Several highly contagious COVID variants detected in Jefferson County

Several highly contagious COVID variants detected in Jefferson County

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - For the first time since October, Louisville out of the “Red Zone” for COVID-19 cases.

The city said Jefferson County is now in the “orange” category. It comes after a steady decline of both new cases and hospitalizations. However, health officials said it’s still important to remain vigilant as three highly-contagious variants of the virus were detected in Jefferson County.

Dr. Mark Burns, Infectious Disease Specialist at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, said the most notable COVID variants that are present in Jefferson County are from the UK, South Africa, and Brazil. All of which are considered highly contagious and have led to more hospitalizations. They also explained how a variant from California, that was found to be resistant against other COVID antibodies, was also detected in Louisville last month.

LouVax has up to 1,700 vaccines scheduled to be administered at the Broadbent Arena Tuesday. Mayor Fischer said the city is working on more vaccination sites around Louisville.

In an effort to identify where the virus is spreading the most, Dr. Aruni Bhatnagar, University of Louisville Director of the Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute, presented the UofL Co-Immunity project.

In the project, Jefferson County is separated into eight zones. It randomly selects different people in each zone to test for COVID-19 antibodies. As of February, the project found 18% of the Jefferson County tested positive for COVID antibodies, which means more than 700 people have been infected with the virus. Dr. Bhatnagar also pointed out that is in line with other major cities.

Zones 4A, which extends from Prospect down to Middletown, and 1B, which is the Shively area, were found to have the highest number of cases.

The portion of the project that’s gaining national attention monitors the city’s wastewater. Dr. Bhatnagar said they test the wastewater in each zone to see if it contains the virus and test which variant it is. On February 2, they found a California variant in a sample of wastewater. By determining where the virus is spreading, they say it helps the city determine where the vaccine should go first to achieve herd immunity.

“I think the next six months moving forward, we will then be able to keep a close eye track of how close we are at the herd immunity,” Dr. Bhatnagar said. “If it goes like this, the way we are progressing, our models suggest maybe June or July, we might be very close to herd immunity. But I don’t think we’re going to go there, because we’ll have vaccine to interrupt the increase of the virus. And then because of social distancing we might be able to continue that as well.”

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