4th highest day for virus cases; state issues Thanksgiving caution; 94 Kentucky counties are in one of White House’s danger zones

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

By Lisa Gillespie and Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Gov. Andy Beshear reported 2,120 new cases of the novel coronavirus, the most ever on a Tuesday and fourth highest since Kentucky saw its first case in March. This brings the state’s seven-day rolling average to 1,923, more than double what it was four weeks ago.

“Remember, the more cases we have, the more people that are affected, the more people who will need hospitalization, the more people who will be in the ICU, the more people we’ll lose,” Gov. Andy Beshear said at his daily briefing. “And as we’re finding out, the more people who will have long-term complications. The real damage and devastation of this virus, we don’t fully know yet. So again, it’s really important that you do your part to start tamping down these cases.”

As cases continued to escalate, the state reported a new record for the number of covid-19 patients in Kentucky hospitals: 1,189, an increase of 56 from Monday. Of those, 286 are in intensive care and 139 of those are on a ventilator.

The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days also continues to rise, reaching 7.68% today, another record for the months since testing became widely available.

“That shows that not only are we testing more per million than all but five states but even in that the number of people who test positive is going up, which shows that this virus is is growing and spreading,” Beshear said. He said earlier in the briefing that Kaiser Family Foundation ranked Kentucky sixth among the states for daily tests per million people.

State graphic; for a larger version, click on it.

State Health Commissioner Steven Stack offered some guidance for the Thanksgiving holiday, which includes: avoiding gatherings with people who don’t live in your household, wearing a mask when not eating or drinking, social distancing, avoiding large indoor gatherings, not attending or hosting crowded events, including parades, and avoiding shopping in crowded stores before, on or after the holiday.Stack, a physician, described Thanksgiving and its risks: “We take a large number of people, often from different households and from different states and cities and regions, we put them indoors in a small, confined space . . . We take off our masks . . . We eat and we drink, which increases our salivation . . . and then we talk and we laugh and we joke and we shout and we sing, and we do all sorts of things that spray that saliva throughout the room. That’s a perfect recipe to spread this virus. So as you make your plans for the holidays, I urge you: 2020 has been a mess for all of us. We’ve got to hang in there just a little bit longer. . . . Don’t do the things that make us at highest risk.”

The governor also issued a warning for Kentuckians who are considering gathering for the Thanksgiving holiday.

“It is a special time for my family that is normally spent with a lot of extended family,” he said. “But this year, those larger gatherings can be very dangerous. Those that you may think that you may only have five, 10 Thanksgivings left with, if we’re not careful this year, you might not have more than one.”

Stack also noted that the latest recommendations from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, which were released Tuesday, continues to line up with the state’s recommendations.

The report calls on Kentuckians to wear a mask, physical distance, practice hand hygiene, and to isolate and quarantine if infected or exposed. It says to limit restaurant indoor capacity to less than 50% and to restrict their hours, to not gather without a mask with people living outside your household, to stop gathering with anyone outside your immediate household until cases and test positivity are in the yellow zone, to get a flu shot, and for students and teachers in K-12 schools to wear a mask. It also calls for an aggressive messaging campaign that targets rural communities, and offers detailed recommendations for testing.

Regarding the recommendations, Stack said, “I know there are some who aren’t gonna listen; I hope you listen; I’m urging you to listen for your own well being and that of your family, your friends, your neighbors.”
White House Coronavirus Task Force maps; for a larger version of the image, click on it.

The report says 78% of Kentucky’s counties had a moderate or high level of community transmission, with 32% of them having high levels.

Again, it put the state in the red zone for cases, with the 21st highest rate in the country. The report, which covers Saturday, Oct. 31 through Friday, Nov. 6, shows Kentucky with 274 new cases per 100,000 people — a number that continues to creep up. It was 257 per 100,000 in the prior week and 185 per 100,000 the week before. The national average is 209 per 100,000.
The number of counties in the red zone decreased from 44 to 39; the orange zone increased from 17 to 23 and the yellow zone increased from 30 to 32.
Today’s report puts Kentucky in the federal orange zone for the percentage of residents testing positive for the virus, indicating a rate between 8% and 10%, with the 24th highest rate in the country. The state uses a different method to calculate the rate, which gives a lower number.
Beshear applauded the Louisville health department’s decision to expand the list of businesses it inspects for violations of pandemic restrictions, including surprise visits, saying, “Stepping up enforcement can also help businesses out there by them not being able to look across the street and see somebody else cheating on the rules, while they may suffer from trying to enforce them. I believe that it is the right move at the right time.”

Grace Schneider reports for the Courier Journal that the department will also publish a weekly list of businesses that are violating mask ordinances and other requirements. As of October, she writes, it had conducted about 3,200 investigations and issued about 100 “orders” for failing to adhere to the state’s mask mandate and more than 111 “orders” for failing to maintain social distancing.
Timothy England

Beshear announced 14 more covid-19 deaths Wednesday, raising the state’s toll to 1,590.

