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Will the Delta variant bring back mask mandates?

(WIFR)
Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 6:05 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Although Kentucky is re-open, the pandemic is not over. The Delta variant is spreading quickly, now accounting for half of the nation’s COVID-19 cases.

Cases of the Delta variant have been found in Kentucky. Infectious disease experts say the number of those cases is likely higher than we realize. They also say getting vaccinated is the best precaution people can take against these variants.

Kentucky’s COVID incidence is still below 3%, but over the last week or so, has been trending upward.

“I should say that just in the last 24 hours we’ve had, it looks like we’ve seen, a few sicker unvaccinated patients come in. At some point we know we’re going to have an increase in numbers. Whether that’s in the next two weeks, or whether that’s in September I’m not really sure,” said Dr. Mark Dougherty with Baptist Health Lexington.

Dr. Dougherty says even though there have been less than two dozen cases of the Delta variant in Kentucky, the delay in testing means that number is probably higher.

In Louisville, health leaders said they were recommending mask usage as the variant spread. The Fayette County Health Department said that’s a good idea, especially for the unvaccinated.

“We do encourage masks for people who are not vaccinated and for people who are vaccinated but live with or are around others who can’t get a vaccine because perhaps they’re too young. Perhaps they have compromised immune systems,” said Kevin Hall with the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department.

As for mask requirements coming back, Dr. Dougherty said he doesn’t see that happening.

“At this point I’m not sure that people are going to go for that. I think most of the public is just not gonna do it. If you’re vaccinated, it’s probably not necessary at this point. The incidence is pretty low in Kentucky,” Dr. Dougherty said.

Low, but going up. And as unvaccinated people are exposed to more variants, that could keep rising.

“The vast majority of patients who are ill and in the hospital with COVID now are unvaccinated. Not quite 100%, the state figures are 99% are unvaccinated,” Dr. Dougherty said.

And masks are still required at places like hospitals and public transportation.

“If you see somebody in a mask it doesn’t mean they aren’t vaccinated. It could mean they’re taking an extra step to protect their family loved ones,” Hall said.

Dr. Dougherty said last week they were averaging three to four COVID patients a day. As of Wednesday, they have nine. That’s a lot less than the mid-30s they were seeing in February, but they are trending upward.

Hall said another benefit to getting vaccinated is fully vaccinated children who get exposed to a positive case do not have to isolate or quarantine, which could save families a lot of trouble when school starts up.

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