LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — A panel of medical experts from the University of Kentucky echoed health officials across the country in urging people to get vaccinated and protect themselves from the highly transmissible Delta variant.
"I think we all are fearful that in those places where the vaccine rates are lower, we're going to see problems," said Dr. Ashley Montgomery-Yates, the chief medical officer for inpatient and emergency services at UK HealthCare.
According to state data, there are more than two dozen counties where less than 30% of the population are fully vaccinated.
Fayette County has one of the highest vaccination rates, with 63% of people in the county having received at least one dose, according to state data.
But Dr. Montgomery-Yates noted that of the 13 COVID-19 patients at UK Hospital, 11 are not vaccinated.
"Please go get vaccinated," she said.
Dr. Montgomery-Yates and others on the panel emphasized that the currently available vaccines have proven to be effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths and that they have appeared to work well against the Delta variant.
Meanwhile, in states like Arkansas and Missouri, hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise. In Arkansas, 35% of people in the state are fully vaccinated, while 43% of people have received at least one dose. In Missouri, 40% of people in the state are fully vaccinated, while 46% of people have received at least one dose.
In Kentucky, 44% of the people in the state are fully vaccinated, while 50% of people have received at least one dose.
"It's only a matter of time for the unvaccinated people in Kentucky to start seeing the effects of Delta the way that they are in Arkansas and Missouri," Dr. Vince Venditto, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences in the UK College of Pharmacy, predicted.
Dr. Venditto noted that there have been fewer than 30 cases of the Delta variant confirmed in Kentucky, but that the true number is almost certainly much higher.
"The issue is that when patients are coming into the hospital, they're not sequencing every positive case to determine what variant they have," he said. "They just know that they're sick and need treatment. And the treatment largely doesn't matter what variant they have."
Even in Lexington, where the vaccination rates are relatively high, cases of COVID-19 are rising.
The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department reported 53 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, representing the largest number of cases in a single day in almost three months.
When asked if the spread of the Delta variant is responsible for this spike, Kevin Hall, a spokesperson for the department, suggested that there is no concrete answer, citing the need to sequence the virus.
He added the following in a statement:
"We know that the Delta variant is becoming more common nationwide, it has been recognized in Lexington, and we must assume it is rapidly becoming the dominant strain in the community since it is more contagious than other recognized kinds of COVID-19."