LEXINGTON, Ky. — An infectious disease doctor in Lexington said he is seeing more unvaccinated teachers and school staff in the hospital with COVID-19.

What You Need To Know

  • A Lexington doctor said he's seeing a growing number of unvaccinated teachers and school staff in the hospital with COVID-19

  • Dougherty said this seems to be happening now more than in the spring due mostly to the more contagious delta variant

  • He said education is one of the occupations that has the most amount of people hospitalized with COVID-19 at Baptist Health Lexington

  • Dougherty encourages everyone who is old enough to get vaccinated, particularly school staff

Dr. Mark Dougherty, an epidemiologist for Baptist Health Lexington, said the patterns around COVID-19 infections among school staff are changing. In the past, he said it was more common to find educators were infected during unmasked times around coworkers, such as at lunch. Now, Dougherty said it seems more students are getting infected, spreading the coronavirus to their teachers, bus drivers, etc.

He also said educators are among the occupations with the greatest amount of people in his hospital right now. In speaking with other epidemiologists in the state, he said it's a trend that extends beyond Lexington. Knowing the school year is just getting started, Dougherty said he fears what could come in the near future.

“It’s a little bit early to see the full impact of schools reopening because it takes a week or two weeks after acquisition for people to become really sick and need to be hospitalized or need to go on a ventilator," Dougherty said. "I think this is just the tip of the iceberg right now and I am very concerned about what is going to happen down the road.”

Dougherty said most of the educators in the hospital right now were not vaccinated. He said some vaccinated teachers are catching the virus, likely at work, but they often don't have the more severe complications that lead to hospitalization.

He encourages everyone, particularly people who work in schools, to get vaccinated. 

This rise in the number of unvaccinated educators in the hospital comes as Kentucky lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1 last week, which will eliminate the statewide school mask mandate. Now, school districts across the commonwealth are deciding whether or not masking will continue to be required. The Kentucky School Boards Association reported that, as of Monday evening, at least 39% of Kentucky's 171 school districts had already announced they will continue to require masks. 

Dougherty encourages school districts to continue to require mask wearing, as many students are too young to get vaccinated at this point. He encourages students who are old enough to get vaccinated, as that is the best line of defense.