Wastewater testing shows continued uptick in COVID cases after Derby
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The latest Louisville COVID numbers shows the metro has the highest number of confirmed cases in the last four months.
“It’s a much lower rate than we’ve seen previously, which is a good thing, but it is up,” Dr. Jason Smith, Chief Medical Officer at UofL Health said. “If you look across the nation, we’re also seeing an increase in the number of tests positive in New York City and moving from the East Coast as well as the West Coast.”
Smith said while we’re at a medium community-level risk right now, that could change.
“I’d love to say we’re going in the right direction, but unfortunately, we’re probably going to be heading towards red as we move forward for the next couple of weeks,” Smith said.
There’s another way to tell that the city is trending in the wrong direction.
Ted Smith leads the COVID wastewater testing at UofL’s Center for Healthy Air, Water, and Soil.
“It now is the only way that we know how much infection is in the community reliably,” Smith said. “We’ve had some of the highest levels of virus in the wastewater that we’ve ever seen in the last few weeks. And so right now, it’s really rivaling the very, very high levels that we had in the beginning of the omicron surge in December and January of this year.”
It’s been very accurate in predicting case numbers, especially since the city is not seeing nearly as much widespread testing.
Wastewater data shows Louisville in a second surge of the omicron variant that has been going on since the end of April.
There is also yet another new variant of omicron, BA2.12.2, that just showed up in the last few weeks.
“It’s known to be much more contagious,” Smith said. “I think none of us are surprised that as we came into the Derby, and we, and a lot of people, out having fun in big crowded venues, we just generated a whole lot more infection.”
No particular area of Jefferson County is seeing more disease than others, but one part is dealing with an older variant.
“So the amount of infection, as we see now, is pretty uniformly in the community across the community,” Smith said. “We do see southeast Jefferson County has been able to hang on to the original delta variant, which is a little more dangerous, especially for someone who isn’t vaccinated.”
However, one good thing is for the first time locally, the data shows COVID hospitalizations are not trending up alongside increased cases.
“Every period before this we’ve tracked as the wastewater went up, the number of hospital beds with COVID patients went up,” Smith said. “Now we’re in this interesting phase where we’re starting to see this decoupling.”
Smith believes that’s a big step for the future of COVID in the community.
“I think that if we can keep this down to a mild disease transmission and keep people out of healthcare facilities, then we can learn to live with this disease,” Smith said.
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