Virus-case average is at new high in Ky., as are hospital and ICU cases; national expert advises, ‘Don’t swap air with people’

Ky. Dept. for Public Health graph, adapted by Ky. Health News; for a larger version, click on it.

This story has been revised to correct a statement in the news release.
By Al Cross

Kentucky Health News

It was the highest Sunday and the highest week for cases of the novel coronavirus in Kentucky, and hospital numbers also set new records.

The state reported 1,449 new cases of the virus, which a news release from Gov. Andy Beshear said was the highest Sunday yet. Actually, the highest Sunday was Oct. 25, with 1,462, according to state records.
The state’s seven-day rolling average of new cases, based on unadjusted initial daily figures, is 2,406; that’s 40 more than it was on Saturday.
The release said “Kentucky again set a record for cases reported in one week.” The state measures weekly totals from Monday through Sunday, and delivers an all-but-final number for each reporting week on Mondays.
In the reporting week ended Sunday, the state announced 16,832 cases. That was 36 percent more than the 12,421 initially announced the week before. The figure announced each day is adjusted slightly downward as duplicate test results are removed.
“Coronavirus is present in every corner of the commonwealth and it’s spreading at a truly alarming rate,” Beshear said in the release. “This is not a drill; this is a health emergency that we all need to take seriously. Let’s come together as Team Kentucky to defeat this virus.”
The number of covid-19 patients in Kentucky hospitals and their intensive-care units hit more records Sunday, at 1,383 and 330, respectively. ICU ventilator cases were down slightly, to 156.
The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus dropped slightly but remained high, at 8.88%.
Beshear reminded community leaders, schools, businesses and residents in the 94 “red zone” counties, those with the highest infection rates as of Thursday, to follow the state’s Red Zone Reduction Recommendations through Sunday, Nov. 22. They are:
  • Employers allow employees to work from home when possible
  • Non-critical government offices to operate virtually
  • Reduce in-person shopping; order online or curbside pickup
  • Order take-out; avoid dining in restaurants or bars
  • Prioritize businesses that follow and enforce mask mandate and other guidelines
  • Reschedule, postpone or cancel public and private events
  • Do not host or attend gatherings of any size
  • Avoid non-essential activities outside of your home
  • Reduce overall activity and contacts, and follow existing guidance, including 10 Steps to Defeat Covid-19
Beshear announced three more covid-19 deaths, bringing the state’s toll to 1,661: an 84-year-old woman and an 85-year-old man from Oldham County, and a 93-year-old woman from Fayette County.
Health Commissioner Steven Stack, a physician, reminded Kentuckians to watch their space, wear a mask and wash their hands to save their life and the lives of those around them.
He said “United We Stand, Divided We Fall,” the state motto, “has never been more applicable than now, as we fight the most deadly pandemic in over 100 years. Unless Kentuckians come together, we will continue on this dangerous trajectory with disastrous consequences.”
One key to preventing spread of the virus, especially now that cold weather has arrived, is to avoid “swapping air” with others, said Dr. Michael Osterholm, a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s pandemic team. “It’s very important that, first of all, we don’t swap air with people. That’s how this is being transmitted,” Osterholm said on NBC‘s “Meet the Press.” He is director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
In other coronavirus news Sunday:
  • Counties with 10 or more new cases were Jefferson, 346; Fayette, 210; Hardin, 84; Kenton, 38; Nelson, 36; Boone, 28; Bullitt, 28; Laurel, 27; Warren, 24; Daviess, 22; Calloway, 21; Taylor, 20; Barren, 19; Campbell, 18; Greenup, 18; Whitley, 17; Boyd, 16; Floyd, 16; Adair, McCracken and Oldham, 15 each; Boyle, Christian, Powell and Russell, 14 each; Carter, Jessamine, LaRue, Marion and Pulaski, 13 each; Franklin and Scott, 11 each; and Henderson, 10.
  • Fayette County Schools paused all athletics and extracurricular activities, citing surging case numbers. Officials said there had been no outbreaks and they would reassess after Thanksgiving, WKYT reports.
  • Black Kentuckians’ shares of coronavirus cases and covid-19 deaths continued to decline, very gradually, but both remained higher than African Americans’ 8.4% of the state’s population. Their share of cases is 10.76% and their share of deaths is 11.51%. The numbers are reported daily.
  • “Thousands of medical practices are closing, as doctors and nurses decide to retire early or shift to less intense jobs,” due to the pandemic, The New York Times reports.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci said on CNN‘s “State of the Nation” that he expects a coronavirus vaccine to be available for health workers and first responders “sometime around mid to late December.” He said the news that a reportedly effective vaccine is coming should make people “double down” on prevention, not ease up. “We’ve got to hang on a bit longer, particularly as we get into the holiday season,” he said. “We can make it turn around. We really can.”
  • Fauci is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Asked if he sees any circumstances for local or state stay-at-home orders, he said, “I think that likely will happen if we don’t turn around this surge.”
  • Asked when Americans could again safely gather for family events, he said that depends on further vaccines and their uptake. “We have to get people to take the vaccine,” he said, and if an ” overwhelming majority” do, the country “can start getting back to normal in second and third quarter of the year.” However, he cautioned that because no vaccine is 100% effective, “I would recommend to people to not abandon all public-health measures just because you’ve been vaccinated.”
  • Fauci said response to the pandemic would be helped if President Trump would start the transition to President-elect Joe Biden. “The process is really important,” he said, noting he has been through six transitions. “It’s almost like passing a baton in a race.”
  • Asked how will history remember the government’s response to the pandemic, he said that would take detailed research, but “Obviously, it’s not gonna be a good report, because of the suffering that we’ve had.” He attributed that partly to the federal system, in which states “tend to want to do things differently,” and the character of Americans: They “don’t like to be told what to do.”
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