He honored the life of Timothy England, a 10-year employee of the Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction, who died Nov. 8 from covid-19 complications at age 60. Beshear said England was a field inspector of heating and cooling systems, and a Glasgow native who enjoyed spending time with his family.

“He also enjoyed camping, riding motorcycles and just being outdoors with his five grandchildren. his family said he loved making people laugh, and he was a loved man,” Beshear said. “We promise to your family to work harder so that others don’t’ have to go through what they’re going through right now.”

In other covid-19 news Tuesday: 
  • Today’s fatalities were an 80-year-old woman and a 69-year-old man from Bracken County; an 84-year-old man from Bullitt County; a 91-year-old woman from Daviess County; an 86-year-old man from Hopkins County; five men, 76, 84, 86, 87 and 89, from Jessamine County; an 87-year-old man from Marshall County; a 92-year-old woman from McLean County; a 68-year-old man from Muhlenberg County; and a 76-year-old man from Shelby County.
  • Beshear said in his daily news release that all five Jessamine County men were residents at Thomson-Hood Veterans Center at Wilmore, which has had a recent outbreak. The state’s report on long-term-care shows that the facility has 24 active resident cases and 11 active staff cases, with 21 resident deaths.
  • The ranking of Tuesday’s new cases as the fourth highest does not count a day that a backlog of more than 1,400 cases in Fayette County pushed the daily total above 2,300. Counties with more than 10 new cases were: Jefferson, 378; Fayette, 187; Warren, 86; Hardin, 68; Madison, 67; Laurel, 61; Bullitt, 54; Nelson, 48; Daviess, 42; Boone, 40; Christian, 39; Floyd and Henderson, 38; Hopkins, Kenton and Pike, 36; Jessamine, 33; McCracken, 32; Campbell, 29; Monroe, 27; Clay, 21; Simpson, 20; Boyle, 19; Boyd and Rowan, 18; Lee and Muhlenberg; 17; Graves and Martin, 16; Franklin, Grayson, Greenup, Knox, Logan, Montgomery Oldham, Rockcastle and Union, 15; Barren and Harlan, 14; Magoffin and Mercer, 13; Knott and Shelby, 12; Bell, Grant, Metcalfe, Scott, Taylor and Todd, 11; and Adair, Jackson, Larue, Lincoln and Perry, 10.
  • The state added a new behavioral health provider to a list of agencies that help field calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Pathways, Inc., which services Bath, Boyd, Carter, Elliott, Greenup, Lawrence and Menifee and Rowan counties. Beshear said the expansion is crucial to help people struggling with mental-health issues, financial stress, job loss from the pandemic and isolation. The lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255.
  • Beshear reported a case at the Kentucky State Police Academy, with six additional people displaying covid-19 symptoms.
  • He also announced an outbreak of 94 cases at Beattyville’s Lee Adjustment Center, a private prison owned by CoreCivic, a large operator of prisons and detention centers that’s had outbreaks across the country. He said all inmates and staff at the prison will be tested.
  • Ohio Valley ReSource has expanded its Covid Data Tracker to include the number of people hospitalized and in intensive care from covid-19 and the amount of coronavirus testing being done. It already provides daily updates on cases, the seven-day average trend line on cases, a snapshot of each county’s cases along with key health measures of each county that speak to a person’s vulnerability to the virus.
  • “The Lexington Police Department said it received complaints about 60 large parties during Halloween weekend and another 30 over the just-completed weekend of the Breeders Cup,” Jeremy Chisenhall reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. The parties were primarily in areas near the University of Kentucky campus, police spokeswoman Brenna Angel said, adding that on average there have been 20-30 party complaints each weekend since classes started.
  • Ayana Archie of the Courier Journal explores the pros and cons of getting a rapid covid-19 test.
  • University of Louisville Jewish Hospital has treated the first patient in a national covid-19 drug trial aimed at preventing the progression of pulmonary complications due to covid-19, WDRB reports. 
  • A new survey from Stat and The Harris Poll found that six in 10 Americans said they are somewhat or very likely to get a coronavirus vaccine if doing so would lower the risk of becoming infected by about half. It also found that more Americans say they are likely to get a vaccine and follow public-health guidelines if they know someone who has contracted the virus, Ed Silverman reports for Stat. “If we’re actually at 90%, it’s going to reinforce for two-thirds of Americans who are then much more likely to take the vaccine, although I think it’s fair to say that it doesn’t need to be 90% effective to get that pull through,” said Rob Jekielek, managing director of the poll. “It may not necessarily need to be the 90% that Pfizer is showing in its preliminary results. But the data indicates it will have to be over 50% for the general public and over 75% for that younger generation of Americans.”
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency-use authorization for Eli Lilly’s covid-19 antibody drug, Becker’s Hospital Review reports. “The drug, called bamlanivimab, is authorized for use in covid-19 patients with mild to moderate disease. Specifically, the drug is authorized for patients 12 years and older and for populations at high risk of progressing to severe covid-19 and/or hospitalization,” Maia Anderson reports.
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