Virus cases and hospitalizations accelerate, setting new records

Gov. Beshear recognized Bobby Rorer of Lawrenceburg, who died of covid-19. He enlisted at age 16.

By Lisa Gillespie
Kentucky Health News

Kentucky’s coronavirus increase accelerated Tuesday, as the state reported 1,786 new cases, the state’s highest one-day total yet.

“We are seeing this very serious escalation of cases,” Gov. Andy Beshear said at his daily briefing. ”Just look at last week, 9,335 cases, look at how quickly it grew and by how much. I’m here to tell you that we expect this week’s cases to exceed last week’s cases,” which was the highest week yet.

The previous high for the number of cases found in a single day was 1,738, on Saturday. The state announced 2,398 cases on Oct. 7, but 1,472 of them were from a backlog in Fayette County. The total for the pandemic is almost 100,000.

Hospitalizations for covid-19 are also accelerating, with 913 people hospitalized Tuesday, a new record, with 233 of them in intensive care and 115 of those on a ventilator.

Also increasing is the share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the last seven days. That is 5.97 percent, continuing a steady rise over the period.

Beshear reiterated his new “red-zone reduction recommendations” that call for counties with at least 25 cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days to take more steps to thwart the spread of the virus.

The governor said Kentuckians should look at the state’s color-coded case-incidence map on Thursdays to make decisions for business operations the following Monday, just as the state’s schools are doing.

“Schools are going to do their part, government should be doing their part, our employers should be doing their part,” Beshear said. “It brings all of it together in a way that where we can have the most effective response. . . . It also lets us know, week to week, how safe it is or is not in our community.”

He added later, “It’s about everybody having to pitch in when a community is in the red, and that school system not shouldering the burden of all of it.”

Among other things, the recommendations ask people in red zone counties to not eat in restaurants, to allow employees to work from home when possible, and to not host gatherings of any size.

Asked again why these are recommendations and not mandates, Beshear said that the recommendations put “the right type of pressure on a community to come together to do what it takes” to bring their cases down, while also following the existing mandates such as mask wearing and limited restaurant capacity.

But he added, “If increases continue, if communities can’t get things under control, we’re not ruling out additional steps.”

Prison report: J. Michael Brown, Beshear’s executive cabinet secretary, said there are 263 active inmate cases and 20 active staff cases in state correctional facilities, most of them at the Little Sandy Correctional Complex in Elliott County, where at least 239 inmates and nine staff have contracted the virus.

Beshear asked that residents and businesses in Elliott County, which currently has the highest incidence rate in the state, follow the red-zone recommendations because employees and vendors regularly move between the facility and the community.

“There’s 300 plus employees that go in and out on a daily basis,” he said. “It means that the community is at risk based on that level of transmission.”

The governor announced 18 more deaths from covid-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 1,428. The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that with four days left, October is already the deadliest month of the pandemic, with 254 deaths.

Victims’ stories: Beshear recognized the late Bobby Rorer of Lawrenceburg, who died Oct. 16 of covid-19. Rorer, a familiar figure at Democratic Party events, was a veteran who “never met a stranger” and was the father and step-father of two sons and two daughters, and had nine grandchildren.

Rorer was a resident of the Thomson-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore, where he passed away separated from his family and called for his wife Dana in his final days.

“That’s what this virus does to our people, makes the hardest moments more unbearable,” Beshear said.

Kelly Alexander, chief of staff at the Department for Public Health, told the story of her 40-year-old husband, Josh, who contracted the virus in his work as a Louisville firefighter. She said he had been “extremely healthy and loved hiking and the outdoors” and had no pre-existing conditions, but after getting the virus “couldn’t even talk without being short of breath, or suffering from a coughing attack.”

She said he had acute respiratory failure, pneumonia in both lungs and liver inflammation. and is now home, but still fighting pneumonia.

“I do not want to see any more Kentuckians hospitalized with covid-19, or in the ICU; we must come together and act with compassion for our families, friends and communities,” Alexander said. “Please stay home, if you are sick, seek medical care when and if you need it, stay physically distant from others who are not within your immediate household, wear a mask and practice proper hand hygiene.”

Here’s a video of Alexander’s presentation, via the Herald-Leader:

In other covid-19 news Tuesday:

  • UK HealthCare is again preparing for an “expected increase” in covid-19 patients, but likely will not need an overflow facility, like the unused $7 million field hospital that was deconstructed months ago, reports the Herald-Leader’s Alex Acquisto. At a virtual news conference Monday, Dr. Mark Newman, UK’s health vice president, said the current models “are peaking much lower, within the range of [hospital] capacity” currently across the state.
  • WDRB reports that the three largest health-care providers in Louisville, Baptist HealthNorton Healthcare and the University of Louisville, are seeing an increase in covid-19 patients, but not intensive-care patients. However, hospital officials told WDRB that they worried about capacity during cold weather and flu season.
  • Pfizer Inc. will likely say whether its coronavirus vaccine works after the election, with hopes to be able to apply for emergency use authorization by the end of November, CEO Albert Bourla said Tuesday, Inside Health Policreports.
  • Becker’s Hospital Review reports, “The number of people with covid-19 antibodies decreased by 26.5% between June 20 and Sept. 28, suggesting that contracting the virus might not mean gaining long-lasting immunity, according to a study conducted by Imperial College London and Ipsos Mori, a London-based polling organization . . . If the study’s findings are confirmed, the prospect of widespread long-term herd immunity may be difficult to achieve.”
  • The latest Children and Covid-19: State Data Report, by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, says almost 800,000 U.S. children have been infected by the coronavirus, making up 11% of the 8.4 million cases in the U.S. — about 1,053 cases per 100,000. From Oct. 8 to 22, 94,555 new youth cases were reported, a 14% increase. Hospitalizations and deaths remain very low. As of Oct. 22, the reports says 15.4% of Kentucky’s cases have been in people under age 20, with a rate of 1,251 cases per 100,000.
  • The 18 deaths reported Tuesday were a 99-year-old woman from Christian County; a 79-year-old woman from Henderson County; a 70-year-old woman from Hopkins County; three women, 79, 82 and 86, and five men, 62, 62, 70, 88 and 93, from Jefferson County; two men, 96 and 97, from Jessamine County; a 76-year-old man from Nicholas County; a 72-year-old man from Ohio County; two women, 77 and 91, from Scott County; and a 72-year-old woman from Wayne County.
  • Counties with 10 or more new cases were: Jefferson, 379; Fayette, 118; Warren, 68; Kenton, 60; Hardin, 49; Pike, 45; Barren, Laurel and Madison, 42; Boone, 41; Bullitt, 40; Campbell and Nelson, 36; Clay and LaRue, 25; Hart, 23; Daviess, 22; Lee, 21; Calloway and Logan, 20; Floyd, 19; Christian and Whitley, 18; Jessamine, Johnson, Knox, Marion and McCracken, 16; Garrard, Henderson, Montgomery and Todd, 14; Clark, Hancock, Martin and Rockcastle, 13; Boyd, Grant, Perry and Shelby, 12; Estill, Lincoln, Monroe and Scott, 11; and Carter, Franklin, Graves and Ohio, 10.
  • In long-term care, 57 new residents and 33 new staff have tested positive for the virus, with 906 active resident cases and 500 active staff cases. There have been 852 resident deaths and six staff deaths from covid-19.
  • The college and university report shows 30 new student cases and three new staff and faculty cases, with 518 new student cases and eight new staff and faculty cases in the last 14 days.
  • The K-12 public health report, which includes verified case numbers, shows 563 students and 260 staff tested positive for the virus in the last 14 days.
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