Cases top 1,000 for second day in a row; September has highest number of covid-19 deaths; Beshear says all that’s a wake-up call

State Department for Public Health graph, adapted by Kentucky Health News

Graph by Daniel Desrochers of the Lexington Herald-Leader, adapted by Kentucky Health News

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

With more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases reported two days in a row and the highest number of covid-19 deaths of any month, Gov. Andy Beshear said the numbers should be a “wake-up call” to every Kentuckian to help him get the numbers down.

“The covid report is just too high, two days over one thousand,” Beshear said at his daily briefing. “This is not where we ever wanted to be in Kentucky. So I need your help. I need your help. . . . Our kids are counting on us to get back to school, our economy is counting on us to make sure we can continue to rebound, but it’s up to us and we have got to get this done.”

He spoke to the need for everyone to wear a mask, saying there have been reports of fewer masks being worn in supermarkets, putting critical front-line workers at risk. He asked retailers to not serve people who don’t wear masks in their businesses. “Remember, for retailers, no shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service.” And he reminded Kentuckians to keep their social gatherings to 10 or fewer people and to wear a mask if entertaining indoors and to stay six feet apart, indoors or out.

Beshear reported 1,004 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday after reporting 1,018 Tuesday, which was the second highest number to date. The state’s seven-day rolling average was 797 cases, by far the highest yet.

Beshear said this week’s numbers put the state on track to exceed last week’s case numbers, which at 4,949 was the state’s highest week of cases yet, and that the state is in an escalation.

About the only good coronavirus news of the day is that the share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days was 4.07%.

Updated slide used by Beshear Wednesday; click it to enlarge

“We have to be more vigilant,” Beshear said, adding later, “We have to continue to be committed to doing the things that are going to stop that escalation and a lot of that are just things that we have been talking about day after day.”

Beshear is asked regularly, again today, what it would take for him to take new steps to deal with the escalating number of cases. He said the caseload and positive-test rate are important to watch, but not yet so high that new measures are needed, and the guidelines and rules already issued should be enough to bring the case level down, if only people would follow them.

The governor noted steps he has not taken, such as opening bars and restaurants to full capacity, which some states have recently done. One is Indiana, which he didn’t mention.

“At a time when they still have more cases than we do and their positivity rate is higher, they are removing almost any and all of the rules that are out there to help us,” he said. “You know at some point, we’ve got to make value decisions, you know, do we value having 100 percent capacity in certain places? Or do we value trying to get our kids back into school? And right now those are the value decisions that we’re making.”

“It’s just a mathematical fact” that more cases mean more death, Beshear said, showing a graph that showed increased deaths in months with increased cases. He cautioned that while September has the highest covid-19 death rate yet, “We could very definitely see October’s being higher than that.”

Beshear announced four more deaths from covid-19: an 86-year-old man from Bullitt County; a 70-year-old man from Christian County; an 87-year-old man from Fayette County; and a 74-year-old man from Jefferson County.

Of the 1,174 deaths so far, 584, or 49.7%, have been in people 80 or older. Those in their 70s have accounted for 26 percent, and those in their 60s have been 15.3% of the total. When it comes to cases, the most infected age group is those in their 20s; they have had 13,517 cases, or 19.6% of the total.

Beshear said 154 of Wednesday’s new cases were Kentuckians 18 or under, and “We continue to see an increase among that age group.”

In other covid-19 news Wednesday:

  • Counties with 10 or more new cases were Jefferson, 187; Fayette, 156; Whitley, 32; Daviess, 26; Henderson, Madison and Scott, 24 each; Warren, 22; Harlan and Kenton, 20 each; Knox and Shelby, 18; Allen, Boone and Oldham, 14 each; Bullitt, Laurel and Rowan, 12; Jessamine and McCracken, 11 each; and Campbell, Hardin and Lincoln, 10 each.
  • Covid-19 patients in Kentucky hospitals totaled 541, with 106 of them in intensive care, according to the state’s daily report.
  • After being in school only three days, more than 120 Lincoln County students are now in self-quarantine after two staff members tested positive for covid-19, Chelsea Jones reports for Lexington’s WKYT. The quarantined students, who were all in a room with one of the infected staffers for at least 15 minutes, will move to virtual learning.
  • The state reported were 785 active cases among K-12 students and 376 among employees. In colleges and universities, the state reported 1,499 active cases among students and 48 among employees.
  • The University of Kentucky has ordered students who test positive for the virus in any sort of test off campus to give the documentation to the university. Those who don’t comply are subject to discipline.
  • In 339 long-term-care facilities, there were 611 resident cases and 423 staff cases; the death toll from such facilities is 685.
  • In 243 child-care facilities, there were 145 cases among children and 201 among employees.
  • Beshear called on Kentuckians to look out for each other during the pandemic and to seek help if needed, providing contact information for domestic-violence shelters, 800-799-SAFE (7233) or and to report child abuse, 877-KYSAFE1 (877-597-2331) or 800-752-6200.
  • Google Maps can now help users “navigate safely” by sharing the latest coronavirus data for their location or destination.
  • A 48-year-old Kentuckian who served his country for almost three decades is the eighth person in the U.S. military to die from covid-19, Emma Austin reports for the Louisville Courier Journal. Mike A. Markins served on active duty in the Air Force in 1990-97 and in the Army Reserve from 2000 until his death.
  • The pandemic “has sparked interest in public health careers at both the undergraduate and graduate levels over the last school year,” Tom Latek reports for Kentucky Today. The University of Louisville has seen a 34% percent increase in undergraduates, and the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health “shows a 20% uptick in applications over the same time last year.”
  • A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that official totals of covid-19 deaths “likely undercount deaths due to the virus,” because the increase in U.S. deaths in March, April and May over the same months in 2019 exceeded the number of deaths attributed to covid-19 by 28%. “In several states, these deaths occurred before increases in the availability of covid-19 diagnostic tests and were not counted in official covid-19 death records,” the study report said. In Kentucky, there was no statistical difference in the number of deaths and expected deaths.
  • Another study in the same journal found “no clinical benefit” in having health-care workers take hydroxychloroquine to prevent infection for the virus, and workers taking the drug promoted by President Trump were more likely to have “mild adverse events” than those taking a placebo. Of the 125 workers evaluated, eight tested positive for the virus and six developed covid-19 symptoms, but none required hospitalization. The virus has killed more than 1,700 U.S. health-care workers.
  • “Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the leading U.S. official on infectious diseases, hit back at President Trump on Wednesday for what he called the misrepresentation of his stance on using masks to curb the coronavirus,” The New York Times reports. Trump said in Tuesday night’s debate that Fauci said “masks are not good — then he changed his mind,” and when Joe Biden said wearing masks could save tens of thousands of lives, Trump said, “Dr. Fauci said the opposite.” Fauci said said in an interview on ABC News’s “Start Here” podcast, “Anybody who has been listening to me over the last several months knows that a conversation does not go by where I do not strongly recommend that people wear masks.” He noted that “very early on in the pandemic,” he and others authorities did not recommend general mask wearing because masks were in short supply.
  • The University of Louisville, U of L HealthLouisville Metro Government and Passport Health Plan are updating a public-service advertisement that does not mention masks after Kentucky Health News alerted them that it had been recently published in the Courier Journal. “The ad you referenced was part of an awareness campaign, created in the early stages of the pandemic and before the mask recommendations,” said a statement from the partnership. “Several media outlets agreed to place it periodically as space permitted. While social-distance guidelines and increased hygiene are still important protection measures to prevent spreading covid-19, our organizations strongly support the mask guidelines and are working to update the messaging.” Here’s most of the ad:

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