As many area schools are set to begin in-person classes next week, the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the region due to the delta variant.

Baptist Health Paducah has seen a dramatic increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks. The delta variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 has emerged as the dominant version of the virus.

It now makes up 83% of analyzed cases in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The variant has proven to be about 60% more contagious than other versions of the COVID-19 virus and is making people, especially those unvaccinated, sicker than other versions of the virus. There also are reports of “breakthrough” cases, which are incidents of vaccinated people testing positive for the virus.

When a virus widely circulates and causes many infections, the likelihood of the virus mutating increases, according to the World Health Organization. The more opportunities a virus has to spread, the more it replicates, and the more it undergoes changes.

Dr. Brad Housman, Baptist Health Paducah’s chief medical officer, said it is important to get vaccinated for many reasons, especially those who have already had COVID-19 and have not been vaccinated.

“If you’ve had COVID and get exposed to the delta variant, it’s possible you will get re-infected by the more contagious variant, if you’re not vaccinated,” he said.

“All of the vaccines authorized for emergency use in the U.S. have shown significant effectiveness against the delta variant.”

Experts say the more the virus hops from one person to the next, the more chances it has to mutate into a version that could one day evade the vaccines’ defenses.

For that reason, Baptist Health Paducah is encouraging those 12 and older to get the vaccine as soon as possible.

“Folks should really consider getting vaccinated if they have not done so already in order to protect their health and the health of their loved ones,” Housman said.

In addition to vaccination, the best defense against COVID-19 is to continue to wear a mask if you have a high-risk condition when in public places or with others who are at high-risk, especially for those unvaccinated. In addition, strict hand hygiene and physical distancing is still encouraged.

“For those who are unvaccinated, even an outdoor meal at a restaurant can be unsafe if you’re dining with people from multiple households. Crowds at outdoor concerts, parades, or sports events hold even more danger of contracting the virus,” Housman said.

While no vaccine authorized for emergency use in the U.S. has proven 100% effective in preventing the contraction of COVID-19, the breakthrough cases, those fully vaccinated individuals, may still get diagnosed with COVID-19.

Housman said vaccines are most effective in preventing serious illness or death.

“Most fully vaccinated people who get COVID-19 either have no symptoms or experience mild symptoms similar to those of a common cold. The five most common symptoms of COVID-19 in fully vaccinated people include a headache, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat and loss of smell.“

For more information about where to get your vaccine, go to https://www.vaccines.gov.

In light of the steady increase in the number of COVID-19 patients seeking care from the Emergency Department, Baptist Health suspended visitation in its Emergency Department, with limited exceptions, effective Friday (July 30).

“This is a difficult but necessary step to help deal with this situation,” said Baptist Health President Chris Roty. “We apologize for the inconvenience to our patients and their loved ones, but we must keep patient and staff safety our top priority. We appreciate the community’s continued understanding and cooperation.”

The hospital is allowing limited visitation for the following:

  • Inpatient (for non-Intensive Care (ICU) patients): Two visitors allowed between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.
  • Intensive Care (ICU) patients: Two visitors between the hours of 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Surgery patients: One visitor may accompany the patient
  • Pediatric surgery patients: Two visitors may accompany patients under 18 years of age
  • End-of-life for Non-COVID/Hospice patients: Two family members 24/7
  • Labor & Delivery: Two support persons may accompany the mother to L&D.
  • Postpartum: Only the mother and a support person (two bracelet holders) are allowed to accompany the mother to Postpartum.
  • Nursery and NICU: Mother and support person

No visitation for the following:

  • Emergency Department
  • No one under 16 years of age
  • Outpatient diagnostic and screening procedures
  • Outpatient Oncology treatment settings and Radiation Therapy
  • Baptist Health Medical Group locations: Exceptions to include dependent patients and children under 18.

All visitors are required to wear a mask upon entry. A mask will be provided to visitors who arrive without one.

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