State reports 1,319 new virus cases, second highest daily total; prison has outbreak; schools have more problems staying open

Kentucky Health News chart, based on unadjusted daily reports of new cases; click on it to enlarge.

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

Kentucky recorded the second largest number of new cases of the novel coronavirus, further escalating a surge that Gov. Andy Beshear has called the most serious of the pandemic.
Beshear reported 1,319 cases Friday, the third consecutive day that the total exceeded 1,250. The seven-day rolling average of new cases, a better measure of trends, jumped to 1,028, the first time it exceeded 1,000. (The state recorded 2,398 cases Oct. 7, but most were from a Fayette County backlog.)

“Our covid report today adds to a tough week,” Beshear said in a press release. “We need to buckle down; we need to wear masks; we need to follow that rule of no gatherings above 10 people at our homes. We need to social-distance, and we shouldn’t play politics with this virus. It is real. It doesn’t matter if there’s an election a couple of weeks away.”

He added, “My faith tells me I have to treat my neighbor as myself, and that means I have to protect my neighbor, whether I know them or not. My rights stop where they could be harmed. Let’s do the right thing and let’s follow our values.”

The state’s daily report had two small pieces of good news: declines in hospitalizations for covid-19 and the share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the last seven days.
The positive-test rate fell to 4.7% from 4.94%. Hospitalizations declined to 667, from an apparent record of 738 on Thursday, and the number of those cases in intensive care fell by 5, to 187.

All 17 beds in the covid-19 unit at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center in Danville are filled, WKYT reports. The hospital says its Harrodsburg and Stanford satellites would handle overflows. “Danville sits in a vulnerable spot for the virus,” the TV station reports, “as a business hub for surrounding counties, making the fight against covid-19 that much more challenging.”

Among the 1,319 new cases, 189, or 14%, were in people through age 18, including 36 children 5 and under. The youngest was 7 days old.

“Another piece of unfortunate news: We have a covid-19 outbreak at the Little Sandy Correctional Complex” near Newfoundland in Elliott County, Beshear said. “We’ve had 17 inmates and two staff test positive. We will be testing the entire facility, and we will be using the protocols that we first used at Green River [Correctional Complex at Central City] to successfully stop an outbreak that had occurred there.”

Beshear reported four more deaths attributed to covid-19 Friday, raising the state’s toll to 1,300. The fatalities were a 77-year-old woman from Adair County; a 51-year-old man from Bullitt County; and two women, 86 and 94, from Madison County.

The news release said Beshear, his wife Britainy and their children, Will and Lila, “are all still feeling great” and testing negative as they remain in quarantine because a member of their security detail tested positive. It said the state trooper is “still experiencing mild symptoms, but doing well.”
“We are going to continue quarantining, as asked by the Department for Public Health, because that’s what everybody else is asked to do in this same situation,” Beshear said. “We want to set a good example.”
School problems: School districts continued to have issues with the virus. “LaRue County announced it was moving back to complete virtual learning for the second time” because it moved into the red zone on the state’s Covid-19 Incidence Rate Map, which categorizes counties by how the number of cases per population, WDRB reports.
Citing increased cases in Louisville, Jefferson County school officials said students will not return to in-person classes Thursday, Oct. 22 as tentatively scheduled. The district told families in a letter that nontraditional instruction will continue until it sees “a significant reduction” in local cases and health officials say students and staff can return safely. Supt. Marty Pollio said he hopes in-person schooling can resume before Christmas break, WDRB reports.
“Just days after students in Jessamine County returned to in-person learning, at least 230 students and 20 staff members have been quarantined due to covid-19,” the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. “The district decided to scale back in-person learning because the contact tracing for positive covid-19 cases proved to be so challenging, said Supt. Matt Moore.”
Moore told Herald-Leader reporter Valarie Honeycutt Spears, “What has become evident is that due to the quarantine guidelines, with even just a single positive case report, it can be necessary to quarantine a much larger number of our students and staff than we had anticipated.”

In other covid-19 news Friday:

  • Counties with 10 or more new cases were: Jefferson, 258; Fayette, 150; Hardin, 42; Warren, 39;  Oldham, 34; Barren, 33; Henderson, 30; Bullitt, 26; Boone, Kenton and Nelson, 21; Christian, 20; Shelby, 20; Clark and Jessamine, 19; McCracken, 18; Daviess, 17; Laurel and Pike, 15; Campbell, Garrard, Madison and Union, 14; Russell, 13; Bell, Hopkins, Perry, Pulaski and Whitley, 12; Knox, 11; and Boyle, Clay, Greenup, Harlan and Martin, 10.
  • The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, which reports on its own schedule, reported 133 new cases, the most in a single day since Sept. 11, “which was the day Lexington set its new case record at 167,” the Herald-Leader reports. “Friday was only the second time Lexington reported 100-plus cases so far in October.” Spokesman Kevin Hall said, “Today is definitely an outlier from recent reporting, and it’s one of the reasons to look at the seven-day average to get a better idea of where we are at a given time.”
  • The department reported 21 new cases among students at the University of Kentucky, where “cases have declined in recent weeks,” the Herald-Leader reports. “There had been 48 new UK student cases for the week. Students were previously accounting for as many as 348 cases in a single week.”
  • Beshear gave an interview to Sam Dick of WKYT, who writes that the governor discussed, among other things, “how Kentucky families should adjust their traditional Thanksgiving celebration, and his reaction to a woman filing a lawsuit after she was told by the state to repay all of the unemployment benefits she received.”
  • Pfizer Inc. said its covid-19 vaccine won’t be ready until late November at the earliest. The nation’s top infectious-disease official, Dr. Anthony Fauci, “will oversee most of the ongoing covid-19 vaccine trials in the U.S., but not that of the current front-runner made by Pfizer,” because the company opted not to take government funding, ProPublica reports.
  • At a NBC town hall in Miami, Trump said of his pandemic work, “We have done an amazing job, and it’s rounding the corner.”  James Hohmann of The Washington Post writes, “Sadly, the president is wrong. The contagion is not in its last throes. Nor is this a regional crisis isolated to the Midwest. This is a national emergency. More than 63,500 new cases were reported in the United States on Thursday, the highest number since July. . . . During the past week, at least 20 states have set record seven-day averages for infections, and a dozen have hit record hospitalization rates.”
  • “During a simultaneous town hall in Philadelphia, which aired live on ABC, Democratic nominee Joe Biden emphasized the value of masks and reiterated that he would urge local leaders to mandate them,” the Post reports. Biden implicitly blamed Trump for the surge in cases: “The words of a president matter — no matter whether they’re good, bad or indifferent, they matter. When a president doesn’t wear a mask or makes fun of folks like me, when I was wearing a mask for a long time, then people say: ‘Well, it must not be that important’.”
  • The World Health Organization says remdesivir, which Trump has promoted and received, has no substantial impact on mortality or duration of hospitalization for covid-19, following the world’s largest randomized control trial for treatments, The Hill reports. However, the study has not been peer-reviewed, and the drug’s manufacturer is disputing it.
  • Biotech companies are using tobacco plants in their search for a vaccine, NPR reports. Infecting the plants with a microorganism, allows extraction of coronavirus proteins that can be used to trigger an immune response. Although vaccines developed this way are unlikely to be in the first group approved, they have a number of advantages, such as being stable at room temperature.
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