Coronavirus cases decline, but more nursing homes are infected, and Kentuckians’ behavior and attitude worry health officials

Kentucky Health News chart shows daily cases and the trendline for the last two weeks.

As news develops about the coronavirus and its covid-19 disease, this item may be updated. Official state guidance is at

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Amid an encouraging decline in Kentucky coronavirus cases, the number of nursing homes with cases took a big jump, and unhealthy behavior and lack of testing signups made officials worry.

The state confirmed 141 new cases Sunday, 122 Monday and 117 Tuesday, reversing last week’s slight uptick and accelerating the downward trend over the last two weeks, the period that federal officials say state officials should watch as they reopen their economies.

Weekend numbers are often reduced by limited reporting, but the Lexington Herald-Leader reports the latest three-day average was 127, the lowest since April 17. The number of deaths has also declined, to only three in the last three days, raising the state toll to 394.

“These are some of the lowest daily numbers we have seen,” Gov. Andy Beshear said. “But that is fragile, and with a disease that can so easily spread we have to want and put into action our desire to continue to see that downward movement.”

The bad news is that 26 more long-term-care facilities have had at least one case of the coronavirus, bringing the total to 105, and one had a major outbreak.

Health Secretary Eric Friedlander said 39 residents and 20 employees tested positive over the weekend at Nazareth Home Clifton in Louisville, sending 37 residents to hospitals because there was not enough healthy staff to care for them. The state is providing staff support while the employees recover.

“We’re going to see this probably again in Kentucky and we will have plans in place and we will respond aggressively,” Friedlander said.

Health Commissioner Steven Stack said the evacuation was the state’s largest to date, taking four hours and involving six local hospitals.

The 101-bed facility had requested facility-wide testing after several residents began to show symptoms of covid-19 last week, and had previously reported only one resident with the virus, Bailey Loosemore reports for the Louisville Courier-Journal. 

The state is working to test every resident and staff person at these facilities, an effort that Stack said will take several months. Friedlander said the state has done at least 11,000 tests in facilities, with a few thousand more scheduled in the next few days.

Since Friday, a total of 54 residents and 27 employees tested positive, raising those numbers to 1,170 and 547, respectively. He said there had been three new deaths “going back,” for a total of 215 resident deaths, plus two staff deaths from the virus. Click here for the daily update.

So far, at least 193,576 tests have been done in Kentucky. The governor’s daily news release said the testing rate in the past week was 138 per 100,000 residents, well above the recommended rate of 100 per 100,000. Click here for information on how to register for testing at more than 70 locations throughout the state.

Beshear once again implored Kentuckians to get tested, noting that the numbers at the free drive-thru sites sponsored by Kroger were disappointing, especially in Bowling Green, where only 206 signed up to be tested Tuesday, 84 on Wednesday, 39 on Thursday and 22 on Friday. The capacity at each site is typically 400 per day.

“We have a major outbreak in Warren County that our testing can help us identify and control, but you — you’ve got to go in and you’ve got to get tested,” Beshear said.

He also pointed out that the Kroger site in Henderson, near an area with many cases, had tested only 24 people Tuesday, with only 21 signed up for tomorrow and seven on Thursday.

“Folks, this is real. It is in this part of the state. We need you to take advantage of this. This is about protecting your community,” he said.

In another worrisome moment, Stack showed a video of a Lexington bar/restaurant crowded with people and warned that the virus is easily spread in large gatherings, especially where people are talking loudly.

“The evidence is absolutely overwhelmingly clear that a small number of large events or a small number of a lot of people getting together with one or two infected folks spreads this thing like wildfire,” he said. He later added, “I don’t know what it will take for us to learn that this is not a game, that this is serious.”

Beshear added that the bar was not ensuring a safe environment and said, “I wouldn’t go there, and I won’t go there, and you shouldn’t either, because if we are not going to enforce social distancing in places, they are not safe.”

Stack also talked about the importance of wearing masks to decrease the spread of the virus, though they can be a nuisance.

“This infection has taken a horrible toll on humanity, and unfortunately it will continue to take a toll until we find a vaccine and a way to prevent this,” he said. “Until we find a treatment or we can cure it, we are left with old-school, old-fashioned public-health measures which we know work, but are difficult to implement because they require us to make sacrifices — sacrifices that protect us and the people we love and care about, but also sacrifices that protect other people who rely on us.”

Beshear, as he wrapped up talking about the Sunday protest that ended with him being hung in effigy, said as he redonned his mask, “After everything that has happened this weekend, do we still think it is too much to wear a  mask? To protect our fellow human beings? I wear it to protect my family. I think other people should wear it to protect theirs.”

In other covid-19 news Tuesday: 

  • Beshear said Tuesday’s deaths include an 85-year-old woman from Adair County, a 63-year-old man from Allen County and a 72-year-old woman from Jefferson County. He encouraged everyone to turn on green lights, as he and his family would at the governor’s mansion, saying, “We show compassion there, not anger. We show love there, not hate.”
  • Beshear said 489 patients are hospitalized with covid-19, including 78 in intensive care. He said at least 3,115 Kentuckians have recovered from the virus. Click here for the daily summary.
  • The counties with the highest number of new cases over the last three days were Jefferson, 146; Shelby, 41; Warren, 30; Fayette, 26; Kenton, 10; and Logan, 10.
  • In an Appalshop Twitter post Dr. James Brandom Crum, a diagnostic radiologist in Pikeville, warns coal miners with black lung or chronic lung disease about how dangerous covid-19 could be for them, and asks them to self-isolate as much as possible, wear a mask and make sure those around them are doing all they can to protect them, because they could have the virus without symptoms. “Miners, let people help you,” he says. “Isolate yourself, let people go to the store for you, so you can stay away from people ’til this thing is better under control.”
  • Norton Healthcare plans to open a “first of its kind, permanent drive-thru and walk-up facility” in the fall, WDRB reports. Services will include vaccines, covid-19 testing, flu, strep, EKG and minor x-rays.
  • The state Department of Public Advocacy, which provides public defenders, is concerned about their health and that of others in the system if courts resume in-person hearings too soon. Some courts plan to do that June 1, DPA says in a news release. It says that was not the intent of a May 15 Supreme Court order saying trial courts could on June 1 “resume hearing civil and criminal matters using available telephonic and video technology to conduct all proceedings remotely.” Public defenders often represent multiple defendants in one court session.
  • ProPublica “scoured the latest research and talked to seven infectious disease and public health experts” to report on the latest information parents need to know about coronavirus as children return to day cares and camps. Beshear has said small, in-home child cares can open June 8, with some center-based programs and day camps allowed to open on June 15


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