Pandemic metrics tick slightly down, but 19 deaths added; CDC acknowledges virus can go aerosol and spread farther than 6 feet

Screenshot from the state website with a map of Kentucky. It shows the percentage of each county's population with at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

Screenshot from state website, adapted; Campbell has replaced Jefferson as the No. 5 county.

By Al Cross

Kentucky Health News
Most of Kentucky’s pandemic numbers took slight turns for the better Saturday.
The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the coronavirus in the last seven days fell by 0.18 percentage points, to 3.32%, the lowest in a week. It has been below 4 percent since March 9 and hit a low of 2.8% March 26-27.
The state reported 544 new cases of the virus, lowering the seven-day rolling average by 15, to 572. That’s almost exactly where it was April 30. It has been below 700 since March 19 and hit a low of 525 April 10.
The statewide rate of new cases over the last seven days is 10.95 per 100,000 residents, 0.29 lower than Friday. This is the first time it has been under 11 since April 29; it has been below 12 since March 19.
Counties with rates more than double the statewide rate were Powell, 55.5; Montgomery, 50.7; Lewis, 30.1; Robertson, 27.1; Hickman, 26.1; Bath, 25.1; Simpson, 23.1; Estill, 22.3; Grayson, 22.2; and Wolfe, 22.
The worst datum in the state’s daily report was the 19 additional Covid-19 deaths, one from the ongoing audit of death certificates and the rest from regular health-department reports. That was much more than the 14-day average of 7.7 per day, which has been relatively stable; a month ago, it was 7.9. The state’s Covid-19 death toll is 6,578.
As usual on a weekend, the state did not issue an itemized list of the additional fatalities by county, sex, age and date of death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has changed its guidance to say, in boldface type on its website, to emphasize that the virus is transmitted by “inhalation of very fine respiratory droplets and aerosol particles,” which float through the air and “can remain suspended in the air for minutes to hours.” That means the particles can spread more than six feet from an infected person, though the risk is greatest at three to six feet. The guidance no longer mentions “close contact.”
The CDC reiterated that the virus can also spread through “direct splashes and sprays,” and touching the mouth, nose or eyes with contaminated hands, and the risk of infection depends on the amount of viral exposure. It says there have been cases of infected people exhaling indoors for more than 15 minutes leading to “virus concentrations in the air space sufficient to transmit infections to people more than six feet away, and in some cases to people who have passed through that space soon after the infectious person left.”

A year ago, infectious-disease experts said the CDC and the World Health Organization “were overlooking research that strongly suggested the coronavirus traveled aloft in small, airborne particles,” The New York Times reports. “Several scientists on Friday welcomed the agency’s scrapping of the term ‘close contact,’ which they criticized as vague and said did not necessarily capture the nuances of aerosol transmission.”

In other pandemic news Saturday:
  • Counties with 10 or more new cases were Jefferson, 73; Fayette, 34; Scott, 25; Pulaski, 24; Campbell, 21; Montgomery, 18; Russell, 18; Boone, 15; McCracken, 14; Graves, Kenton and Laurel, 11; and Daviess, Hopkins and Warren, 10.
  • Kentucky hospitals reported 417 Covid-19 patients, five more than Friday, with 107 of them in intensive care (up 1) and 49 on ventilators (down 3). All the number were near the average for the past month.
  • As usual, the Lake Cumberland hospital region was the only one with more than 80% of its intensive-care beds occupied, at 87%.
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