Ky. hits another plateau for cases and positive-test rate; Beshear says another escalation can be avoided with enough vaccinations

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

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

As Kentucky hits a plateau of coronavirus cases and the share of people testing positive for the virus, the history of the pandemic suggests that the state is getting ready to see an uptick or even a wave of cases, but that doesn’t have to happen, Gov. Andy Beshear and his health commissioner said Monday.

“We need to be a little bit concerned. And in being concerned and in seeing this, we need to say that yes, a fourth wave is absolutely possible,” Beshear said, adding later, “We can avoid that if we do two things, number one, we need to wear a mask and engage in social distancing. Know that we’re in the fourth quarter, we’ve got to keep playing, we can’t fumble the ball this late. Number two, get vaccinated.”

The report for Sunday, which was delayed by Easter until Monday, ended the state’s decline of cases over the past 12 weeks, with the Monday-to-Sunday report showing 4,377 cases, 181 more than the week before. Validating the data, Beshear said the number of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus has been about the same for the past three weeks.

“So what we at least believe at this point is that we have hit a plateau, that we are not currently in an escalation,” he said.

Another major metric of the pandemic, the percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus, also ticked upward, though just barely: to 2.89% last week from 2.88% the previous week.

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

Beshear and Health Commissioner Steven Stack pointed to the plateau, and the increasing incidence of more contagious strains of the virus, in freshly pleading with reluctant Kentuckians to get vaccinated. Beshear reported Kentucky has had 83 cases of the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant first found in the United Kingdom.Stack said, “The most important thing is that we all need to get vaccinated as soon as we can so that fewer variants have the opportunity to form. We’ve got to stay vigilant. Wear your masks, keep your distance, wash your hands and please, get vaccinated when it’s your turn. That’s how we get ourselves out of this mess.”

Also of concern, Beshear noted that with one more day in the reporting week, only 100,000 Kentuckians got vaccinated last week.

“We should all be at least a little bit concerned that the numbers . . . that we may have a little slowing in demand,” he said, later adding, “Folks, we really need you to get the vaccine.”

Starting Monday, all Kentuckians 16 and older can get a vaccine. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for those 16 and older, and the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for people 18 and up. Beshear said this adds upwards of 1.3 million more people to the official eligibility list.

Beshear urged younger people to get vaccinated, pointing out that other states are seeing a rising number of cases and hospitalizations among younger people, primarily because of more contagious variants.

The state’s daily vaccination report shows 1,438,557 have received at least one dose of a vaccine in Kentucky. Beshear said 41% of Kentuckians over 16 have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

Beshear noted facilities with thousands of vaccine appointments available this week, including: Cardinal Stadium; the Kentucky Horse Park; the WEDCO District Health Department (Harrison, Scott and Nicholas counties); Baptist Health Corbin; and the Christian County Health Department.

As incentive, Beshear reminded Kentuckians that the fully vaccinated can gather without masks, and said the state will soon issue guidance in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allowing domestic travel by the fully vaccinated. He stressed that people should still wear mask in public because many are not fully vaccinated.

He cautioned that domestic travel is not encouraged for those who are not fully vaccinated, and those that do travel are urged to get tested before and after traveling and to quarantine upon their return.

Prisons and vaccines: Asked if the loss of 15 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses in a lab mix-up would affect the state’s plans to start vaccinating the state’s inmates this week, Beshear said it would not, because these doses were not part of any federal projections made to Kentucky for the upcoming weeks.

He added that at this time Kentucky gets its Johnson & Johnson vaccine from a different facility, “so that foul-up shouldn’t hurt anybody’s confidence in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.”

Daily numbers: The state said 299 new virus cases were recorded Sunday, and 110 Monday. The seven-day rolling average of new cases in the state is 596, the first time it has been under 600 since Sept. 12, but Beshear cautioned that Monday’s numbers were likely low because of lab closures over Easter weekend. He said the direction of the pandemic would be hard to discern until Wednesday.

Sunday’s report 14 deaths, five from regular health department reports and nine from the ongoing audit of death certificates. Monday’s report was four and four, bringing the state’s death toll to 6,171.

Hospital numbers remained stable, with 353 Covid-19 patients, 97 in intensive care and 46 on ventilators. The Lake Cumberland hospital readiness region is the only region using more than 80% of its intensive care beds, at 93%. Only 22% are being used for Covid-19 patients.

The state’s overall incidence rate dropped to 9.95 cases per 100,000 population Monday. The New York Times reports Kentucky ranks 35th among the states for this measure, down from 31st on Saturday.

Counties with rates double the state rate were Simpson, 50.8; Powell, 40.5; Whitley, 33.5; McCreary, 33.2; Lee, 27; Harlan, 26.9; Owsley, 22.7; Knox, 22.5; Morgan, 21.5; Allen, 20.8; and Robertson, 20.3.

In other pandemic news Monday: 

  • Sunday’s fatalities were a Boyd County woman, 87; a Boyd County man, 72; a Logan County woman, 82; a Mason County woman 90; and a Warren County woman, 68. The deaths found in the audit were a Bullitt County man, 85; a Clay County woman, 74; a Fayette County woman, 91; a Hardin County woman, 58; a Harrison County man, 74; three Jefferson County women, 76, 83 and 88; and a Simpson County woman, 79.
  • Monday’s fatalities were a Carter County man, 70; a Fleming County man, 79; a Floyd County man, 80; and a Todd County man, 78. The deaths found in the audit were a Boyle County woman, 92; a Calloway County woman, 90; a Henderson County woman, 89; and a Laurel County woman, 82.
  • In long-term care, Beshear announced one new resident case and three new staff cases, bringing the total active cases to 52 and 73 respectively. No new deaths were reported today. He said the numbers from nursing homes, which got vaccination priority, shows how well vaccines work.
  • Counties reporting five or more new cases were Jefferson, 35; Fayette and Floyd, 6; and Montgomery, 5.
  • The U.S. saw its record one-day total for coronavirus vaccinations on Saturday, April 3, with more than 4 million doses given, The Washington Post reports.
  • Mitigation efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus are still necessary, says a CDC study. The study found: “Forty-six cases of Covid-19 were linked to an indoor bar opening event that occurred during February 2021 in a rural Illinois county. Event patrons were linked to secondary cases among household, long-term care facility, and school contacts, resulting in one hospitalization and one school closure affecting 650 students.”
  • Becker’s Hospital Review sums up 14 CDC stats in one report, including national numbers for cases, variants, vaccinations, testing new hospital admissions and deaths.
  • Becker’s has also compiled information that includes a breakdown of the five “variants of concern”  as outlined by the CDC.
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