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'A massive decrease': Only three flu cases reported in Fayette County during 2020-2021 flu season

Posted at 4:17 PM, May 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-20 18:49:48-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Some will say it’s a coincidence. But you won’t hear that word inside the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department.

“It’s science,” said Kevin Hall.

Hall, who handles communications for the department, was referring to the enormous decline in the number of flu cases during the 2020-2021 unofficial flu season. During the season before the pandemic (2019-20), Lexington and Fayette County recorded 742 lab-confirmed cases of the flu, with three fatalities. This season, that number dropped to three. And that is not a misprint.

“This is a massive decrease and we believe there are many reasons why they’ve been quite a bit lower this year,” Hall said.

He then offered reasons such as; constant hand washing, distancing, avoiding large gatherings, and the wearing of masks, which we’ve been doing consistently since last year at this time.

Kroger, the regional grocery store chain, announced that it’ll allow all fully vaccinated customers to shop mask-free beginning Thursday. Kentucky as a whole will be able to shed the masks on June 11, regardless of vaccine status. Some will elect to continue wearing them, but as others choose not to, and the size of our gatherings increases, there’s an expectation that the flu numbers will return to pre-pandemic levels after Labor Day.

“Those will go back up in the fall and winter, which is expected,” Hall said. “But we do hope people learned from what we have in place from COVID-19,” he continued.

Connie Shepherd, a teacher from Laurel County, learned.

“I’ve been wearing this mask since March, and I haven’t gotten sick a time. No strep, or flu, and we haven’t seen those in school this year,” she said.

Hall said that while the health department doesn’t track illnesses like strep, or ear infections, the drop in those cases would make sense.

“Anecdotally, we know those haven’t been spread as much,” he said while pointing to many schools being virtual for much of this year, and kids not spending as much time together in confined areas.

While getting everyone to wear masks once a mandate is no longer in place seems unrealistic at best, Hall said the easiest thing to do is something we’ve been doing all along.

“Handwashing has become so ingrained in us the last year, and doing it properly,” he indicated as being a preventative measure to keeping the flu numbers low.

“Hopefully we continue to follow some of these guidelines next flu season,” Hall added.

Because if we do, science tells us that we can contain that virus too. Just look at the recent numbers.

“Masks. They do work,” said shopper Krystal Souder after being told of the drop in flu cases. Souder said she might keep wearing one beyond June 11, but it’ll likely depend on circumstance.