Cases, hospitalizations and ICU cases jump; judge blocks limits on day-care centers; map rates risk based on recent cases

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

Kentucky reported 299 new cases of the coronavirus Friday, one of the highest daily numbers yet, and four additional deaths, raising the state’s pandemic death toll to 585.

Perhaps more worryingly, covid-19 hospitalizations in Kentucky rose to 455, and the number of those in intensive care rose to 99. Gov. Andy Beshear has said hospitalization numbers are more important than daily cases. He did not comment on the numbers in his press release.

Friday’s fatalities were a 70-year-old man from Fayette County; a 107-year-old woman from Jefferson County; and two women from Shelby County, 89 and 91.

Counties with more than five new cases Friday were Jefferson, 43; Warren, 25; Fayette, 15; Daviess and Shelby, 13 each; Laurel, 10; Boone, 9; Oldham and Pike, 8; Christian and Kenton, 7 each; and Hardin, 6.

Several of those Kentucky counties stand out on a new, interactive map that estimates the risk that the coronavirus poses to every U.S. county, based on the number of new cases in the previous seven days.

The counties with “accelerated spread” at midday Friday were Fayette, Fulton, Gallatin, Jackson, Knox, Laurel, Clay, Shelby, Warren and Butler. Knox had the highest rate of new cases, 24.3 per 100,000 people.
The map, from the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, is color-coded but interactive, allowing users to see the data behind the colors, which are:
  • Green: Less than one case a day per 100,000 people, and containment is on track. Use contact tracing and testing to monitor.
  • Yellow: One to nine cases a day per 100,000 people, indicating community spread and the need for rigorous testing and tracing.
  • Orange: 10 to 24 cases a day per 100,000 people, showing “accelerated spread,” and stay-at-home orders are advised
  • Red: 25 or more a day cases per 100,000, meaning the county is at a “tipping point” and stay-at-home orders are necessary to contain the virus.
Judge rules against Beshear: A circuit judge in Northern Kentucky issued a statewide injunction Friday barring Gov. Andy Beshear and his administration from enforcing limits on sizes of groups of children at child-care centers.

Judge Richard Bruggemann’s order also applied to automobile racetracks such as Florence Speedway, a dirt track that the state allowed to open but without spectators. The judge allowed it to open at half capacity.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron, originally a defendant in the suit but now a plaintiff, said in a press release, “While there is no doubt a need to protect public health during this pandemic, our Constitution expressly prohibits one person from controlling every aspect of life for Kentuckians. The statewide temporary restraining order issued today suggests the court shares our concern that the governor’s executive orders are arbitrary and violate the constitution.”

Beshear said he would immediately appeal. “This ruling is dangerous, and would lessen and eliminate important protections that numerous states are using to stop the spread of the coronavirus,” he said. “An attorney general should protect people, not put their lives in danger.”

“Attorney Chris Wiest, who represented the plaintiffs in the case, said the judge’s ruling averted a crisis given the day cares he represented were a month or two away from closing if Beshear had his way,” the Courier Journal reports. “Those plaintiffs had taken aim at social distancing requirements in place for child care programs, specifically how groups of no more than 10 children must remain together all day without combining with another classroom.”

In other covid-19 news Friday:

  • A story in The Washington Post begins, “A strawberry daiquiri now, or school in the fall? A sun-soaked holiday weekend, or the college football season?
    “As the United States celebrates its birth as an independent nation, it finds itself at a crossroads in its encounter with the novel coronavirus. The pandemic, the worst in a century, has revealed rifts in the social fabric and dysfunction in institutions of politics and public health. Whether the country can withstand the onslaught of the virus may now depend on how many people are willing to forgo bustling barbecues and patio parties this weekend, which will prove fateful for the health and welfare of American society.”
    “We have perhaps one more chance to get this right,” said Aileen Marty, an infectious-disease specialist at Florida International University in Miami.
  • In a lighter vein, the Post shows how cartoonists have chronicled the battle between President Trump and people who wear masks.
  • The Courier Journal reports how Beshear picked the 1,235 state-prison inmates to release due to the pandemic.
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