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Far western Ky. counties’ COVID-19 case counts climbing as holidays approach

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CDC
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The latest data and guidance on COVID-19 in Kentucky can be found on the state’s website.

Several western Kentucky counties are experiencing climbing COVID-19 case rates as the holiday season approaches.

Centers for Disease Control data released late last week identified many western Kentucky counties – McCracken, Graves, Ballard, Carlisle, Hickman, Marshall, Livingston, Crittenden and Lyon – as COVID-19 “red zones.” The “red zone” designation means there are high levels of new COVID admissions to hospitals and numbers of beds occupied by patients with the disease.

This comes just days after data from a state poll indicated more than 58% of Kentuckians believe the pandemic is over in their personal lives and that the disease won’t impact their holiday plans..

Kent Koster is director for the Purchase District Health Department which oversees five far western Kentucky counties, including McCracken, Ballard, Carlisle, Fulton and Hickman. He said the region isn’t out of the woods yet.

“People need to understand that we're still in a pandemic. We'd like to say that we're out of the pandemic, but we're not,” Koster said. “I think we're getting to a point where, [at] some point down the road, we're gonna say we're gonna get out of the pandemic, but we're still in.”

Koster said his district was experiencing a decline in reported COVID cases through much of the fall, but the numbers have been on the rise for the last three weeks. Reported cases are now at about the same level as they were in early September of this year. Koster said the real number of COVID-19 cases could be much higher than the data shows.

“We've probably been in the red all along because the number of tests that are reported only represent probably about maybe 25% of the persons who are actually positive for COVID,” he said. “Because of all the home tests that are being done now, if those had been included all along, we probably would have been in red for a much longer time than what we're showing right now.”

The colder months bring about many activities that can become superspreader events for COVID-19. Events such as indoor sports, concerts, and holiday parties are all opportunities for the virus to spread if the proper precautions aren’t taken. Koster encourages those who are feeling sick to stay home and avoid attending large gatherings.

“The recommendation from the CDC is [that] when you're in the red, you need to wear a mask indoors. That's not something that's mandated, and so it's a choice,” Koster said. “We need to respect people, if they do wear a mask, and not criticize them for wearing a mask because they're actually concerned about other people and themselves.”

The health department director said other forms of mitigation – such as regular hand washing, social distancing, and getting either a booster or primary dose of a COVID vaccine – are all viable options.

Zacharie Lamb is a music major at Murray State University and is a Graves County native.
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