who say getting a vaccine and booster shot remains the best way to protect against serious illness from the virus.

The report was the first from the health department since Jan. 13, when 1,000 new cases were confirmed.

Isolation and quarantine recommendations have recently evolved.

Have you contracted or been exposed to COVID-19? Here’s how long you should isolate yourself from others.

If you think you’ve contracted COVID-19, the health department offers testing Monday through Thursday. But you should isolate while you wait for your results.

The Christian County Health Department offers free, drive-thru COVID-19 testing from 7:45 a.m. to noon and 12:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday at its Canton Street headquarters. Appointments are not required.

The health department provides polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, for which results are provided in 48 to 72 hours.

Americans can also get up to four free, at-home rapid antigen tests by ordering them from the federal government at covidtests.gov

There are now more people in Christian County with active COVID-19 infections than ever before.

On Thursday, there were 1,766 active, confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Christian County who had active cases of COVID-19, according to the health department. It represents approximately one in every 40 residents and is an increase of 75% from two weeks ago. It’s also the highest the number has ever been.

Of the active cases, which are infections still considered by the health department to be contagious, 562 were among residents 21 years old and younger. The health department reported that the majority of active infections were among individuals aged 22 to 59, with 983 active cases. 

Hospitalizations

COVID-19 hospitalizations at Jennie Stuart have increased 50% in the last two weeks.

On Thursday, 36 patients with coronavirus were hospitalized at Jennie Stuart Medical Center, according to spokeswoman Jayme Tubbs. It’s an increase of 50% compared to two weeks ago. 

The seven-day average of COVID-19 hospitalizations at Jennie Stuart dropped to 31.

Data from Jennie Stuart shows the vaccine is still highly effective in preventing serious illness from COVID-19.

From Dec. 1 to Jan. 13, 84% of COVID-19 patients hospitalized at Jennie Stuart Medical Center were unvaccinated, according to updated data released by the hospital on Tuesday. 

Over the same period, just one of the 13 patients who were admitted to the intensive care unit had received a coronavirus vaccine, and all patients who’d been on a ventilator were unvaccinated. 

 

Deaths

Four more COVID-19 deaths were confirmed on Thursday. All of the deceased were unvaccinated.

The Christian County Health Department on Thursday confirmed four more COVID-19 deaths, pushing the county’s pandemic death toll to 169. 

The deceased included one 75-year-old woman and three men — ages 56, 73 and 73. All four were unvaccinated and had underlying health conditions, according to the health department. 

The vast majority of deaths attributed to the virus have been among individuals who are unvaccinated and those with underlying health conditions

Hopkinsville Art Guild has memorialized 7 lives lost to COVID-19 with portraits.

On Nov. 28, the Hopkinsville Art Guild presented portraits to the family members of seven people who died from the coronavirus.  

Local artists with families who provided photographs and letters describing their loved ones. Read more about those who were memorialized here.

Schools

The county’s public schools have seen an increase in COVID-19 cases and quarantines.

As of Wednesday, there were approximately 350 Christian County Public Schools students in quarantine following a school-related exposure to COVID-19, according to a video message from Superintendent Chris Bentzel. 

The district announced Thursday afternoon — after pausing in-person instruction because of winter weather — that it would continue virtual learning Friday because of “icy road conditions and staffing shortages caused by COVID.”

As of Wednesday, the district was at about 85% attendance for both students and staff, according to Bentzel’s video message.

The district had not yet released its official COVID-19 data as of Thursday evening. 

If universal masking was implemented, the district could end school-related quarantines. Yet, they remain optional.

Despite the recent surge prompted by the highly transmissible omicron variant, masking for students and staff remains optional in school facilities and at extracurricular events, the district announced on Jan. 13. Pursuant to federal transportation mandates, students will continue to be required to wear face masks on school buses, a news release from the district noted.

“CCPS officials continue to review COVID-related metrics daily to determine the COVID-safety protocols for its student community,” a news release from district spokesman Kirk Hilbrecht stated. “This includes community incident rates; district incident rates; district quarantine numbers; and local hospital capacity. Based on these metrics, CCPS will revisit the mask guidelines and COVID-safety protocols as necessary.”

The announcement came just days after Kentucky Department for Public Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack announced new guidelines that allow schools to choose which of the following COVID-19 precautions they would like to take: require universal masking or continue conducting contact tracing and requiring individuals with a school-related close contact to quarantine.

Bentzel has acknowledged the surge and said the district plans to continue offering “premier education to students in-person, five days per week with optional mask-wearing.” 

The district plans to continue administering its Test-to-Stay program, which allows individuals who have been exposed to someone who has contracted the virus but continue to test negative to participate in in-person instruction.

