Airport travelers in a COVID age (some are masked)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- While things seem like they're getting back to normal, health leaders are reminding people that COVID is still around.

Health leaders are describing COVID right now in Louisville as "consistent and concerning." Only five cases of the Delta variant have been found in the city, but health experts believe that number is much higher. They say some people have the variant but have not been tested for that specific strain.

"We still have patients in the hospital. We still have patients in the ICU," said Connie Mendel, the assistant director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness. "We added 193 cases in the last week."

The Delta variant, first identified in India, is highly contagious and was found in March in the U.S.

"As worrisome as the variant is, officials said the vaccine is still highly protective, and people who are immunized fully against the virus should not be concerned about having significant risk, severe illness, hospitalization or death," explained UofL Health's Dr. Paul McKinney.

"There is a shift in who is getting ill," said Dr. Joseph Flynn, chief administrative officer for the Norton Medical Group. "And that's the younger populations, and that is the population that is a little bit resistant to get vaccinated."

Health officials stress vaccines do work to protect people from COVID variants.

"Recently, the Delta variant has become a variant of concern, because it's shown to be highly contagious and it's spreading rapidly around the world," Mendel said.

Through the Co-Immunity Wastewater monitoring conducted by researchers at U of L, the variant was present in the south-central Preston area of Louisville.

"Because our community is not evenly vaccinated, we are at huge risk of parts of our community being at risk for severe outbreaks due to the new Delta variant that is in town," said Dr. Sarah Moyer, director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness.

Researchers said the last two weeks of wastewater testing shows it spread in the north and eastern parts of Louisville, all areas with low vaccination rates.

The health department said unvaccinated people are at an increased risk of becoming severely ill, hospitalized and dying from the Delta variant. And if you are not vaccinated, health officials said continue to wear a mask, avoid gatherings and limit outings

"I would not be surprised if we don't step up the vaccination abilities here, we could see times where go back to having mandatory masking again and impact on big gatherings," Flynn said.

The health department says 835,674 total vaccine doses have been given in Metro Louisville since December.  Nearly 55% of Louisville residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 46.4% have completed the vaccine series.

The health department said travel is now the top setting where people are exposed to the virus.

There will be a pop-up vaccination clinic in Chickasaw Park from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

People can drive through or walk-up.

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