Cases on the rise in Laurel County, only 31.8% of population vaccinated

Vaccine trial
Posted at 6:20 PM, Jul 21, 2021

LONDON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb across the state.

Kentucky's incidence rate map was a tool we followed for months at the peak of the pandemic, and now, we're seeing spots of red once again.

One of those counties is Laurel.

"For the last seven days, we were averaging 16 cases a day. Ask me that question two months ago, and it would've been about two cases a day," said Mark Hensley, Executive Director of the Laurel County Health Department.

Despite the efforts of health officials with outreach and a FEMA-run vaccine clinic, Laurel County remains one of the counties with the lowest vaccination rate.

"For me, it's very frustrating just because I've seen people die from this. I've seen people get very sick from COVID, and I've seen people suffer from longtime consequences," said Sarah Alonzo, an infection control nurse at Laurel Heights Nursing Home in London.

Shortly after Alonzo says she hit emotional rock bottom, the vaccine arrived, sparking a turnaround.

"We're trying our best to just encourage and to try to continue to educate people because vaccination does save lives. We've seen it here. In our town and in our facility," said Alonzo.

Alonzo says the good news at this time is that 80% of their staff is fully vaccinated, along with almost every resident.

Unfortunately, the rate is much lower county-wide at 31.8%, according to the CDC. Now, they're battling the delta variant.

"It's about 2.5 times more contagious and a lot more aggressive," said Hensley.

Hensley says they've detected COVID-19 infections in ten vaccinated people over the past two months, but the vast majority of cases are in those that are unvaccinated.

That's why the health department is making business and home visits with those seeking the vaccine.

After living with the pandemic for 16 months, Alonzo says she is frustrated with the doubt about the vaccine.

"Just trying to get people to take it and realize that COVID is real. And it kills people. And COVID has killed more people than any vaccine ever," said Alonzo.

Since March 2020, the virus has killed more than 7,000 Kentuckians.