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COVID-19 lingers despite end of national health emergency

Volunteers administer the covid-19 vaccine at the Kroger Field clinic on Saturday, March 20. Photo by Pete Comparoni | UKphoto
UK Healthcare
Volunteers administer the covid-19 vaccine at the Kroger Field clinic on Saturday, March 20. Photo by Pete Comparoni | UKphoto

The national COVID-19 public health emergency ends today, but medical experts are making it clear, the virus is still here.  

It’s been more than three years since the first case of COVID was confirmed in the Commonwealth. Since then, there have been over 1.7 million cases and the virus claimed the lives of more than 18-thousand Kentuckians. With vaccines, improved treatments, and less severe strains, daily deaths have dropped.  

Dr. Mark Dougherty, an infectious disease specialist with Baptist Health says the number of actual cases will be more challenging to track. 

“The vast majority of the tests are being done at home or people just aren’t testing.” Dr. Dougherty said, “I know from taking care of patients and you know, what I see going on around me, there’s a lot more COVID out there than is being reported.”  

However, Dougherty said fewer people are becoming as seriously ill if they get infected with COVID. Underlying health conditions remain a significant factor in fatality rates. 

“Most of the people in the hospital who have COVID are not dying from COVID. They’re dying, if they die, from other problems and the COVID has aggravated their heart failure or their underlying lung disease.” He added, “It’s not the same clinical situation as we saw in the past.” 

Health leaders from Lexington’s major hospitals say the key to moving forward is not to become complacent. This is Dr. Ashley Montgomery Yates, Chief Medical Officer, for UK Good Samaritan Hospital. She cautions that the end of the emergency does not mean the virus is no longer a threat. 

“The important message here is if we have a vaccine for something, get it! Vaccines save people. Go talk to the folks who lived 200 years ago and lost half their children. Vaccines changed that. Public health changed that. And Dr. Montgomery said, “If you’re sick, wear a mask. I don’t care what you’ve got. I don’t want your GI bug. I don’t want your flu. I don’t want your COVID. And you don’t want to spread that.” 

Most epidemiologists believe that the trends of the last three years will continue which means you can expect an uptick in cases over the summer months, however because of medical advances, the severity of symptoms if you get infected should be minimal especially if you are vaccinated.  

The end of the emergency declaration means the federal government will no longer require health insurance companies to cover testing and treatment medications so out-of-pocket expenses will vary depending on your insurance plan. Also ending, color-coded maps. After today, the CDC will stop reporting on community levels and community transmission levels of COVID-19. 

Karyn Czar joined the WUKY News team July 1, 2013, but she's no stranger to radio.