With 2,318 new cases, Ky. sets a new record; other key metrics are bad too, and more people don’t help with contact tracing

Thursday’s red-zone ratings are intended to guide behavior for the coming week. (State chart)

By Melissa Patrick

Kentucky Health News
Gov. Andy Beshear announced 2,318 new cases of the coronavirus Thursday, setting a record for the highest number of cases found on a single day.
And though that number may include some backlog from the day after Presidential Election Day, a holiday, Beshear noted that every other metric used to measure the virus’s impact on Kentucky — deaths, positivity rate, hospitalizations, and red-zone counties — also took a turn for the worse.
“Today again shows that concerning escalation that means we just need more out of everybody,” Beshear said, noting that 80 of the 120 counties are in the state’s “red zone,” meaning they have averaged at least 25 new cases per 100,000 residents in the last seven days. That’s up from 69 last week.
“I will say, I’m seeing more communities coming together on the red-zone recommendations and so I have certainly hope moving forward, but for any community right now that’s saying ‘Eh, we don’t really need to do those recommendations. We just need to say people please wear your mask and wash your hands’, that’s not enough. It’s got to be a concerted community effort everywhere that this virus is out of control.”
The governor said two-thirds of counties in the red zone “means virtually the entire state is seeing a significant surge. It means for these red counties, it’s dangerous out there. It’s dangerous to you personally. It’s dangerous to those around you. It’s dangerous to especially those the most at risk from this virus.”
This is the second week Beshear has asked businesses and individuals in red-zone counties to follow a nine recommendations that, among other things, call on employers to allow people to work from home  and ask individuals to avoid gatherings of any size and stay home as much as possible. Other recommendations call on schools to have remote-only instruction next week, and tell long-term care facilities to further restrict visitation.
“We know what will work,” Beshear said. “We just need everybody, everybody willing to do it.”
Asked if it is time to go back to mandates, instead of recommendations, Beshear said, “I don’t think, at this moment, it’s an issue of more mandates. It’s an issue, that’s fair to say [of] encouragement and enforcement to get people to wear the darn masks.”
He later said, “If you’re not wearing a mask, I really want you to wear a mask. And I’m not trying to tell you to do it because I want to invade your liberty. I’m doing it because I want you to survive this thing and not harm anybody else.”
The state’s case-incidence-rate map, which is updated daily, has 39 counties in the orange zone, with 10 to 25 new daily cases per 100,000 people; only two in the yellow zone, with 1 to 10; and none in the most desirable green zone, with less than one case per 100,000.
Kentucky Health News graph

More daily numbers: For the second day in a row, Kentucky had record numbers of people in the hospital and intensive care for covid-19, with 1,102 hospitalized, 291 of them in ICUs and 129 of those on ventilators.

And the percentage of Kentuckians who tested positive for the virus in the past seven days has gone up again. It is now 6.5%.
Beshear announced that 20 more Kentuckians had died from covid-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 1,534.
Dr. Mohammad Jawed

Today, he honored the life of Dr. Mohammad Jawed of Corbin, who died Oct. 31 at age 59 after battling covid-19 for over a month at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. He said Jawed was the loving father to three daughters, a beloved husband and one of our frontline health care workers.

