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New mask recommendations in Kentucky as Delta variant spreads

The vaccines are still profoundly effective against the variant, but almost 40 percent of Kentuckians 18+ remain unvaccinated.
Published: Jul. 19, 2021 at 3:36 PM EDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WXIX) - The Delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading in Kentucky like wildfire, according to health officials, prompting Gov. Andy Beshear to release new mask recommendations.

“We have the most aggressive variant that we have seen to date in our battle against COVID. It’s a serious, even deadly, threat to unvaccinated Kentuckians,” said Beshear.

“If more adults don’t get vaccinated, it’s not just adults who pay the price. It’s our kids who will. Many of them can’t get vaccinated yet, and they count on us to make good decisions and do the right thing.”

The recommendations are as follows:

  • All unvaccinated Kentuckians should wear masks indoors when not in their home;
  • Kentuckians at higher risk due to pre-existing conditions should wear masks indoors when not in their home;
  • Vaccinated Kentuckians in jobs with significant public exposure should consider wearing a mask at work; and
  • All unvaccinated Kentuckians, when eligible, should be vaccinated immediately.

COVID-19 cases are rising quickly among unvaccinated Kentuckians. Cases among vaccinated Kentuckians remain six-fold lower than their unvaccinated counterparts

The vast majority of new COVID-19 cases in Kentucky are of the Delta variant. Cases are highest in parts of the commonwealth where vaccination rates are lowest, a trend reflected in national data as well.

Health experts have said the Delta variant is at least 50 percent more contagious than the original virus.

It also puts more people in the hospital and could have a higher mortality rate, according to Beshear.

Vaccinated Kentuckians contract the Delta variant at a six-fold reduced rate compared to unvaccinated Kentuckians, according to Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack.

Nationwide, 97 percent of COVID-19 related hospitalizations are among those who have not yet been vaccinated.

So-called “breakthrough” cases among vaccinated Kentuckians are rising as well, but Stack and Beshear speculate that could be due to the number of cases rising generally rather than a greater breakthrough potential of the Delta variant, which has not been proven.

Severe outcomes, including hospitalizations, continue to be extremely rare among those vaccinated, even with the Delta variant. Deaths due to COVID-19 are happening almost exclusively among unvaccinated people, according to Stack.

“This is now a vaccine-manageable condition,” Stack said Monday. “Every death that we experience going forward is probably a preventable death.”

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