While the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet, another sign that the worst may be over comes in the form of the Lake Cumberland District Health Department’s decision not to mail out daily reports to community partners after this week.
LCDHD Director Shawn Crabtree said that daily reports will continue to be posted on the health department’s website and social media, but said he didn’t know how much longer those reports will continue.
“We will eventually stop doing the daily reports. I don’t know when,” Crabtree said.
In the meantime, he said the department was aggressively “sanitizing our data against the state data,” trying to root out discrepancies, so that when it does come time for LCDHD to stop their reports, they can be comfortable in sending people to the state website for up-to-date information.
The number of COVID cases in the community has dropped significantly since the area’s worst-hit weeks, in late December and early January.
As of Wednesday’s daily report, LCDHD showed that Pulaski currently has 27 active cases of the coronavirus, with three of those hospitalized and the rest on home isolation. Wayne County has two current cases, both of whom are isolated at home.
Both Pulaski and Wayne are both currently “Yellow” on the map of Kentucky counties, meaning they both have a seven-day average of COVID cases between one and 10 per a population of 100,000. Pulaski’s current rate is 8.79, while Wayne’s is 1.41.
In weeks past, health department officials have placed the responsibility of lowering local case numbers squarely on the introduction of COVID vaccine.
While many in the area have chosen to be vaccinated, many have not, and Crabtree said he would like to see the number of vaccinations increase.
According to the Team Kentucky website, only 36.3% of Pulaski’s total population and 27.83 percent of Wayne’s have had at least one dose of a vaccine. Both are far below the state average of 47%.
Crabtree said that from the local health department numbers, only 0.5% of those who contracted COVID were reinfected after the first infection, meaning that contracting the disease and having the natural antibodies from it was 99.5% effective in preventing a second case.
Also, of the approximate 8,500 cases of COVID that have been diagnosed since the vaccine became available, 98.5% of those cases were in people who had not received any dose of the vaccine.
“All the cases that we’re having right now are people who have chosen not to take the vaccine, and our mortality rate and hospitalization rate is still the same,” Crabtree said.
“We know that about one in 50 people who catch it die from it, and we know that about one out of every 18 people who catch it end up hospitalized. I know we could prevent deaths and hospitalizations if people would take the vaccine. … It’s a shame, we’re going to have more people die than is necessary, more people hospitalized than is necessary.”
The good news is that the lower number of cases means that current hospital capacity and supplies are doing well.
There was a time, around mid-January, where that was not the case, Crabtree said. The Lake Cumberland District was one of the areas seeing the system at the borderline of failing, he said.
“What I mean when I say ‘failing,’ is not having enough people to work and not having enough space and not enough ventilators. … It got really sketchy there for a few weeks.”
The slow down in cases also means a bit of a reprieve for health department employees. “We’re using just a few staff now,” Crabtree said. “There was a time we were using about every employee in the agency on COVID work, in one capacity or another, plus, scores of people we were hiring temporarily.”
Crabtree himself will be backing off from some of his duties as director at the end of the week.
Newly promoted director Amy Tomlinson will begin taking over duties on Monday, Crabtree said.
Crabtree himself will continue working at LCDHD until his retirement on July 31, providing support and training for Tomlinson in her new role.
He said he expected to have a smooth transition.