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Poll: COVID-19 vigilance softening across Kentucky, despite escalation in cases

Mary Meehan

The leader of a health advocacy group says he’s concerned that most Kentuckians are behaving as if the pandemic has come to an end.

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky recently surveyed more than 800 residents to gauge their attitudes toward COVID-19.

President Ben Chandler said one-third of respondents indicated they feel the pandemic is over in the Bluegrass State, with more than half saying they’ve declared an end to the virus in their own lives.

“So what does this mean?," asked Chandler. "Kentuckians are living their normal, everyday lives, despite the ongoing pandemic. They’re seeing family and friends, taking trips, going to concerts, sports games. It’s been a long two years and people are moving forward.”

The survey, taken during June and the first half of July, randomly questioned 814 Kentucky adults by phone. Commissioned by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, the poll was conducted by the University of Cincinnati's Institute for Policy Research. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.4%.

At the time of the poll, the Omicron variant had been in Kentucky for several months and the BA.5 subvariant was spreading rapidly.

When the poll began, the vaccine was open to those five years and older, and about halfway through the polling, the vaccine received emergency authorization for children six months and older.

Chandler said as attitudes toward COVID-19 shift, it’s important to stay vigilant against the virus by keeping up to date on vaccines and boosters.

The poll also found that confidence in COVID-19 vaccines, among the unvaccinated, has lessened since the emergence of the Omicron variant. At the time of the poll, more than 76% of unvaccinated Kentucky adults said they believed the shots would only be “a little effective” or “not effective at all” in protecting them from COVID-19. In comparison, more than 65% of the unvaccinated population answered the same in a 2021 survey.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of Kentucky counties remain in the highest risk category for COVID-19 spread, as the most recent surge continues.

A map on the Kentucky Department for Public Health website shows the majority of counties in the red as of Friday. That’s the highest level of infection, based on a model from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency’s three-color system is based on new cases and hospitalizations.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.