After an extended plateau that included record highs in new cases and peak hospitalizations, the latest COVID-19 update from the Green River District Health Department showed slight declines in both. Meanwhile, vaccination rates continue to climb. That combination has health officials hopeful that the area is close to getting past the latest coronavirus surge.
At the end of June, the incidence rate — the daily average of new cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days — had fallen below 5 for Daviess County and below 10 for the entire seven-county Green River District.
On Sept. 14, the incident rate had climbed to 73 for Daviess County and 264 for the district.
The rates dropped to 62 and 215, respectively, according to Tuesday’s update from the Health Department.
“It might be too early to say, but I think that things are marginally better,” said Clay Horton, GRDHD Public Health Director. “Sometimes we have anomalies or delays in reports from certain providers that do testing. So I wouldn’t want to say too quickly that we’re heading in the right direction, but it has been better the last few days.”
In similar fashion to cases, hospitalizations had fallen to single digits by late June but hit new highs in September.
According to Owensboro Health officials, OHRH hit a peak number of 59 COVID-positive patients on Sept. 6. As of Monday, there were 57 COVID-positive patients, 51 of which are unvaccinated. There were 18 in critical care (17 unvaccinated) and 13 intubated (12 unvaccinated).
Note: The Health Department’s Tuesday update only noted 15 hospitalized patients, but officials said that discrepancy is because the OH service area includes several counties outside of the Green River District.
Health officials are also encouraged by the continued increase in the vaccination rate.
On June 1, just 38.68% of Daviess Countians were vaccinated. By Tuesday, 53.66% had been vaccinated (though 67% of those aged 18 and above have been vaccinated).
“The increase in vaccination rates is welcome news, and we are very glad to see that people are taking action to protect themselves from the virus,” said Brian Hamby, Marketing Director at Owensboro Health. “Of course we want that number to be even higher because we know it will get our communities closer to ending the surge. Overall, we are encouraged by the upward trend and hope to see it continue in the weeks ahead.”
Horton said he thinks various factors contributed to the rate jumping so much, including the quick surge in cases.
“I think (the surge) made some people kind of rethink whether they should delay any further or not,” he said. “I think the other thing that may have made some difference is the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine. We’ve heard a lot through our clinics of people coming in that knew someone that was young (who got it) or someone that was hospitalized. When it hits closer to home, I think you have people reconsidering. I think that’s what’s been going on in the community.”
Horton said while it’s too early to say Daviess County is on the backside of the surge, he is hopeful that the decline from the peak will be as quick as the climb.
“I think it’ll be a similar pace as to how it rose,” he said. “I feel like right now we’ve kind of plateaued in a high place. So it’s how long do we maintain that plateau before we start coming down. I don’t think it’ll be too rapid, but I think it’ll follow a similar timeframe as what rise was, 6-8 weeks.”
As has been his message for months now, Horton said the key to getting back to normal is more of the community getting the vaccine.
“Getting a high percentage of our population vaccinated is really the short answer,” he said. “We do know that there is some natural immunity as well. There’s some debate as to how that type of immunity compares to the vaccine. It’s still recommended even for those that have been previously protected to get vaccinated.”
Horton added, “The more people that decide to make that decision to protect themselves and protect those around them, that’s what’s going to give us the ability to kind of sustain (a low number of cases). I’m looking forward to that day. I think everybody that works in my profession and works in the hospital, they’re all tired. We’ll see it to the end, but nobody’s more eager for this to be over than us and the people that are working with us every day.”