“He humbly served the southeastern Kentucky community for over 23 years as a well-respected physician,” said Beshear. “He is a true hero, battling multiple myeloma, a cancer that affected his plasma cells, over the last two years while continuing to work as a frontline health care worker, even during covid-19. He dedicated his life to supporting his family and caring for his patients.”
Contact tracing concerns: Beshear spent a good bit of his daily briefing encouraging Kentuckians to pick up the phone if they are called by a health department employee tracing the contacts of infected people. He said that in the 20-day period that ended Oct. 15, tracers were only able to reach 62% of people who were considered at high risk.
Asked about those who are reluctant to answer because that would lead to a quarantine that would put them out of work for 14 days, Beshear said employers have been encouraged to provide paid sick leave, and should, because “If you don’t, there are some people who are going to make the decision to come to work” when they are sick, spreading the virus to other employees.
To show that paid sick leave is in employers’ best interests, he said four people at one workplace were all at work the day the health department informed them they had tested positive for the virus. “There are now dozens of people from that work quarantined,” Beshear said. “If you provide that paid leave, if you just do the right thing here, you protect other workers around you.”
Prison report: J. Michael Brown, Beshear’s executive cabinet secretary, said there have been 1,255 cases of the coronavirus among inmates in the state’s prison system, with 214 currently active and two of those in the hospital. He said there have been 221 staff cases, with 34 of those active. Brown said most of the active cases are at two facilities: Little Sandy Correctional Complex in Elliott County and Bell County Correctional Facility near Pineville.
Brown said the state would send 50,000 of rapid, point-of-care tests provided by the federal government to prison facilities to test staff. Asked about those tests’ high rates of false positive results, and the fact they were not designed to test people without symptoms, Beshear said they were well aware of those limitations. He said they would consider the tests a tool to help monitor the spread of the virus and that anyone who tested  positive on one of them would then get a more accurate laboratory-based test.
In other covid-19 news Thursday: 
  • Counties with 10 or more cases were Jefferson, 444; Fayette, 177; Kenton, 95; Hardin, 82; Boone, 55; Nelson, 52; Boyd, 50; Barren and Campbell, 49 each; Bullitt and Daviess, 47 each; Madison, 44; Floyd, 37; Christian, 35; Laurel and Warren, 34 each; Grayson, 29; Jessamine, 28; Graves and Montgomery, 27 each; Marion, 25; Breckinridge, Greenup, Henderson and McCracken, 24 each; Calloway, 23; Monroe, 22; Oldham,21; Shelby, 20; Hopkins and Perry, 19 each; Marshall and Taylor, 18 each; Pike, 17; Clay, Hart and Whitley, 16 each; Knox, Meade, Mercer and Pulaski, 15 each; Lewis, McLean and Powell, 13 each; Bell, Boyle, Grant, Scott and Woodford, 12 each; Harlan, Ohio and Spencer, 11 each; Adair, Carlisle, Estill, Larue, Muhlenberg, Washington and Wayne, 10 each.
  • Today’s fatalities were an 81-year-old woman from Boyd County; a 71-year-old man from Breckinridge County; a 52-year-old man from Bullitt County; an 83-year-old man from Carroll County; two women, 86 and 94, from Christian County; a 76-year-old man from Daviess County; a 75-year-old woman from Fayette County; four women, 78, 83, 90 and 102, and three men, 62, 78 and 80, from Jefferson County; a 93-year-old man from Laurel County; an 81-year-old man from Marshall County; an 81-year-old woman and an 83-year-old man from Martin County; and a 71-year-old woman from Muhlenberg County.
  • Beshear especially encouraged Kentuckians in red-zone counties to get tested. Click here to find a location near you.
  • In long-term care, 130 new residents and 74 new staff have tested positive for the virus, with 1,098 active cases among residents and 687 among staff. There have been 921 resident deaths and six staff deaths attributed to covid-19.
  • As of Nov. 4, the K-12 dashboard says 387 students and 189 staff have tested positive for the virus this week, with 3,163 students and 521 staff quarantined. Click here for the K-12 public health report, which has confirmed cases.
  • The college and university report shows 567 student and 10 employees have tested positive in the past 14 days, with 77 students and one employee reported today.
  • In a story titled “Kentucky county long unscathed by coronavirus suffered deadly spike in October,” Bill Estep of the Lexington Herald-Leader tells how Lee County went from being one of the last counties to have a documented case of the virus, and having only 15 cases in early October, to having a rate of 166 per 100,000 residents Oct. 28. The community has also had nine deaths attributed to covid-19. “We exploded,” Judge-Executive Chuck Caudill Jr. told Estep. “One of my worst fears came to fruition.”
  • The Lee County Care & Rehabilitation Center has driven the outbreak and accounts for all of the deaths. While it is unclear how the outbreak started in the nursing home, what is clear is that the outbreak increases the risk of spread in the community, since employees live and shop in the area and residents leave the facility for medical appointments, said Scott Lockard, public-health director of the Kentucky River District Health Department.
  • Like the rest of the state, case numbers in Fayette County continue to climb, and contact tracers, who are monitoring 1,000 Lexington residents daily, are being stretched thin, Jeremy Chisenhall and Beth Musgrave report for the Herald-Leader.
  • As Thanksgiving approaches, having the holiday like normal is “probably the most dangerous thing” to do in Louisville right now, top Louisville health official Sarah Moyer, told WDRB. Moyer, a physician, said those who choose to travel for the holiday should not rely on a last- minute test to determine if they are free of the virus. “If you really want to be around friends and family, I would start now with quarantining,” Moyer said. “Then if you do happen to be in a big gathering and aren’t sure if you got exposed afterwards, I’d ask people to quarantine afterwards for two weeks before they came back to work or school or wherever else in the community, especially if they travel.”
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