Sharp drop in hospital cases led the way Sunday, as every measure of the pandemic in Kentucky declined, but variants loom

Ky. Health News graph; case average from initial, unadjusted daily reports; click it to enlarge

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

Every common measure of the pandemic in Kentucky declined Sunday, perhaps most notably the number of Covid-19 patients in Kentucky hospitals.

The hospitals reported 1,327 patients with the disease, the fewest since mid-November and almost 500 fewer than the record 1,817 reported in mid-December. The number has been on a rough decline since early January, and dropped sharply in the last four days; it was 1,597 on Wednesday.

The numbers reflect a national trend. For the first time since Dec. 1, fewer than 100,000 Americans are hospitalized with Covid-19, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

In Kentucky, the post-Christmas surge in cases didn’t appear to increase hospitalizations in the way that the post-Thanksgiving surge did.

Kentucky hospitals also reported fewer Covid-19 patients in intensive care: 354, eight fewer than Saturday, and fewer of those on ventilators: 173, down 12 from Saturday.

Only two hospital-readiness regions reported more than 80% of their intensive-care beds occupied: 96% in the Lake Cumberland area, which was using two-thirds of its ICU beds for Covid-19 patients, far more than any other region; and 81.25% in northeastern Kentucky, where the disease accounted for only 11% of the ICU census, according to the state’s daily report.

More broadly, the state reported 1,768 new cases of the novel coronavirus, the lowest Sunday of the month. That lowered the seven-day rolling average of new cases to 2,340, just under the 2,350 average recorded exactly a month earlier.

The number of cases in the state’s Monday-through Sunday reporting week declined for the third straight week, said the post on Gov. Andy Beshear’s Facebook page that announced the daily numbers.

The final, adjusted numbers are reported on Mondays, but initial daily reports showed 16,378 news cases during the week. New cases totaled 19,978 the week before, 23,195 the previous week, and 26,975 the week before that. In the week that ended Jan. 3, the initial, unadjusted total was 19,828.

Morgan County, with a big state prison, continued to have the highest seven-day infection rate, averaging 131 cases a day per 100,000 residents. Other counties above the statewide rate of 48.37 per 100,000 were Metcalfe, 96.5; Butler, 91.0; McCreary, 83.7; Clinton, 82.5; Cumberland, 82.1; Taylor, 81.5; Floyd, 81.1; Hart, 81.1; Daviess, 80.8; Nelson, 77.2; Pike, 73.6; Calloway, 72.2; Knox, 72.0; Barren, 72.0; Hancock, 68.8; McLean, 66.7; Whitley, 63.8; Franklin, 62.5; Edmonson, 61.1; Harrison, 59.8; LaRue, 59.5; Casey, 59.2; Washington, 59.1; Harlan, 58.8; Martin, 56.1; Jessamine, 55.7; Marion, 55.6; Bourbon, 54.1; Anderson, 53.4; Kenton, 53.4; Graves, 53.3; Boyd, 53.2; Fayette, 53.1; Pulaski, 53.0; Campbell, 52.8; Fleming, 51.9; Laurel, 51.9; Logan, 51.7; Henderson, 51.5; Owen, 51.1; Johnson, 50.9; Madison, 50.1; Monroe, 49.6; Caldwell, 49.3; and Allen, 48.9.

The state added 31 fatalities to its list of Covid-19 victims, 27 confirmed and four probable. That raised the state’s death toll from the disease to 3,745 and the toll for January to 1,083; it was already the deadliest month.

The percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the coronavirus in the last seven days was 8.81%, down .01 percentage point from the day before.

In other coronavirus news Sunday:

  • Counties reporting 10 or more new cases were: Jefferson, 251; Fayette, 148; Warren, 67; Kenton, 63; Daviess, 56; Campbell, 50; Boone, 49; Madison, 47; Taylor, 45; Bullitt, Calloway and Franklin, 43; Pike, 39; Nelson, 35; Oldham, 34; Boyd and Floyd, 33; Henderson, 30; Barren, 24; Hardin and Jessamine, 21; Greenup, Caldwell, Pulaski and Shelby, 19; Grayson and McCreary, 17; Christian, Muhlenberg and Scott, 16; Carter, Estill, Graves, Marshall and Marion, 14; Lincoln, 13; Logan, Perry, Rowan and Wayne, 12; Mason, Metcalfe and Trigg, 11; and Anderson, Bell, Edmonson and McCracken, 10.
  • Precautions against the virus have quashed seasonal influenza. Kentucky has reported only 168 cases of the flu this season, compared to 27,408 at this time in the last season, reports Sarah Ladd of the Courier Journal.
  • Experts warned that the more contagious strains of the virus will have a major impact in the next two months, adding urgency to the need to produce vaccines and get them administered. “We are going to see something like we have not seen yet in this country,” Dr. Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota said on NBC‘s “Meet the Press.”
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