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McCracken health official doesn’t believe county’s high COVID-19 community level rating

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Kentucky Public Health
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A new COVID-19 Community Level rating map released Friday by Kentucky Public Health gave McCracken County the state’s sole high rating. Purchase District Health Department director Kent Koster doesn’t think the map is accurate.

Koster claims there have been errors with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) uploading county data that have resulted in the high community level classification and that the CDC has been unable to correct the map.

The local health official doesn’t think McCracken residents are at any more of a risk than those of the 33 counties – including a majority of the Purchase and Pennyrile areas – listed as having a medium community level.

“If you look at the incident rate map, you know, we are substantial, but we’re one of about 50% of the counties in Kentucky that are substantial right now so you can’t tell me that we’re the only county in Kentucky that’s in the red and I don’t think we’re supposed to be in the red.”

The most recent COVID-19 data released by the PDHD says there are 185 active cases in McCracken County. Koster says there have been an average of 22 new cases per day according to their most recent per-week data measurement on Wednesday. This was up from 11 cases per day the prior week. Before that, Koster said, it was in the low single digits.

Koster says this increase in COVID-19 spread in western Kentucky has shown that the BA.2 variant is more highly transmissible because “a lot of the cases have the same last name, or the same address or are in the same apartment complex.”

This uptick hasn’t come with increased hospitalizations locally, Koster said. According to the health official, there have only been two reported hospitalizations in the county for COVID-19 in the past seven days.

“I’m still not overly concerned that we’re going to have a big spike in the number of cases,” Koster said. “There’s too many that have been vaccinated, there’s too many people that’s had COVID. Certainly the vaccine is waning and the antibodies in the people that have had COVID are waning, so there is more risk of you getting COVID now than if you were recently vaccinated or had COVID.”

These community level ratings are determined by the CDC. They rely on the number of newly reported cases per 100,000 people per week, the number of people newly admitted to hospitals with COVID-19 and the number of available hospital beds.

Koster still encourages people to get a COVID-19 vaccine or a booster, if eligible. He says somewhere around 80% of the people admitted to local hospitals for COVID-19 were unvaccinated.

The CDC suggests people living in places with high community levels of COVID-19 wear a well-fitting mask indoors, stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, maintain improved ventilation in indoor spaces where possible and follow established guidelines for isolation and quarantining after exposures.

For up to date COVID-19 information and guidance in Kentucky, visit kycovid19.ky.gov.

A native of western Kentucky, Operle earned his bachelor's degree in integrated strategic communications from the University of Kentucky in 2014. Operle spent five years working for Paxton Media/The Paducah Sun as a reporter and editor. In addition to his work in the news industry, Operle is a passionate movie lover and concertgoer.
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