COVID-19 update: Numbers up slightly; new vaccines on the way

Aug. 25—A bump in reported COVID-19 cases in Boyd, Greenup and Carter counties has been observed by The Centers for Disease Control.

Nationwide, more than 12,600 Americans are hospitalized with COVID-19, and that number is rising, jumping 22% in the most recent week, the CDC reported. Still, the numbers are about one-third of where they were a year ago, largely thanks to immunity from vaccinations and prior infections.

A rise in respiratory illness cases among students and staff is taking a toll on some school districts in Kentucky: two districts in the eastern part of the state have canceled in-person classes this week.

The Lee County School District of fewer than 900 students, reported an 82% decrease in attendance last week, which it attributed to illnesses including flu and colds, Superintendent Earl Ray Shuler said.

Lee County started the school year on Aug. 8. By Monday of this week, the attendance rate had dropped to 81%, with 14 staff members also out sick. He said all buildings and buses are being sanitized, and all student activities for the remainder of the week are canceled. Classwork will be done remotely for the remainder of the week. In-person learning returns Monday. Students who had COVID-19 will be required to wear masks for five days when students return to school, Shuler said.

Magoffin County Schools, which has approximately 1,800 students, has seen its student attendance decrease from 95% last week to 83% on Wednesday, Magoffin County Schools Superintendent Chris Meadows said. Classes have been canceled for the week and students will return on Monday.

Some students have reported having had a 48-hour virus while school staff, bus drivers and custodians also have been absent because of illness.

Forty-five COVID-19 cases were reported this week, the Magoffin County Public Health Department found, which doesn't count those testing positive at home.

Health experts say symptoms have been mild, but ask the public to take precautions to limit the spread, including taking vaccines and continued thorough hand washing.

COVID-19 vaccinations, which are updated to include the XBB.1.5 coronavirus subvariant, are expected to be released in mid-September and are expected to retain potency against closely related strains. All three vaccine manufacturers say clinical studies show that their vaccines are effective against EG.5, the currently dominant strain in the United States.

Vaccines will be provided through the commercial market, but under the Affordable Care Act, most insurance plans are required to cover the full cost of vaccines, without co-pays. Those with no insurance can still get vaccines for free through a government bridge program by going to a health department or a federally qualified health center. The CDC is working with some pharmacies to make the program available there.