Health officials: County trending in good direction; unvaccinated account for most hospitalizations

October 22, 2021 | 12:10 am

Updated October 22, 2021 | 1:25 am

Graphic by Owensboro Times

Daviess County is trending in the right direction when it comes to COVID-19, local health officials said Thursday, noting decreases in cases and hospitalizations. The numbers also showed most of those currently hospitalized are unvaccinated.

As of Thursday morning, Owensboro Health reported 47 patients hospitalized among the three OH facilities, and 36 of those were unvaccinated. OH reported that 16 patients (13 unvaccinated) were in critical care, and 10 patients (8 unvaccinated) were intubated.

The peak number of patients for OH system wide was 85 on Sept. 21. Owensboro Health Regional Hospital specifically peaked at 69 that same day but is now down to 39 patients. 

“It’s an improvement, but it’s always relative to where you come from,” said OH Chief Medical Officer Francis DuFrayne. “Coming from 69 that’s great, but that’s still 39 patients in the hospital who are pretty sick.”

DuFrayne joined Green River District Health Department Director Clay Horton for a public virtual meeting with Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly, and the three discussed the state of COVID-19 among other things such as booster shots, the flu, and misinformation regarding public health. 

For example, they addressed the misbelief that nearly every death is counted as COVID-19.

Horton said that wasn’t just wrong information, it was a lie.

He said an epidemiologist and a mortality committee review deaths to make sure they meet the criteria for COVID-19 to be listed as a cause of death. That means someone who dies from something such as a vehicle accident but is later found to have COVID-19 is not counted among the people who died from COVID-19. 

“This notion that anyone who dies is being attributed a COVID death is out-and-out wrong,” Horton said. “It’s not correct at all.”

DuFrayne addressed why some people who are vaccinated still end up in the hospital or die from COVID-19.

He pointed to the recent death of former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell as an example. DuFrayne said Powell was vaccinated but was actively undergoing cancer treatment and was immunocompromised. 

“The number of COVID patients who have been vaccinated who have died (in Daviess County) have a high rate of comorbidities — diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, lung disease,” DuFrayne said. “All those things really weaken our systems.”

However, he noted that most people with those same conditions who have been vaccinated have not ended up in the hospital.

In addition to fewer hospitalizations, Daviess County’s incident rate — the number of new cases daily per 100,000 — has steadily declined after a rapid increase. The arc for the incident rate is as follows:

  • June 25 — 1.69
  • July 27 — 33.78
  • Sept. 7 — 81.62
  • Sept. 24 — 51.65
  • Oct. 19 — 34.48

Horton said the trends for the state and country are about the same.

“All trends are moving in a positive direction,” he said. “Our case rates are down, our positivity percentages for the total number of tests is continuing to decline. Hospitalizations are down. Mortalities are still plateaued, but we expect that because they trail the hospitalization data.”

Horton said that especially with the holiday season approaching, health officials still warn the public to be cautious to avoid another wave. 

“We’re heading in a better direction,” he said. “We’re hopeful, but our basic messages and advice are still the same. It’s still important to take steps to protect yourself. The number one thing folks can do is get vaccinated, and masks continue to be an effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

October 22, 2021 | 12:10 am

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