Local hospitals prepare for possible outbreak of new COVID strain

The more contagious COVID strain first emerged in the United Kingdom.
Published: Jan. 19, 2021 at 7:02 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The more infectious COVID strain that was first discovered in the United Kingdom could become the predominant strain in the United States by March, according to the CDC.

This more contagious COVID strain is identified as B.1.1.7, and there have been 122 confirmed cases in the United States, the CDC reports.

An increase of cases could lead to further stress on an already overwhelmed health care system. Baptist Health, UofL Health, and Norton Healthcare leaders say they are on high alert and ready in case of an increase of cases due to the more infectious strain of the coronavirus.

“The goal of these viruses is to survive,” Dr. Steve Hester Chief Medical Officer at Norton Healthcare said. “Our goal is to continue to get rid of them.”

A mutated virus sounds scary, but he said to mutate and change is what they do.

This strain was found in 20 states, with Indiana reporting four cases. Although no cases were found in Kentucky, experts believe the new strain is quite likely already in the Commonwealth.

“My suspicion would be that we do,” Hester said. “When you see viruses mutate like this, it’s no surprise they will be in our community especially when they are in surrounding areas.”

Dr. Mark Burns from UofL Health said it has not been proven that the variant is more severe or deadly, but because it is more contagious, it is a concern.

”It can lead to more hospitalizations which will put more strain on the health care system,” Burns said. “That within itself can lead to an increase of death. At UofL, we are prepared for that.”

Norton Healthcare officials said they are also planning for a potential spike in cases, as are those at Baptist Health Louisville.

”We have a surge plan as all the hospitals do,” Dr. Chuck Anderson Chief Medical Officer from Baptist Health Louisville said. “We are ready to escalate as we need to.”

For now, the best thing to do is what has always worked.

“We have to double down on our health practices,” Burns said.

”Masking, handwashing, and social distancing,” Anderson agreed.

The healthcare experts encourage everyone to get the vaccine if they can. So far, the CDC reports that the vaccines available so far have worked against the new strain.

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