LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — As COVID cases rise again across the nation, due to two Omicron subvariants, Biden administration health officials are discussing another booster shot for all adults.
Cheryl Reichen and her husband Ron decided to make a stop in Lexington during their first time traveling since the pandemic began. It's a decision they didn't take lightly.
"Just taking precautions basically as you know, as everyone has suggested and because of our age and everything we've decided that's the best for us," said Reichen.
While many lowered their guards in toast to a return to normal as some mask mandates dropped, others never have.
"I have been wearing my mask everywhere. Sometimes I still wear it if I'm around a lot of people. I still wear it even though I have the vaccine and two boosters. I just want to err on the side of caution," said Lexington resident Freda Meriwether.
So far, Meriwether has not contracted the virus at all and is hoping it stays that way.
Health leaders are hoping for a lot more people to take their lead, with the presence of two highly contagious subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, which now account for around 70% of new cases in the country.
Doctors say these subvariants are the worst yet in terms of transmission,
The original strain of COVID-19 had a reproductive rate of around 3.3, meaning that each infected person infected another 3.3 people, on average. New studies suggest the latest subvariants have a reproductive rate of around 18.6, according to information from Fortune Magazine and The Conversation.
Dr. Daniel Rodrigue, an infectious disease expert and consultant with Baptist Health, says that number isn't an exact science and could vary. He says what's most important is what's happening overall.
"The important issue isn't so much the contagiousness. We've always known it's been contagious," said Rodrigue. "So, what message should we take home from today, is that it's not gone. It's still here."
What does this mean for you?
It should show red for high infection and green for low.
"If you're in a red area, do I want to spend a lot of time weekend after weekend in tightly packed indoor concert venues maybe not, or maybe use precautions if you're doing that. If you're in the green, you have more freedom," said Rodrigue.
Symptoms are largely the same.
Dr. Rodrigue says N95 and KN95 masks are best for indoor crowded spaces during a surge. He also adds people should be mindful of the cases that aren't reflected in the numbers.
"You can see that our positivity rate is going up. It's almost 17%, but that's only reported cases. A lot of people are not being counted at this point. They're testing positive at home," said Rodrigue.
Hospitalizations are rising, but Rodrigue says cases are not as severe.
"We don't see a ton of cases for example in the ICU. There's not a lot of people on the ventilators and that's a measure of some of the treatments that we have available," said Rodrigue.
Why does this keep happening?
Dr. Rodrigue says that's just the nature of the virus to evolve.
"There's a lot of other variants of COVID right now. Some of them have evolved and are not as contagious," he explained.
As the virus develops and changes so are scientists and biologists working to keep up.
"I don't think it's really going away. It's something that will evolve over time," said Rodrigue.