The school district will host a vaccination clinic on Jan. 26.

The district will host a vaccination clinic from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 26 at Christian County High School. The vaccine will be offered for free to residents 5 and older.

Long-term care

As the deadline looms for health care workers to get vaccinated, just 65% of local long-term care personnel have been vaccinated.

According to the most recent data available from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, just 65% of staff members at Christian County long-term care facilities that receive federal funding have been fully vaccinated. 

The facilities will have to make significant progress in the coming months to avoid losing federal funding, following last week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court allowing a vaccine requirement for health care workers in facilities receiving federal money.

Guidance released the following day states that facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid in 24 states — including Kentucky — must ensure their employees have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Feb. 14, and be fully vaccinated by March 15. Failure to comply with the mandate could result in termination from the Medicare and Medicaid programs. 

In Christian County, the vaccination rate among long-term care staff is well below the state average. 

According to Betsy Johnson, president of the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities, approximately 85% of the state’s skilled nursing facility workforce has been vaccinated. 

Johnson voiced concern about the mandate and its repercussions. 

“Although our association fully supports employer COVID-19 vaccine mandates and encourages all our long-term care workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, we believe this governmental mandate will further exacerbate the workforce issues that skilled nursing facilities are experiencing in Kentucky,” she said.

Of the recent, confirmed COVID-19 infections at long-term care facilities, most of the cases have been among staff.

From Nov. 29 to Jan 2, Christian County long-term care facilities for which data is available reported seven new cases of coronavirus among residents and 16 cases among staff. 

The average vaccination rate for residents of the county’s facilities is 84% — nearly 20% higher than staff. The cases included: 

  • Bradford Heights: 0 resident cases; 5 staff cases
  • Christian Health Center: 0 resident cases; 0 staff cases
  • Western State Nursing Facility: 5 resident cases; 7 staff cases
  • Christian Heights: 2 resident cases; 1 staff cases
  • Covington’s Convalescent: 0 resident cases; 3 staff cases
State

More than a quarter of new COVID-19 cases in Kentucky are among children. 

Kentucky health officials confirmed 13,614 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, pushing the seven-day average to a record high of 11,386.

Of the new cases, 3,608 — or approximately 27% — were among residents age 18 and younger. It’s a trend that’s being echoed nationwide. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 981,000 child COVID-19 cases were reported last week — a 69% increase over the week before. 

The majority of recent infections among children haven’t led to severe illness or death, according to the available data. Among states reporting, children comprised 1.7% to 4.4% of hospitalizations and 0.00% to 0.26% of all COVID-19 deaths.

Despite the rapid increase in cases and hospitalizations, Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday that health officials expect omicron to peak within the next two weeks. 

“We expect this week to probably be our highest week ever, but … our hope is that we’re within a couple of weeks of peaking,” Beshear said during a press conference on Thursday. “And when you look at what’s happening in states like New York — and where we are compared to where they are — it’s certainly our hope that we will see a decline in cases in the next week-and-a-half to two weeks.”

The positivity rate reached an all-time high on Thursday of 31.37%.

State health officials also reported 2,298 COVID-19 hospitalizations — up 42 from Wednesday.

In nine of the state’s 10 regions, intensive care units were at more than 80% capacity. In Christian County’s region, 58% of inpatient beds and nearly 85% of ICU beds were in use.

State health officials also confirmed 20 new coronavirus deaths, pushing Kentucky’s pandemic death toll to 12,659.

Vaccine

The best way to protect yourself against omicron is by getting the vaccine and booster.

As the extremely transmissible omicron variant surges nationwide, cases are experiencing near-vertical growth. The country’s health care system is overwhelmed and the variant has deemed some of the treatments for COVID-19 ineffective

Breakthrough cases have also increased, but the COVID-19 vaccines continue to be very effective at preventing severe illness and death, according to health experts. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to the president, says unvaccinated individuals will take the brunt of this surge — and, despite the less severe illness threatened by the variant, it still poses significant challenges to the nation’s health care system.

“I think, in many respects, omicron, with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility, will, ultimately, find just about everybody,” Fauci told J. Stephen Morrison, senior vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, during a discussion on Jan. 11. “Those who have been vaccinated and vaccinated and boosted would get exposed. Some, maybe a lot of them, will get infected but will very likely, with some exceptions, do reasonably well in the sense of not having hospitalization and death.

“Unfortunately, those who are still unvaccinated are going to get the brunt of the severe aspect of this, and although it is less severe on a case by case basis, when you quantitatively have so many people who are infected, a fraction of them, even if it’s a small fraction, are going to get seriously ill and are going to die, and that’s the reason why it will challenge our health system.”

