7-day case average rises above 200 again, but hospitalizations are down; Beshear says it’s manageable with masks, distancing

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Gov. Andy Beshear announced 229 new cases of the novel coronavirus in Kentucky Wednesday, raising the state’s seven-day running average to 204, up from 196 yesterday and 176 on June 21, which was the lowest it had been since May 31.

Beshear again said Kentucky remains in a plateau, meaning that case numbers go up and down within a range. He said as long as the state can stay within that range and has enough hospital, intensive-care and ventilator capacity, its government will continue to manage the pandemic while reopening.

Beshear has said he will look more at hospital numbers, which went both ways Wednesday. He said there are 334 people are hospitalized with covid-19, the lowest number in some time, but the number in intensive care rose to 79 from 70 the day before.

Wednesday’s cases raised the state’s total to 14,363. Beshear announced one death Wednesday, an 89-year-old man from Laurel County, bringing the state’s covid-19 death toll to 538.

“We are currently in a manageable phase with the plateau that we are in,” Beshear said. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t some things we can do better — we need a lot more people wearing masks.”

As everything in Kentucky opens at some capacity on Monday, Beshear also urged Kentuckians to  keep six feet of social distance and decrease their daily activities by half — things he said they will need to do until a vaccine is readily available.

“We don’t get to live normal lives right now,” he said. “We get to live in our new normal where we manage this virus.”

Myrtle Beach a problem for several states

Dr. Steven Stack, the state’s public-health commissioner, said two clusters have been identified in Kentucky of people who had vacationed in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He said Horry County, where the city is located, has since declared a state of emergency, just four weeks after its reopening.

“We have now identified both in West Virginia and here in Kentucky numerous people that have returned from Myrtle Beach with covid-19,” Dr. Stack said. “I have to continue to urge and beg folks to be careful. It is not the time to be cavalier because we have a scenario where a place that was just starting the reopening process went from being fine to a state of emergency in three weeks.”

Health officials in Roanoke said Tuesday that the Virginia city was also getting cases from Myrtle Beach. The CovidActNow website estimates that Horry County’s virus transmission rate is 1.52, meaning that every 100 infected people infect 152 others. Generally, officials try to keep the rate below 1.10.

Stack said a group of 12 Kentuckians went to Myrtle Beach for three days on June 11 and at least nine of them tested positive after returning. He said the state now believes there is a second cluster tied to the city, as well as a third individual who went there and has since come home and tested positive.

Beshear said, “We’re asking people, if you know that there is a place that we can tell you that there are a lot of outbreaks, don’t go.”

He and Stack are also looking north. The governor said the free, Kroger-sponsored drive-thru testing sites next week will return to Northern Kentucky next week — as well as Louisville, Lexington and Pikeville — because of the “disturbing increases” of cases in the Cincinnati area.

In long-term care facilities, Beshear said that since Monday, 31 more residents and 17 more employees have tested positive for the virus, bringing those respective totals to 1,698 and 812. He said six more deaths have been attributed to residents of the facilities.

In other covid-19 news Wednesday:

  • The counties with the highest number of new cases Wednesday were Fayette, 40; Jefferson, 32; Warren, 23; and Christian, 20.
  • Beshear announced that in-person help for unemployment claims will be offered by appointment only in several locations. In Frankfort, the state will offer help every day next week between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.; in Ashland and Owensboro, on Monday and Tuesday between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.; and on July 7 in Somerset and Hopkinsville. He said details for exact locations and how to sign up online would be forthcoming.
  • In Franklin County, a little more than half the people who have been identified as infected with the virus have had no symptoms of covid-19, the county health department tells The State Journal. The county has has 122 cases, 51% of which are asymptomatic.
  • study in Singapore and China found that over half of those with the virus were infected by
    people who hadn’t developed symptoms yet. Another study, in a laboratory, found that the virus can remain infectious in aerosol droplets for up to 16 hours.
  • “As contact tracing — an effort to identify anyone exposed to someone with covid-19 — gets underway, Metro Louisville officials are advertising for local hotels to provide rooms in case they are needed to isolate people,” Deborah Yetter reports for the Louisville Courier Journal. The purpose is to provide quarantine sites for people unable to isolate at home.
  • North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said his state will delay expansion of re-openings for three weeks while making face coverings mandatory in public, McClatchy Co. newspapers report.
  • Retail alcohol sales jumped 55 percent nationally during the third week of March, when many stay-at-home orders were put in place, according to Nielsen data, and online sales skyrocketed. Kaiser Health News reports on some signs of addiction to watch out for, including big increases in the amount of alcohol consumed; concern expressed by family or friends; changes in sleep patterns; and if drinking is interfering with your everyday life.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report shows how contact tracing helped control an outbreak of covid-19 after a college spring break trip led to 64 cases, including 60 among 183 vacation travelers, one among 13 household contacts and three among 35 community contacts. “This covid-19 outbreak among a young, healthy population with no or mild symptoms was controlled with a coordinated public health response that included rapid contact tracing and testing of all exposed persons,” says the report.
  • The future of college athletics in the pandemic will be discussed at 4 p.m. Thursday, June 25 on Zoom. Panelists will be Joseph Fink, a University of Kentucky pharmacy professor who was longtime treasurer of the Southeastern Conference; UK higher-education historian John Thelin; UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart; former UK volleyball standout Leah Edmond; and UK alumnus and collegiate sports-marketing pioneer Jim Host. Register here.
  • The Kentucky Assisted Outpatient Treatment Program has received a $4 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, according to a Cabinet for Health and Family Services news release. The four regional treatment programs serve 192 people with serious mental illness.
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