COVID-19 Test. COVID Test.

Even though the U.S. Public Health Emergency for COVID-19 ended on May 11, 2023, COVID-19 has still been around since then. What is the landscape for this virus?


New strains of COVID-19 have emerged recently, due to numerous mutations of the COVID-19 virus. The strains most prominent in 2024 include:

  • 2
  • 3
  • 1
  • 1.5
  • 5.1

The new family of SARS-CoV-2 variants — nicknamed “FLiRT” variants — have begun to spread nationwide. These variants are distant Omicron relatives that descended from JN.1, the variant behind the surge in cases in winter 2023-2024. They’ve been designated “FLiRT” variants based on the technical names for their mutations, one that includes the letters “F” and “L” and another that includes the letters “R” and “T.”

KP.2 accounted for about 25% of new sequenced cases during the two weeks ending April 27, 2024, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As of June 11, 2024, KP.3 has accounted for about 25% of new sequenced cases. Other FLiRT variants, including KP.1.1, have not become as widespread in the U.S. yet.

Symptoms of all these strains are essentially the same as the symptoms of past dominant COVID-19 strains, but new strains may be slightly more contagious than past strains. Due to increased immunity levels, many people who have recently had COVID-19 are reporting less severe symptoms than in the past.

Common COVID-19 symptoms still include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Other flu-like symptoms

People who are immunocompromised or who have coexisting health issues may experience more severe symptoms.

Other COVID-19 variants will likely develop as time goes on. They are projected to cause the same or similar symptoms and still be easily passed from person to person.

Amount of Cases

COVID-19 case numbers have climbed and dipped throughout each year since 2020. In 2024, cases have mainly been at a low to medium level in Kentucky, according to Covid Act Now. The numbers of hospital admissions and patients with COVID-19 have been at low to medium levels across the state.

Factors that could contribute to increasing cases include:

  • Increase in travel
  • Weather, holidays or events causing people to gather indoors
  • Protection decreasing from previous booster dose

COVID-19 Vaccine

The most effective method of protecting yourself against COVID-19 is staying up to date with vaccination.

The current version of the COVID-19 vaccine as of July 2024 is monovalent, primarily protecting against XBB.1.5, a strain that was dominant in the first half of 2023. The vaccine is expected to provide good protection against current and future COVID-19 variants, and it has been proven to be effective.

It is recommended for anyone six months and older to get a COVID-19 vaccine, especially if managing coexisting health issues. However, if you have recently tested positive for COVID-19, you should wait three months after testing positive to get the vaccine.

If you need to get your flu vaccine also, it is safe to get both the flu and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time.

The COVID-19 vaccine can cause flu-like symptoms, such as body aches. These symptoms can be good because they show that your body is generating an immune response to the new antibodies. Any adverse symptoms should disappear in a day or two, but to reduce symptoms, you can:

  • Eat well
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for body aches or fever

UofL Health is offering Pfizer’s version of the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine is offered at the following UofL Health – Pharmacy locations:

The UofL Health – Pharmacy locations are also administering Paxlovid® to COVID-19 patients who are at risk of developing severe disease.

How Else Can I Protect Myself?

Wearing a mask can still be an effective way to protect yourself against COVID-19. If you have factors that may make you at higher risk of adverse complications from COVID-19, you may want to wear a mask. You may benefit from wearing a mask if you are:

  • An older adult
  • Immunocompromised
  • Working or spending time in a place with poor ventilation

If you’re outside in an open area, you likely do not need to wear a mask, unless you will be in close contact with several people who you do not know.

COVID-19 has graduated to the endemic stage, meaning this is a virus we must live with. However, if we stay current with vaccinations and use additional means to protect ourselves, such as handwashing, we can keep ourselves as healthy as possible.

If you have any questions about the COVID-19 vaccine or about anything related to the virus, you can contact your primary care provider. If you need a provider, UofL Physicians – Primary Care is here for you. You can call 502-588-4343.

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Article by: Mark V. Burns, M.D.

Mark V. Burns, M.D., is an infectious disease specialist at UofL Health and an associate professor of medicine at University of Louisville School of Medicine. Dr. Burns earned his medical degree from the University of Louisville School of Medicine. He then completed his residency with UofL Internal Medicine before completing his fellowship at UofL Health – UofL Hospital. He is certified with the American Board of Internal Medicine - Infectious Diseases.

All posts by Mark V. Burns, M.D.
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