COVID outlook is mixed as 2022 begins

Published 2:40 pm Monday, January 3, 2022

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A new year began this weekend as did the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the virus is again surging during the winter months.

The New York Times reported on Dec. 30 that the United States is averaging over 300,000 new cases a day. The record-breaking numbers are primarily being fueled by the highly transmissible omicron variant.

Kentucky has not been spared from the surge. Gov. Andy Beshear reported over 5,000 new cases last Wednesday.

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The numbers are also high in Winchester and Clark County according to the latest update provided by the Clark County Health Department last Thursday.

“I’ll be honest, we are seeing an escalation. Yesterday we confirmed 70 cases. For us, 70 cases in one day is definitely a lot,” said Public Health Director Becky Kissick.

The busy day brought the total number of active cases in the county to 304 and that number is expected to keep rising due to the lightning spread of the omicron variant.

“While we aren’t genotyping every sample that we get we do see just a rapid spread,” Kissick said. “In the past, we may have had one person in the household. Now we are seeing this rapid spread throughout an entire household.”

There are several positives to note despite the recent uptick in infections.

“Our cases are not as severe right now. So if there is a silver lining that is certainly one of them,” Kissick said.

She also said that there is a rising number of adults and children coming to the health department’s vaccination clinics.

And for the previously vaccinated, Kissick recommended they get a booster dose two months after the initial Johnson & Johnson shot and six months after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna shot.

Data has shown that the vaccine’s effectiveness does fade over time.

“So we are seeing that the efficacy of the vaccine is fading a little bit. So that boost dose, as soon as you become eligible for it, we do encourage you to go ahead and get that. It gives you that extra, additional layer of protection that is going to help you stay safe, and if you, unfortunately, become ill at least mitigate those symptoms,” she said.

According to recently revised CDC guidelines, individuals who received the booster dose do not have to quarantine if they are exposed but should wear a mask for ten days.

The CDC now recommends a five-day quarantine for unvaccinated individuals and for those who have only had two doses. Or if quarantine is not feasible then those individuals should wear a mask for up to ten days.

Kissick said that she expects more guidelines revisions in the new year as the US shifts to living with the virus, especially as with the rise of breakthrough cases in the vaccinated population.

“My word of the year is adapt,” Kissick said. “I think that we are all trying to figure out ways that we help keep people safe, whether through that is vaccination, boost, masking or social distancing, etc. But how do we return to some of those things that are so important to us and we know that we need.”

What the world considers normal will require some tweaking as the virus appears to not be fading away as some initially hoped it would.

“COVID is going to be part of our conversation long into the future,” Kissick said.