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COVID-19 cases up sharply here


COVID- 19 cases have risen sharply over the past week in Letcher County, even as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control released statistics showing the county is one of the top six in the state in the percentage of people vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the state has now opened up vaccine appointments for everyone 16 years old and over, and Pfizer-BioNTech has completed trials for ages 12-15 and is awaiting government approval to give vaccines to that age group.

The total number of cases in the county on Tuesday stood at 1,829, up 61 from the week before. The number of dead is now at 41.

On Thursday alone, there were 27 new cases in Letcher County, the fifth highest of any county in the state. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control lists the level of community transmission here as “high.”

Medical experts are urging people across the country to continue to wear masks in public, avoid large crowds, stand at least six feet from others and use hand sanitizer.

While both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have proved to be about 90 percent effective and the Johnson & Johnson about 70 percent effective, it is still possible to catch the virus and spread it to others, particularly with new variants that are more contagious.

But while cases here are increasing, there is good news as well. According to the latest figures released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 25.5 percent of the population here has been fully vaccinated, 32.6 percent of those over 18 have been fully vaccinated, and 55.2 percent of persons over 65 have been fully vaccinated.That’s much higher than most of the surrounding counties, with the exceptions of Pike and Perry, with 27.7 percent and 26.7 percent of their populations fully vaccinated.

In neighboring Knott County, 21.3 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, in Harlan County, just 16.4 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.The percentage of the population that is vaccinated is very low along the Tennessee border and much of western Kentucky.

The latest statistics from the state and federal government for counties in this area of Kentucky and in Virginia are as follows:

Knott – Total 1,122 (22 dead, incident rate 8.7, percent vaccinated 21.3); Letcher – Total 1,829 (41 dead, incident rate 13.3, percent vaccinated 25.5); Perry – Total 2,550 (62 dead, incident rate 18.9, percent vaccinated 26.7); Harlan – Total 2,591 (80 dead, 26.9 incident rate, percent vaccinated 16.4 ); Pike – Total 5,375 (84 dead, incident rate 7.2, percent vaccinated 27.7); Wise Co., Va. – Total 3,002 (155 hospitalized, 93 dead, percent vaccinated 9.6) Norton, Va. – Total 257 (18 hospitalized, 6 dead, percent vaccinated not available)

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