Mayor Fischer, local health experts address concerns about omicron variant –

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Call the LOU HEALTH helpline 502-912-8598.
Officials are urging residents to get a flu shot as cases increase nearly 400%
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Dec. 7, 2021) — Mayor Greg Fischer, joined by Dr. Sarah Moyer, director of the Louisville Department of Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW), Dr. SarahBeth Hartlage, the department’s associate medical director and Dr. Mark Burns, an infectious disease specialist and assistant professor at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, today provided an update on COVID-19 and flu cases in Louisville and addressed concerns about the omicron variant.
The omicron variant has been spreading in a growing number of countries, including the U.S., but it has not been detected in Louisville yet. However, the Mayor continued to urge residents to protect themselves against the present delta variant.
“It’s just a matter of time before the omicron variants arrives here, and we need to be prepared. Our numbers are already increasing at a concerning rate, although omicron has not yet been detected locally,” said the Mayor. “The good news is we have powerful tools such as vaccines, booster shots for ages 18 and up and testing to fight against COVID-19. But, unfortunately, we’re close to 1,800 Louisvillians losing their life because of COVID, and everyone has been impacted by this tragedy.”
As many Louisvillians would like COVID to be over, the health experts urged residents to be vigilant as more variants are on the way. Dr. Moyer reminded residents that vaccination, frequent testing, social distancing, frequent handwashing and mask-wearing are still effective ways to combat the virus from spreading.
“If you were someone who stopped wearing your mask after you were vaccinated, now is the time to put that mask back on when you’re in indoor crowded settings,” she said. “If you were someone who wears a cloth mask, now’s the time to upgrade to a surgical mask to get a little bit more protection.”
 Here are the key COVID-19 data metrics for December 6, 2021:
Hospitalization data:
COVID and flu seasons ramp up
Last year, Louisville schools and restaurants were closed. Many other public places were limiting capacity and residents stayed at home, which resulted in low flu cases. Now that the city is returning to some normalcy, Dr. Moyer noted that flu season has started, and the numbers have already increased almost 400% in the last week. Both COVID-19 and flu cases “are back to a steep incline” as more people are traveling and gathering during the holidays, she said.
“If you look at our mobility data, we are almost back up to pre-pandemic movement as more people are going out to the stores and work, which has increased in this last month. As more people interact, the more COVID spreads,” she said. “We know that everyone over the age of 18 has not gotten their booster yet, and it makes a huge difference. As vaccines start to wane, we are seeing more breakthrough cases and even breakthrough deaths.”
As hospitals are seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases, Dr. Moyer also strongly encouraged residents to get a flu shot. She noted that hospitals are still at the red-capacity level, so “anything you could do to help keep yourself and your loved ones out of our hospitals right now is really important. You don’t want to be infected with both the flu and COVID.”
Detecting variants: What is omicron?
Early indications are that the omicron variant is more transmissible than delta, and it’s because of replication, said University of Louisville infectious disease specialist Dr. Mark Burns.
“Viruses replicate, and that’s how they survive. They need a living source, such as an animal, a plant or a human being to replicate. And when they do replicate, they don’t always replicate exactly. In other words, they make mistakes sometimes when they replicate. Sometimes, those mistakes are just by chance,” he said. “So, in essence, a variant is the changes that the virus is trying to make to survive because the virus is feeling the pressure as defenses are reckoning against them.”
The rapidly spreading omicron variant is not in Louisville yet, and there have been some reports that it might be more evasive of vaccines, he said. However, Dr. Burns emphasized that research is being done to answer three key questions.
“Number one, how transmissible is this variant? Number two, how severe is this variant to us? And then, thirdly, and probably most importantly, are our vaccines effective against it,” he said. Adding that “we anticipate it showing up here any time.”
Dr. Burns joined the expert panelists in recommending that residents ages 5 and up should get vaccinated, and if eligible, get a booster shot to fight against the COVID variants.
Say Yes to Covid Test still available
More than 300,000 free Say Yes! Covid Test home kits have been distributed. Residents can visit any of the 40 locations to pick up four test kits while supplies last. Now is the perfect time to use them during the winter months.
The home tests do not replace workplace, travel or school testing policies.
To find a location to pick up a free test, visit or call the LOU Health COVID Helpline at 502-912-8598.
View this week’s COVID-19 briefing with public health officials here.
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