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Vaccine rates up here after sweepstakes offer

Health officials are racing a mutated coronavirus strain to try to get more people vaccinated against COVID-19.

As the number of cases of COVID have increased, more people are being infected by the so-called Delta Variant of COVID-19, a mutation that first arose in India and caused widespread death. It is not clear whether the variant has been found locally, but nationwide, health experts say it is becoming the dominant strain. It is more contagious, more severe, and more deadly than the original strain of COVID-19, but researchers say the existing vaccines appear to be effective against all known variants.

Governor Andy Beshear lifted the mask mandate and all restaurant restrictions on June 11, but some health officials worry that it might be too soon because of the Delta variant.

The incident rate here in Letcher County is slowly increasing, up to 4.6 from 3.3 last Tuesday, but the vaccination rate is also speeding up since the announcement of a statewide sweepstakes called Shot at a Million that can only be entered by Kentuckians who have had the vaccine.

For the past several weeks, the vaccination rate in Letcher County had been sluggish, increasing by less than a percent per week. In the past week the percentage of people vaccinated, by age group, increased by 1.2, 1.4, and 1.5 percent. While the increases had been lowest for those 18 years of age and up, the percentage increase for that group was above the older group and only slightly below the youngest age group this week.

The overall vaccination rate for Letcher County on Tuesday evening stood at 36.4 percent, up from 35.2 a week earlier. For the 12 to 18 age group, the percent vaccinated is 42.5, up from 41 percent last week. For the 18 and up group, the percent now vaccinated is 45.9, up from 44.5 a week ago. For those 65 and over, the percent vaccinated is now 65.4, up from 64.2 last Tuesday.

Just across the state line in Wise County, Va., the vaccination rate remains extremely low. The overall vaccination rate there is just 18.4 percent. The highest percentage of those vaccinated is among the 65 and over group, where 35.5 percent are fully vaccinated. The only nearby county with a lower percentage of vaccinated people is McDowell County, West Virginia.

The latest COVID-19 statistics for Letcher and the surrounding counties in Kentucky and Virginia are as follows:

Knott – Total 1,151 (24 dead, incident rate 1.9, percent vaccinated 32)

Lee – Total 1,291 (26 dead, incident rate 1.9, percent vaccinated 32.5)

Leslie – Total 947 (8 dead, incident rate 8.7, percent vaccinated 33.3)

Letcher – Total 1,951 (46 dead, incident rate 4.6, percent vaccinated 36.4)

Owsley – Total 507 (16 dead, incident rate 3.2, percent vaccinated 29.4)

Perry – Total 2,747 (66 dead, incident rate 16.6, percent vaccinated 40.6)

Wolfe – Total 539 (6 dead, incident rate 4.0, 35.1 percent vaccinated)

Harlan – Total 2,924 (88 dead, 2.7 incident rate, percent vaccinated 29.8)

Pike – Total 5,711 (106 dead, incident rate 6.9, percent vaccinated 35.8)

Wise Co., VA – Total 3,269 ( 173 hospitalized, 102 dead, percent vaccinated 18.4)

Norton, VA – Total 290 (19 hospitalized, 7 dead, percent vaccinated not available)

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