Anderson is the only county in Kentucky where the CDC says there are medical reasons for some people to wear a mask

Screenshot of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention map highlighting Kentucky

This story has been updated.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
Anderson County is the only one in Kentucky with a medium level of coronavirus transmission, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention map of risks posed by the virus based on cases and health-care capacity. The rest of the state has a low level of the virus.

That means Anderson County’s residents and visitors who are immuno-compromised or at high risk for severe illness should talk to a health-care provider about whether they need to wear a mask or take other precautions, says the CDC. The county is one of only 123 U.S. counties and county equivalents at the medium level.

The Anderson County Health Department blamed its unique status on a data backlog caused by short staff, Lexington’s WKYT-TV reported April 11.

Everyone elsewhere can take off their masks, Health Commissioner Steven Stack said at Gov. Andy Beshear’s weekly news conference April 7.

Stack encouraged Kentuckians to continue to make a “risk-based assessment” when it comes to decisions about the virus, but said it’s all right to go unmasked if you are in a “green” county.

“It is okay to be in places with other people without masks,” he said, adding later, “We can keep ourselves safe and enjoy a lot more of our lives the way we once knew them.”

Beshear, asked if we are in an endemic phase of the pandemic (typically the final phase), said it is too early to tell. He said it will be a “good sign” if the latest version of Omicron does not cause a spike in the U.S.

“We’ll only know when we don’t see surges, just like we’ve seen in the past. And I think it’s going to take some time to know that’s the case,” he said. “I think we are learning to live in the moment with a pandemic that is thankfully at a very low level, and we all hope it’s already become endemic, we just won’t know about it yet.”

The CDC’s color-coded map uses green for counties with low risk of transmission, yellow for counties with medium risk and red for counties with high risk. The ratings are based on new coronavirus cases, Covid-19 hospitalizations and the percentage of staffed inpatient beds occupied by Covid-19 patients.

Clay County, Tennessee, is at a medium level and borders Monroe and Cumberland counties in Kentucky. Livingston, Crittenden and Union counties border four red counties in Illinois, but Livingston has no direct connection to them across the Ohio River; Crittenden has a ferry and Union has a bridge.

Stack said Kentucky is a bit behind the rest of the nation when it comes to the circulation of the newer version of Omicron, called BA.2. Nationally, he said 72 percent of the virus is BA.2 and 25% is the original Omicron, BA.1. In Kentucky, it’s about 60% BA.2 and 40% original Omicron, he said.
Stack said his Department for Public Health would stay vigilant in monitoring the coronavirus, but he encouraged the general public to not worry and to keep doing the things that we know work to slow the spread of the virus: get fully vaccinated, get boosted, and respect those who chose to wear a mask.

He said, “I strongly recommend you tune out the buzz and the chatter about the variant du jour,” French for “of the day.” “It just adds to anxiety and worry about things you can’t control anyway.”

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