Beshear announces most Covid-19 deaths yet in one day, 54; hospitalizations and ventilator use are also at all-time highs

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

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
The state announced more deaths, by far, from Covid-19 on Thursday than any day in the pandemic: 54. The previous record of 37 was set Dec. 2.

“Remember, that’s a reflection of where this virus was about three weeks ago and where it was trending, because increase in deaths follow increase in cases,” Gov. Andy Beshear said, adding that the list of fatalities was hard to read, but not as what 54 families are going through.

“I hope we don’t have another day where we have 54 deaths. . . . These are 54 families that need our help and our compassion and our green lights, which is the color of compassion and renewal,” Beshear said. “They also need us to do better, to follow the rules and restrictions.”
Kentucky’s hospitalizations and ventilator cases also hit record highs, with 1,817 people hospitalized with Covid-19, 431 of them in intensive care and 254 of those on ventilators.
The good news is that the number of new cases of the novel coronavirus continues to flatten, and the percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus moved down slightly, to 8.45%, continuing a two-week trend.
Beshear reported 3,349 new cases of the virus Thursday, saying that’s still too high, but lower than last Thursday. It brought the state’s seven-day rolling average down to 2,957, the first time it’s been below 3,000 in two weeks.
The state’s Covid-19 death toll is now 2,316. As usual, Beshear named the ages and county for each of the 54 deaths, including six in Madison County and two in Robertson, the state’s least populous county, at about 2,000.
Supreme Court: In the middle of his briefing, Beshear learned that the U.S. Supreme Court had declined to exempt religious schools from his ban on in-person schooling, which runs until Jan. 4 in most counties, mainly on grounds that it will not be renewed.
The ban was one of several actions the governor took Nov. 18 to stop the rampant spread of the coronavirus. Most were lifted on Monday.

“We see with that and other steps, it . . . stopped an exponential growth that was threatening our hospital capacity,” Beshear said.

Vaccines: Beshear announced that more vaccine shipments from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna are expected in Kentucky over the next two weeks, noting that the next Pfizer shipment of 27,300 doses is lower than expected — about 11,000 under the number sent in the first shipment. The Moderna allocation is expected to be 110,500 doses.
Moderna’s vaccine moved one more step closer to federal approval. The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, an independent panel, voted 20-0 with one abstention to recommend the Moderna vaccine for adults, clearing the path for authorization by the Food and Drug Administration.
Beshear said the next round of vaccines and those coming in January are also slated for frontline health-care workers and long-term-care employees and residents. He said so far, at least 1,454 of the first shipment of doses had been administered.
Health Commissioner Steven Stack, asked about the discovery that many vials of the Pfizer vaccine have six doses, not the expected five, said that if pharmacists can get six full doses from a vial, they should administer them.
Beshear and Stack both asked for patience as vaccines are rolled out. “Let’s make sure we focus on us and we, not I and me,” said Stack. “We are all in this together.”
Beshear said a multi-media campaign to help Kentuckians learn about the vaccines began Thursday. The state is also offering a hotline to address people’s general questions about vaccines. Stack, a physician, asked Kentuckians to not call the hotline to try to schedule appointments or to advocate for who they think should get the vaccine next. “These are things that they are not in a position to answer,” he said.

Holiday guidance: Stack issued formal guidance for the upcoming holidays, including limiting social gatherings to no more than eight people from two households, always wearing a mask and social distancing; avoiding all large gatherings, especially if they are indoors; to not host or attend large parades or events; and to avoid all leisure travel until further notice.

“If you get together with people with whom you do not live, you should assume someone in that group is infected. And if you eat and drink and take your masks off, you should assume you are at high risk for getting infected,” said Stack. “The disease is that widespread at this time.”

Federal update: This week’s report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force stressed the virus’s dangers to people over 65 or those with significant health conditions, urging them to not enter any public spaces where people are unmasked and to have groceries and medications delivered.
And it says people under 40 who choose to gather outside their immediate household, which makes them dangerous to others, need to assume they are infected, even if they don’t have symptoms.
The report advises those 65 and older with symptoms to get tested immediately because “the majority of therapeutics work best early.” It also reminds seniors that those over 70 who get infected are at greater risk, noting that 20% of this group are hospitalized and nearly 10% die.
The report said the state ranks 22nd for new cases and test positivity Dec. 5-11, but Beshear said the report recognizes that Kentucky’s cases are plateauing, its test positivity is decreasing and its hospitals are managing. “That means we are doing better while the rest of the nation is doing worse,” he said.
The report says 78% of Kentucky counties have high levels of community transmission and 97% have either a high or a moderate level of transmission. Kentucky had 513 new cases per 100,000 people Dec. 5-11. The national average was 451 per 100,000.
The report puts 94 of the state’s 120 counties in the White House red zone, an increase of 10 from the previous report; the orange zone decreased by six, to 15; and the yellow zone dropped by four, to seven.
In other Covid-19 news Thursday: 
  • Today’s fatalities were two Bullitt County men, 67 and 72; a Calloway County woman, 94; an Carroll County woman, 83; a Casey County man, 47; a woman, 81, and a man, 69, from Christian County; a woman, 97, and a man, 82, from Clinton County; a Daviess County man, 76; a Fayette County woman, 92; a Graves County woman, 88; two Grayson County women, 63 and 68; a Hardin County woman, 85; a Henderson County man, 94; a woman, 65, and two men, 64 and 98, from Hopkins County; two women, 82 and 97, and two men, 47 and 87, from Jefferson County; a woman, 85, and a man, 55, from Jessamine County; a Johnson County man, 77; a Kenton County man, 66; a woman, 75, and a man, 79, from Knott County; a Larue County man, 75; an Logan County woman, 88; four women, 76, 85, 90 and 99, and two men, ages 77 and 89, from Madison County; two Mason County men, 83 and 87; a McLean County woman, 88; a Monroe County man, 86; a woman, 81, and a man, 77, from Muhlenberg County; a woman, 61, and a man, 52, from Nelson County; three Oldham County men, 75, 86 and 95; two Robertson County men, 70 and 87; a Russell County man, 63; a Spencer County woman, 92; a Union County woman, 73; and a Washington County woman, 58.
  • Counties with 10 or more cases were Jefferson, 475; Kenton, 178; Boone, 171; Fayette, 126; Campbell, 119; Pulaski, 106; Hardin, 103; Daviess, 94; Madison, 86; Warren, 80; Wayne,70; Laurel, McCracken and Shelby, 57; Pike, 56; Oldham, 48; McCreary, 44; Russell, 38; Taylor, 37; Jessamine and Perry, 34; Bell, 33; Christian, Letcher and Nelson, 32; Bullitt and Lincoln, 31; Anderson, 30; Allen, Graves, Henderson, Marion, Marshall and Rowan, 28; Mercer, 27; Boyle, 26; Clinton, Grant and Montgomery, 24; Logan and Ohio, 23; Floyd, 22; Adair, Scott and Spencer, 21; Calloway, Fleming and Mason, 20; Boyd, Carter, Casey and Trigg, 19; Franklin, Meade and Muhlenberg, 18; Woodford, 17; Martin and Whitley, 16; Knox, 15; Clark, Garrard and Hopkins, 14; Barren, Harlan, Simpson and Washington, 13; Clay, Lawrence and Pendleton, 12; Knott, 11; and Carroll and Monroe, 10.
  • In long-term care, 194 additional residents and 126 additional staff tested positive for the virus, with 35 more deaths attributed to the disease. There are 2,590 active resident cases and 1,239 active staff cases, and 1,590 residents and eight staff have died from the virus.
  • The daily report on the website has been updated with a new format and new information.
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