LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Jefferson County has dug itself deeper into the red zone as COVID-19 cases continue to climb.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, local hospital leaders and health officials informed Louisvillians Tuesday morning that 14 more people have died from the virus within the past two weeks, and the city’s positivity rate is now at 6.6%.
There is an average of 62.9 new daily cases per every 100,000 people in Louisville, which is a 250% increase from early October where there were only 25 new daily cases per every 100,000 people.
“If there was a color beyond red that’s where we’d be right now,” Dr. Sarah Moyer, Louisville’s chief health strategist said.
Hospitalizations have increased 510% since early October, according to the three major health systems in the area, Norton, UofL Health and Baptist Health. An average of 338 patients are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.
Norton currently has 173 COVID-19 positive patients in its hospitals and 33 patients on ventilators. UofL Health reported 110 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and said capacity at its University Hospital location is “limited.” Baptist Health said its COVID-19 patients make up around 15% of its total number of patients, and 32 patients are currently on a ventilator.
Luckily, healthcare systems said there are fewer patients having to go on a ventilator compared to the beginning of the pandemic thanks to new treatments.
Norton, UofL Health and Baptist Health said they have been working together to share resources and control capacity.
“If things continue to escalate on the course that they are currently escalating on, I think we’re okay at the moment, I think we’re okay in the near future, but sooner or later we will reach that breaking point, and I think for our communities, they have an opportunity now to step up and help us with this,” Dr. Jason Smith, the UofL Health chief medical officer, said.
Metro health leaders asked the public to continue to follow Governor Andy Beshear’s red zone recommendations, including limiting non-essential outings, working from home if possible and not hosting or attending gatherings of any kind, especially during Thanksgiving.
Doctors advised against traveling for the holiday, however, they said if someone does travel, they must quarantine two weeks before their trip, get tested three days before they leave, wait to receive their results before leaving and get tested three to five days after they return.
Metro health officials said even if someone receives a negative test result, they still need to be cautious.
“Testing is a tool. It’s not a strategy in and of itself, and people should not think that if they get tested and they get a negative test, that somehow that inoculates them to engage in activities that might otherwise be risky, especially as we go into the holidays,” Bill Altman, chair of the Louisville Metro health board said.
According to health officials, Louisville administers around 70,000 tests every two weeks, which has put a slight strain on its testing sites. Despite that, the lab said it has consistently returned results within 48 hours.
City leaders hope to expand testing site hours and locations to avoid long wait times.
They advise someone who has been exposed to the virus to wait three to five days to get tested to avoid a potential “false negative” result and to ease some of the strain test sites have experienced.
“If that person gets a negative test today, it doesn’t mean they’re really negative,” Dr. Steve Hester, chief medical officer of Norton Healthcare said. “It just means that test isn’t positive and they’re not shedding the virus yet.”
Last week, Louisville began cracking down on COVID-19 guidelines for businesses and organizations, including requiring masks and abiding by the citywide curfew. Officials have cited at least 16 businesses since the city started its enhanced compliance measures. In addition, the city also said two organizations broke COVID-19 guidelines. According to officials, one of the organizations was holding a gala for 300 people and the other was hosting a wedding event for 250 people.
Doctors ask the public to be patient and careful as a vaccine is likely on the horizon.
“I think if we can hang in there for a few more months, we will be in a very different situation in springtime than we were now, and I think that by next summer we’ll be in a much, much different situation,” Smith said. “I think that’s why it’s important for us to take this seriously now because we’re a bit in the home stretch.”