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Health officials warn to get vaccine, wear masks to prevent spread of variants

Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 6:54 PM CDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - While there is light at the end of the tunnel with the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, there is a new worry among health officials: COVID-19 variants.

“I really don’t want people to be scared of the variant, I want them to take it seriously,” Dr. Melinda Joyce, Vice President of Corporate Support Services for Med Center Health, said. Joyce adds this is one more reason why getting the COVID-19 vaccine is so important.

“As it is right now, all of the available vaccines do seem to still be very effective against these particular variant strains that we’re seeing,” Joyce said.

While seeing variants of a virus such as COVID-19 is not uncommon, it can be concerning as there is still research yet to be done on the variants.

“The most common variant strain is called the UK variant, and it’s actually been found in all 50 states, across the United States, and there are others as well,” Joyce explained. “We are starting to see some of that here in Warren County.”

Joyce said health officials are monitoring whether or not the variants could make someone get sicker than the COVID-19 we are used to seeing, and if there is a greater chance that it could be more contagious from person to person.

“We also worry about whether or not our treatments that we use, if somebody were to get sick, are they still going to be effective,” Joyce said.

As of now, if you go to get tested for COVID-19 in Kentucky, you will not automatically be tested for the variants. Joyce said those tests have to go through genetic sequencing and the state cannot do increased numbers of those types of tests right now.

“They are really only doing the testing for the variant if there is a high suspicion. For example, maybe somebody who has been fully vaccinated that has COVID-19 with symptoms, or if there is a spread among a group,” Joyce explained.

It is still important to wear a mask in public and practice social distancing as the variants are highly contagious, and in a crowd, you cannot tell who has been vaccinated and who has not.

“Whenever you go out in public, that mask is so very important, because again, that’s not only going to protect you, but it could also protect others if by chance you were to be an asymptomatic carrier,” Joyce said.

At last check, Kentucky has at least 83 cases of the UK variant, including 10 in Allen, two in Barren, one in Logan, one in Simpson and two in Warren.

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