As key metrics fall for 4th week in a row, Beshear says Ky. is still ‘hot’ due to strategy that kept hospitals from being overwhelmed

State Dept. for Public Health graph, adapted by Kentucky Health News; to enlarge, click on it.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
For the first time in the pandemic, new cases of the novel coronavirus have dropped in Kentucky for four weeks in a row. Likewise, the state’s positive-test rate has also declined for the last four weeks.

“The trends are all moving in the right direction, and that only happens from your hard work,” Gov. Andy Beshear said at a news conference. “We have more people wearing masks, we have more people social distancing, we’re having fewer large gatherings at homes or out in public; we must keep this up because we do not want to lose this progress.”

Asked if that means that it’s time to relax some of the remaining restrictions on business and other activities, Beshear said it’s too early for that, but if these trends continue to hold, he would consider it.

“If we continue on this trend, that’s something that we hope to be able to do,” he said. “Think about two different levels, the vaccine numbers going up and the cases going down, and if that continues to happen, then yes, we hope to do that.”

He said it’s important to pay attention to the new, highly contagious variants and case numbers “are still pretty elevated,” but if those numbers continue to drop, “Then we’ll see what we can loosen.”
He cautioned that these positive trends could easily turn the other way: “Remember, it’s fragile. If we let our guard down, everything changes. There are variants out there that appear to spread more aggressively. We’re moving in the right direction, we’ve just got to keep it up.”
Kentucky’s downward trend hasn’t been as rapid as in the rest of the nation, so it remains among the top states in new cases per person. Beshear said that’s a result of Kentucky’s strategy to stop exponential growth in cases, to “push that curve down,” delaying cases into the future in order to avoid overwhelming the health-care system. He said some states have had a “big peak” of cases that have since fallen as quickly as they went up.

“So we’re burning off a little slower than other places did because we prevented that massive spike that would have overwhelmed our health-care system,” he said. “That’s at least what we think it is. Obviously, we’re humbled and knowing that there are things we don’t know about the virus, and it may take time for us to be able to look back and tell.”

Daily numbers: Beshear announced 1,003 new cases of the virus on Monday, bringing the state’s seven-day rolling average to 2,047. That’s the lowest it’s been since Dec. 29, when it was 2,031.

Kentucky has 1,163 people hospitalized with Covid-19, the lowest since Nov. 9; 274 are in intensive care, the fewest since Nov. 3; and 142 of those are on ventilators, just two more than yesterday.

The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days is 7.78%, the lowest since Nov. 10.
State Dept. for Public Health graph, relabeled by Ky. Health News; to enlarge, click on it.
Only 95 of the state’s 120 counties are in the “red zone” for counties averaging 25 or more daily cases per 100,000 people over the last seven says. Beshear said it’s not time to celebrate, but “let’s just keep it up.”
The only trend not going down is deaths. Beshear reported 40 more Covid-19 deaths, 31 confirmed and nine probable after official reviews. He said most of them were from January and February, and one was from December. That brings the state’s death toll to 4,091.
Health Commissioner Steven Stack said about 10% of deaths have to go through a “very methodical process” to determine if Covid-19 contributed to them, and the process can take months. He said each death is reported in the state’s daily records on the date the process is completed, but the date of death in the “historical record” remains the actual day that the death occurred.
In the last two weeks, the state has averaged 45.1 deaths per day, second only to the record 45.3 of Friday and Saturday.
But even with such high death counts, Stack reminded Kentuckians that because “Team Kentucky pulled together and followed our guidance in so many ways,” our death numbers are much lower overall than many other states, including some bordering the state.
Vaccines: Beshear said more than 460,000 Kentuckians, over 10% of the state’s population, have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. He said the state has administered 91% of all of the first doses of vaccine that it has received.
Beshear encouraged Kentuckians who are eligible for vaccination to “keep trying” to make an appointment, noting that at this time the state is giving out vaccines faster than it is receiving them. Again, he called for patience, saying, “We can’t give you a dose that we don’t have.”
Asked on KET about the shortage of vaccinations among employees of long-term-care facilities, Stack said the reluctance varies by geography, job description and other factors. He said efforts to get them comfortable and vaccinated “are going to have to escalate” as vaccine supplies increase.
Facebook “is expanding its ban on vaccine misinformation and highlighting official information about how and where to get Covid-19 vaccines,” NPR reports.
Pfizer Inc. could cut its vaccine production time in half now that it has learned how to make the new messenger RNA vaccine more efficiently, USA Today reports.
Demographics: For the first time, Beshear shared demographic vaccine data, representing Kentuckians who have received a first dose.
By far, Kentuckians 70 and older have received the most doses, 159,953 of them, followed by those 40-49 (66,073); 50-59 (65,183); 30-39 (57,619); 60-69 (54,949) and 16-29 (41,153).
People 70 and older, K-12 educators, first responders, and health-care workers continue to be the priority groups for vaccination. Nearly 75% of the state’s Covid-related deaths are in those 70 and older.
By far more women than men have received a first dose, 284,755 and 157,950 respectively, likely because teachers and healthcare workers, positions largely held by women, are top priority groups.
The data also shows 336,318 of the first-time vaccines have gone to white Kentuckians and that 16,579, or only 4.3%, have gone to Black Kentuckians, who are about 8.5% of the population. Beshear said this disparity is “not acceptable” and his goal is to make sure that at least 8% of doses go to Blacks. About 1.1% of the vaccines where ethnicity is know have gone to Hispanics, who are nearly 4% of the population.
Stack said the state is committed to ensure equity of vaccinations. “We look forward to expanding that network and working to reach people who need access to this vaccine and require a little extra assistance for us to give it to them so they can have the same benefit as everyone else,” he said.
Holladay with grandchildren