As COVID-19 variants evolve, so have vaccine and booster recommendations.

As time passes and more variants emerge, scientists continue to study the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and adjust vaccination strategies in order to provide the best protection. 

In November, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention approved booster shots for all Americans — a crucial step in addressing the omicron variant. We’ve summarized some of the other most recent vaccine news and developments below.

Individuals who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines can now get boosters 5 months after their primary series. 

The CDC has updated its recommendations for when many people can receive a booster shot. Recipients of both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are now eligible for their booster after five months — shortened from six months.

The booster interval recommendation for people who received the J&J vaccine — two months — has not changed.

Booster recommendations now include children 12 to 15.

On Jan. 5, the CDC expanded its recommendation for booster shots to include children ages 12 to 15, following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s authorization. It follows the agency’s move on Dec. 9 approving boosters for 16- and 17-year-olds.

At this time, only the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is authorized and recommended for adolescents aged 12-17.

It’s now recommended that immunocompromised children receive a third primary dose.

The CDC on Jan. 4 recommended that moderately or severely immunocompromised children ages 5 to 11 years old receive an additional primary dose of vaccine 28 days after their second shot. 

Only 21% of Kentuckians have received their booster.

As of Tuesday, 55% of all Kentuckians had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as well as 65% of Kentuckians ages 5 and older and 84% of all Kentucky adults, according to the Department of Public Health. However, just 21% had received their booster — a critical protection against the highly contagious omicron variant, according to health experts. 

Christian County continues to have one of the lowest vaccination rates in Kentucky, with just 37.62% of all residents having completed an initial vaccine series. Of those 18 and older, 48% were vaccinated, and 71.62% of residents 65 and older had received the vaccine.  

The Christian County Health Department continues to offer vaccines and boosters at its offices on Canton Street.

The county health department administers the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines at no cost to adults at its Canton Street offices. The shots are administered from 7:45 a.m. – 4:15 p.m. on the following days:

  • Tuesdays: COVID-19 vaccines for individuals 12 and older
  • Wednesdays: Pfizer vaccines for individuals 5 to 11 years old
  • Thursdays: COVID-19 vaccines for individuals 12 and older

Appointments are encouraged, but walk-ins are accepted, according to the department.

Mobility

Mobility data shows local social distancing trends.

Visits to Christian County transit stations peaked on Oct. 18, a marker that typically precedes a spike in cases. People spent 50% more time than normal at locations like highway rest stops and car rental agencies, according to recent Google location data. The second-highest level the metric has ever reached was 49% above baseline on Oct. 4, which marked the beginning of fall break for local schools.

Using the same kind of aggregated and anonymized information used to show popular times for places in Google Maps, the tech company in April began releasing COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports to help public health officials manage their response to the ongoing public health crisis. The reports show movement trends to various places as compared to a median value established during the five-week period from Jan. 3 to Feb. 6, 2020.

About the Data

Hoptown Chronicle is using data provided by the Christian County Health Department, Christian County Public Schools, Jennie Stuart Medical Center, the Kentucky Department of Public Health and Google’s Community Mobility Reports to track the novel coronavirus in Christian County.

Incidence rate

The incidence rate is the seven-day average of new cases adjusted for a population of 100,000.

Because state case numbers typically lag behind, Hoptown Chronicle is calculating the local incidence rate using the health department’s daily reports and the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau population estimate for Christian County — 70,461, the same figure used by the state — to provide readers with the most current information available. Learn more about how we calculate this metric and why it’s important here. This information is also used to determine the level of community spread within the community or if the county is considered to be in a “red zone.”

Active cases

The determination of whether a coronavirus case is considered active is made by the Christian County Health Department. 

The health department makes the determination on a case-by-case basis, but individuals are only considered for a “recovered” designation if they have completed a 10-day mandatory isolation period, have been fever-free (meaning he/she is not taking any medication to suppress fever such as Tylenol, etc.) and has had an improvement in any symptoms.

Schools data

State law requires parents and guardians to notify a student’s school within 24 hours if a student tests positive for COVID-19. In turn, all schools are required to report positive coronavirus cases each weekday their school is in session (whether instruction is in-person, virtual or a combination of both) to inform communities as they make decisions during the pandemic. They must also report the number of students and staff quarantined due to exposure that has occurred through school-related activities, including extracurricular and athletic activities.

Long-term care data

Positive cases of the novel coronavirus in long-term care facilities are reported every day by local health departments and long-term care facilities to the Kentucky Department for Public Health. The state DPH makes this information available to the public almost every day on kycovid19.ky.gov.