Kentucky records 2nd highest number of virus cases in a week, but positive-test rate remains under 4 percent for a seventh day

State chart, labeled by Kentucky Health News; final-week figure remains subject to revision.

State chart, adapted by Kentucky Health News

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

The reporting week that ended Sunday had the second highest number of new coronavirus cases in Kentucky, nearly 4,600. At the expected 1 percent mortality rate, 46 of those people will die, Gov. Andy Beshear noted Monday.

“This is the tough news . . . but there is some positive news,” Beshear said at his daily briefing. He said the share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the last seven days is 3.77%, completing a full week under 4 percent. It was 3.62% on Sunday.

He noted that when the rate hit 6 percent in early August, he recommended that schools delay in-person instruction until next Monday, Sept. 28. Many school districts have started in-person classes, and “It’s gonna be a real challenge for us to keep this positivity rate low” when all of them are in, Beshear said.

The governor didn’t mention it, but the Kentucky Education Association, perhaps his biggest political ally, said Aug. 7 that the rate should be below 4 percent statewide statewide and in a locality before in-person classes are resumed. However, the state-issued, color-coded guidance for school districts is based on the number of cases per population in a county, unless the statewide positive-test rate is above 6%.

State case-incidence map; click it for a larger version

Beshear said the state has published a case-incidence map to guide school districts’ decisions, partly because local officials asked for it, but some who are counties in the most dangerous category, coded red, “are now trying to argue their way around it.” He said, “If you are in red, do not try to argue your way out of red.”
Asked if Kentucky is ready to have in-person schooling statewide, Beshear said “I believe the answer is yes, in some form or fashion.” He said counties coded orange should probably use hybrid systems, “bringing kids in a few times a week,” for example. “We are ready for a majority of the districts to be in.”

Pamela D. Harris

At Fort Knox, which began in-person classes in August but switched to remote schooling early this month, a school counselor has died after being diagnosed with the virus, Defense Department officials told The Associated Press. Pamela D. Harris, 60, of Radcliff, was being treated at a local hospital when she died Tuesday.

The Federal Education Association, which represents educators and support professionals at schools on Army posts, said it had repeatedly warned about the dangers of starting in-person classes. Fort Knox switched “only after Harris and several other school employees reported covid symptoms,” AP reports.
Beshear reported 406 new coronavirus cases – typically low for a Monday, following less laboratory work on weekends – and only one death, a 77-year-old woman in Scott County.

Showing photos of people enjoying activities while wearing masks, he said, “It’s one of the main things that’s going to determine how many people die.”

He drove home the revised advice on testing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying that anyone in contact with an infected person should be tested, and calling “strange” and “contradictory” the CDC’s previous advice that people who had been exposed to an infected person but didn’t have symptoms didn’t have to be tested.

“About 40 percent of all the transmission occurs with people with no symptoms,” Beshear said. “It’s not rocket science to say that if you want to stop that spread you gotta test those individuals.” He added that “Kentucky, unlike other states, is still performing significant testing . . . There is a location everywhere.”

The CDC’s work, or interference with it by higher authorities, came into question again yesterday. “New language acknowledging that the virus that causes covid-19 spreads more easily than once believed disappeared from [a CDC] website Monday just days after being published, replaced with a message saying the previously uploaded information was a mistakenly posted ‘draft version of proposed changes’,” Time magazine reports.

“The now-missing language, which was posted Friday to a page titled ‘How Covid-19 Spreads,’ cited small droplets called aerosols as the most common method of viral spread—reversing the agency’s previous stance that the virus was mostly spread by larger droplets that typically don’t travel as far. The move was lauded by scientists who have for months argued that aerosols account for a significant share of coronavirus transmission.”

Al Tompkins of The Poynter Institute wrote, “If this guidance re-emerges, and significant scientists say it should, it could launch big changes in the way we think about covid safety as we move indoors for the winter.”

In other covid-19 news Monday:

  • Fayette County had the most new cases on the state’s daily report, 134. Other counties with more than five were Jefferson, 57; Madison, 17; Warren, 14; Knott, 11; Grayson, 10; McCracken, 9; Henderson, 7; Hopkins, 7; Bullitt, 6; Pulaski, 6; and Allen, Boone, Daviess, Kenton, Marshall, Pike and Whitley, 5 each.
  • Beshear said 474 people were hospitalized with covid-19 in the state, 108 of them in intensive care, and 64 of those on ventilators.
  • Health Secretary Eric Friedlander said Kentucky would largely mirror the new federal rules for nursing-home visitation, but would allow a patient’s pet into the facility. “Sometimes, those pets, we all know, can really make somebody’s day,” he said, adding that and transmission by pets is “very, very rare.”
  • Beshear said it’s all the more important to get a flu shot during the pandemic. “We do not want to be dealing with covid-19 and a widespread flu outbreak this season,” he said, adding that if you don’t get a flu shot and have symptoms, many of which the diseases share, “It can disrupt a lot of lives around you.”
  • Beshear announced that the state has applied for federal funding of three more weeks of additional unemployment benefits, for the weeks ending Aug. 22 and 29 and Sept 5. If funded, the $400 checks would issued separately for each week.
  • The U.S. recorded its 200,000th death from covid-19.
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