Whitley County is once again in the red on Kentucky’s COVID–19 scale.
According to the information released by Kentucky Public Health, the county’s incidence rate stood at 26.4 on Monday, making it one of eight counties in Kentucky to be in the red zone.
According to the Kentucky Department for Public Health, 71 new COVID–19 cases have been reported in Whitley County over the last eight days.
The highest single day was for July 17 when 21 new cases were reported.
There are currently two people hospitalized with COVID–19 in Whitley County
No new deaths have been reported in Whitley County from the surge.
Whitley County Health Department Public Health Director Marcy Rein said the surge is the result of unvaccinated individuals taking part in normal summer activities.
“The Fourth of July may have something to do with it,” Rein said noting the timeframe is correct for transmissions from the holiday weekend to begin to surface.
Rein said Whitley County is in the lower percentage among Kentucky’s 120 counties in terms of the number of residents who have been fully vaccinated at 32.1 percent.
“We are hearing from some that they don’t trust the vaccine, while others don’t believe it is that serious if they get it because they are young and healthy,” Rein said. “We still hear from people that don’t believe all of the hype.”
Rein said according to surveys conducted by the Center for Disease Control, approximately 11 percent of Whitley County residents say they are not going to get vaccinated, while more than 20 percent are hesitant to do so.
“We are doing our best to get information out there and answer questions and make it convenient,” Rein said of health department officials.
Rein said health department representatives plan to be at upcoming events, such as NIBROC, in an effort to talk with and, hopefully, get more people vaccinated.
“We need to make the vaccine available at as many of those places as possible,” Rein said.
Rein said the county needs to see less than nine cases per day for the incidence rate to begin to drop.
Nearby Clay County is also in the red with an incidence rate of 38.
Laurel and Pulaski County are among a cluster of six orange counties in southern Kentucky.
Laurel County’s incidence rate is 21.8, while Pulaski County is at 20.2.
Gov. Andy Beshear returned to the podium Monday afternoon to ask more Kentuckians to get vaccinated.
Beshear said as of Monday, more than 2.25 million Kentuckians have been fully vaccinated.
Among the different age groups, Beshear said those 65 and older are the most vaccinated with more than 83 percent having taken the vaccine.
Seventy percent of Kentuckians age 50 and older have been vaccinated.
Overall, 61 percent of adults in Kentucky have been vaccinated.
“This is better than many of our neighbors,” Beshear said. “We want to fight for that to go higher.”
Beshear said while over half of Kentuckians ages 40 to 49 have been vaccinated, the number of individuals vaccinated continues to decrease as the demographic gets younger.
Among Kentuckians age 30 to 39, 46 percent are vaccinated.
Among Kentuckians ages 18 to 29, 36 percent are vaccinated.
Beshear said of Kentucky’s 120 counties, 10 counties have a vaccination rate higher than 40 percent. Perry and Floyd County are the only counties in southeastern Kentucky to exceed that rate.
“We need to do a lot better,” Beshear said. “We need them to make the adult decision to get vaccinated.”
Beshear said while it is possible with the new Delta variant of COVID–19 for a vaccinated individual to still contract COVID–19, being vaccinated significantly decreases the possibly of hospitalization and/or death.
“It is not the same magnitude,” Beshear said.
In addition, Beshear said that having more people vaccinated decreases the chances of clusters of cases.
Between May 31 and July 16, Beshear noted that there have been 34 instances of cluster of cases affecting 335 people.
“The vaccine breaks the chain of transmission,” said Dr. Steven Stack, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health.
While not issuing any mandates on Monday, Beshear made a number of what he described as strong recommendations that include:
- All unvaccinated individuals wear a mask indoors when not at home.
- Individuals with pre-existing conditions wear a mask, even if the individual is vaccinated.
- Vaccinated individuals in a job with significant public exposure consider wearing a mask
- All eligible Kentuckians get vaccinated immediately.
“This is all it would take to protect America!” Beshear said.
Beshear and Stack both emphasized that getting vaccinated is the choice of the individual.
However, Stack pointed to the New England states, noting that that area has the highest vaccination rates in the country, and is seeing the lowest number of new COVID–19 cases compared to the rest of the nation.
More information is available online at www.kycovid19.ky.gov.