Memorial: Beshear honored the life of Roy “Doc” Holladay of Paducah, who died of Covid-19 at age 73. He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Martha Holladay; his daughter Heather and her husband Jim, who are friends of Beshear. He said Holladay was a master electrician who loved the outdoors and served in Germany with the Air Force.

“We’re thinking about this entire family, their loss, a loss in the community, and realizing that their grief is felt by more than four thousand families out there,” he said, noting the statewide death toll. “But we all grieve with you and care about you. And we’ll continue to do the best we can to make sure we don’t lose any other Doc’s because everybody is special and everybody is irreplaceable.”

In other coronavirus news Monday:
  • The 40 fatalities were five Barren County women, 68, 70, 71, 82 and 82; two Barren County men, 55 and 73; a Boyd County woman, 76; three Butler County men, 70, 78 and 83; an Edmonson County woman, 68; a Fulton County man, 75; a Graves County woman, 94; a Hardin County woman, 44; a Hardin County man, 59; a Harrison County man, 63; two Hart County women, 69 and 94; a Hart County man, 82; a Hopkins County woman, 63; a LaRue County woman, 80; a Laurel County woman, 61; a Logan County woman, 73; a Marshall County woman, 69; a Meade County woman, 75; a Meade County man, 67; four Metcalfe County men, 63, 69, 71 and 78; a Russell County man, 77; a Scott County man, 49; a Simpson County woman, 68; two Simpson County men, 58 and 70; a Warren County woman, 68; two Warren County men, 69 and 85; and a Washington County man, 66.
  • Counties with 10 or more new cases were Jefferson, 205; Fayette, 69; Warren, 38; Campbell, 30; Bullitt, 26; Kenton and Madison, 25; Boone, Daviess and Shelby, 24; Graves and McCracken, 20; Allen and Hardin, 18; Franklin and Oldham, 17; Marion and Marshall, 15; Calloway, 14; Barren, Boyd, Greenup, Livingston and Pike, 13; Floyd, Nelson and Whitley, 12; Bourbon, Jessamine and Trigg, 10.
  • Two hospital-readiness regions have 80% or more of their ICU beds filled: the northeast region, at 81%; and Lake Cumberland, which has been running near full capacity, at 80%.
  • In long-term care, 332 residents and 235 staff have an active case of the virus, with 19 new residents and 20 new staff testing positive for the virus today. Beshear said 10 more deaths can be attributed to Covid-19, bringing the total number of deaths in these facilities to 2,193
  • WDRB tells the story of how Louisville nurses are working to build trust for the coronavirus vaccine among Black communities in Louisville and in a separate story about the urgent call for a mass vaccination site in west Louisville.
Previous Article
Next Article