Beshear thinks case numbers may be stabilizing, but expresses concern about hospitalizations; 200 schools haven’t reported yet

White House Coronavirus Task Force chart; for a larger, clearer version, click on it.

By Lisa Gillespie

Kentucky Health News
After announcing 776 new cases of the coronavirus Tuesday, Gov. Andy Beshear was cautiously hopeful that the number could signal the beginning of a stabilization because it was lower than last Tuesday’s, when the state had 1,054 new cases.
However, he cautioned that Monday’s and Tuesday’s combined total were within 100 of last week’s numbers.
“We’ve been on this escalation and we want to watch to see if we’re seeing any stabilization,” Beshear said at his daily briefing. “Obviously it is early, but it’s something that we had hoped for and I believe that if we see it, it’s because we have more people out there doing the right thing.”
The governor also expressed “some concern” about a rise in covid-19 hospitalizations, intensive-care and ventilator patients compared to two weeks ago, reporting 704 hospitalizations Tuesday, up from 589 two weeks ago; 170 people in intensive care, up from 129; and 90 on ventilators, up from 81. He said hospital capacity isn’t threatened.
The share of people in Kentucky testing positive for the virus in the past seven days is also creeping up, although it continues to be under 5 percent. It was 4.59% Tuesday.
Health Commissioner Steven Stack announced that the state is changing the way it computes the rate. Instead of using test information from electronic, phone and fax submissions, starting Monday, he said the state will only use electronic test results from laboratories.
Stack said with about 8,500 electronic lab tests submitted everyday, this is a large enough sampling for the state to base its rate on. He said the benefits of excluding the manual results are that the state’s system will automatically calculate the electronic test results, filter only the previous seven days of results and create a more stable data stream.
Stack reviewed the latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report, which captures the average number of cases in each of Kentucky’s 120 counties.
The latest report, for Oct. 3-9, shows 63% of Kentucky’s counties had a moderate to high level of transmission, but about the same number of counties in danger zones as the prior week: 76 and 75, respectively. Five fewer counties (41) were in the top two danger zones in this week’s report.
Kentucky is in the White House’s red zone for cases and in the orange zone for test positivity, ranking the state 12th in the nation for both measures.
Communities in the red zone had positive-test rates higher than 10% and more than 1 new case per 1,000 residents. Those in the orange zone had 0.51 to 1 new cases per 1,000, and a weekly positive-test rate of 8% to 10%, or one of those two conditions and one condition qualifying for the red zone. Yellow-zone communities have new cases between 0.1 and 0.5 cases per 1,000 and a positive-test rate of 5% to 8% — or one of those, with the other in a higher zone.
Stack, a physician, said there is a growing concern about the number of counties with high case rates.
“The red [zone] now is in a lot more rural counties, and there are many more red counties than there were in the weeks prior. The disease and who it affects continues to change,” he said. “I realize that, unfortunately, folks have kind of made up their minds sometimes about whether they’re going to mask or not mask. I have to urge you, folks, this is not a disease you want to get. . . . So I encourage you strongly, I ask you strongly, please wear a mask. We say to keep others safe, but let me assure you, it’s keeping you safe, too.”
Local compliance: Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman scolded the roughly 200 schools that haven’t reported case information to the statewide dashboard.
“We have over 200 schools in Kentucky that have failed to provide this vital public-health information to their communities, even one day over the last two weeks. That is unacceptable and it’s irresponsible,” said Coleman, a former educator who is secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.
“It jeopardizes the health of your students, your school staff, their families in your community. We all want our children back in their classrooms . . . but by not being accountable to your community, you are actively impeding this to happen.”
Beshear, asked by Kentucky Health News if he had heard of any actions taken by local officials to support his mask mandate since he had asked them to step up their efforts last week, Beshear pointed to the public service announcement that several mayors created that he showed earlier in the briefing. He also noted that not every step that leaders make results in a fine or punishment.
“It’s as easy as if you walk into a place that’s not doing something right, say something about it. It’s important,” he said. “Most of the time, if it’s brought to that manager’s attention … they’re going to step up and make sure that it’s done because we’re all out there watching, and we all want to protect one another.”
Beshear has scheduled another call with local leaders for 9 a.m. Wednesday, but told his audience, “You and your actions are probably more important, about nicely demanding that those places that these rules apply to follow them because it might be your life, or your family members life that’s impacted.”
In other coronavirus news Tuesday:
  • Beshear reported 14 new covid-19 deaths: a 76-year-old man from Daviess County; an 88-year-old man from Fayette County; two women, 74 and 87, and three men, 82, 88 and 82, from Henderson County; an 87-year-old man from Jessamine County; a 96-year-old man from Jefferson County; 91-year-old woman from Laurel County; two woman, ages, 68 and 95, from Madison County; a 59-year-old woman from McLean County; and a 90-year-old man from Montgomery County.
  • Counties with more than 10 new cases were: Jefferson, 142; Fayette and Madison, 30 each; Pike, 27; Warren and Whitley, 19 each; Bullitt and Jessamine, 18; Harrison, 17; Christian, 16; Hardin, 15; Boone, Caldwell and Daviess, 14 each; Kenton, Ohio and Knox, 13 each; Henderson and Nelson, 12 each; and Campbell, Clay and Taylor, 11 each.
  • The daily long-term care report showed 32 new residents and 46 new staff had tested positive for the virus, making 788 active resident cases and 505 active staff cases. There have been 766 resident deaths and five staff deaths from covid-19.
  • The daily K-12 school report shows 385 students and 190 staff tested positive for the virus in the last 14 days.
  • Of the 776 new cases on Tuesday, 111 were 18 and under. “That is a significant percentage of those cases,” Beshear said.
  • The Lexington Herald-Leader published best practices for voting during a pandemic, including tips to follow before voting in person, while waiting in line and while voting.
  • A study, published in The Lancet, found that the first U.S. patient has been re-infected with the virus, prompting scientist to warn that covid-19 immunity may not be guaranteed, the Herald-Leader reports. The patient is a 25-year-old Nevada man who tested positive six weeks after he originally contracted the disease. “All individuals, whether previously diagnosed with covid-19 or not, should take identical precautions to avoid infection,” says the report.
  • Johnson & Johnson‘s covid-19 vaccine trial has been paused due to an unexplained illness in a volunteer, putting two of the four vaccine trials in the U.S. on hold, USA Today reports.
  • Dana Hall of Campton shared her story after spending days on a ventilator, Madison Pergrem reports for Hazard’s WYMT-TV. Hall told Pergrem that she is getting better, but struggles with everyday activities like getting ready for their interview. She wants people to know the virus is real and they should to take it seriously. “Our life has completely changed,” she said. Pergrem reports that Hall’s husband, son, granddaughter, and daughter-in-law all had the virus with mild to no symptoms.
  • Eastern Kentucky health departments report new coronavirus cases and new deaths on Mondays, and WYMT reports them.
  • “The head of the World Health Organization said Monday that allowing the novel coronavirus to spread in an attempt to reach herd immunity was “simply unethical,” The Washington Post reports.
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