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Jefferson County seeing 'alarming' increase in COVID-19 cases ahead of New Year's Eve celebrations

Louisville health leaders said the area is seeing a record-breaking number of COVID-19 cases and are advising people to avoid large gatherings for NYE.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The number of COVID-19 cases in Louisville is rising - and fast - according to new data released by city health leaders. Medical officials from multiple agencies discussed the uptick in cases during an added press briefing Wednesday afternoon.

Dr. Sarah Moyer, the director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness (LMDPH), said the increase in cases in Jefferson County is "alarming" and wanted to make sure everyone had the most recent data before returning to school and work in the new year.

New numbers

Around a month ago, the city of Louisville saw an average of 500 positive COVID-19 cases per day, according to LMDPH Associate Medical Director Dr. SarahBeth Hartlage. This week, that number tripled, with a total of 1,742 cases reported on Dec. 29.

Dr. Hartlage provided the following data on new cases:

One month ago: 500 cases
One week ago: 532 cases
One day ago: 1,060 cases
Today: 1,742

The increase is also reflected in the county's incidence rate, which has risen from 49.68 cases per 100,000 people recorded last week to 101.38 cases per 100,000 people as of Dec. 29.

Dr. Hatrtlage said the city's positivity rate has risen to nearly 20%, which could be the highest the city has seen during the entire pandemic. She also said these numbers are likely to rise even higher since most cases present 10-14 days after exposure and Christmas gatherings were only a few days ago.

“COVID is breaking new records every day, and unfortunately, we’re going to continue to see higher numbers,” she said.

The number of positive cases reflected in the city's data is based on testing from healthcare providers and community testing sites and does not account for at-home tests, according to Dr. Moyer.

Omicron

Health leaders said omicron is quickly becoming the dominant variant in Louisville, although specific variant testing data is not available yet. Dr. Moyer said that data will be available sometime in January due to the time it takes to process tests for variants.

RELATED: Here are the most common omicron symptoms being reported

Doctors from both Norton Healthcare and Baptist Health said the monoclonal antibody treatments that had been effective for the delta variant and earlier COVID-19 cases may not be as effective in treating omicron. Dr. Steve Hester with Norton said patients with possibly severe symptoms of COVID-19 are encouraged to talk to their doctor about the treatment options that are available.

Testing

Dr. Hartlage said COVID-19 tests are in short supply, not just in Louisville, but nationally as well. Due to this shortage, health leaders are encouraging people to only get tested if they've been exposed to COVID-19 or are displaying symptoms.

Dr. Hester said testing for "surveillance" purposes is not advised. 

There are currently no plans to reopen mass testing sites in Louisville, according to Dr. Hartlage. She also said at-home tests are also not as reliable as PCR tests, which are available from healthcare providers. 

For information on finding a testing site near you, the city's website has a full list of resources.

New Year's Eve

During the press conference, health officials discussed the upcoming New Year's Eve celebrations. Due to the increase in cases, officials are recommending that people avoid large, public gatherings.

If you have not been vaccinated against COVID-19, you are urged to get vaccinated and boosted. However, it takes up to two weeks for the vaccine to take full effect, so even if you get vaccinated now, you won't be fully protected by New Year's Eve.

If you are experiencing any symptoms, Dr. Hartlage said you should assume you have COVID-19. She also provided the following suggestions:

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19:

  • Stay home and isolate yourself for at least five days
  • Get tested, preferably with a healthcare provider

If you are not experiencing symptoms:

  • Wear a mask
  • Surround yourself with vaccinated people
  • Get your vaccine and booster shot
  • Stick to small gatherings

A New Year's Eve event is currently scheduled for 4th Street Live in downtown Louisville. Organizers said proof of vaccination and masks will not be required for the event, which is free to the public.

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