Ky. coronavirus numbers are about double what they were 15 to 18 days ago, and vaccinations have dropped by almost half

Dept. for Public Health map, relabeled by KHN; click on it to enlarge.

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

The coronavirus is coming back in Kentucky.

The state reported 470 new cases Tuesday, raising the seven-day rolling average by 20 percent in one day, to 331. The average is more than double what it was 15 days ago.

The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus is the last seven days is 3.58 percent, double what it was 18 days ago. It has increased each day since.

The statewide infection rate over the last seven days is 6.97 per 100,000 residents, more than double its low of 3.13, recorded 16 days ago.

Dept. for Public Health map, relabeled by KHN; click on it to enlarge.

Counties with rates more than double the state rate are Carter, 25.6; Livingston, 24.9; Webster, 22.1; Hopkins, 22.1; Martin, 20.4; Muhlenberg, 20.1; Laurel, 17.1; Pike, 16.8; Woodford, 16.6; Clay, 16.5; Pulaski, 15.2; and Whitley, 15. Carter’s number put a red county on the state map for the first time in four weeks.

Kentucky’s increase comes a month after Gov. Andy Beshear lifted all but some very narrow pandemic-related restrictions, and is part of a national trend that experts say is driven by the more contagious Delta variant of the virus, which they say makes it all the more important to get vaccinated.

Just over half of Kentucky’s total population has received one dose of vaccine; 44.4% are fully vaccinated. Of the eligible population 12 and up, 59% have been vaccinated.

Over the last seven days, about 5,300 Kentuckians per day have been vaccinated; that is a little more than half the rate of two weeks ago.

Kentuckians are vaccine-hesitant or -resistant for various reasons, Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky President Ben Chandler told WKYT-TV: “Some of them don’t think it’s been researched well enough, and some of it’s probably political.” The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were developed with new technology that had been researched for many years but not implemented at scale.

Experts also warn that as long as the virus is circulating, it is mutating, potentially into variants that will be more resistant to vaccines. “We may even get a mutation that the vaccine does not cover,” Chandler said.

Cassie Prather

Woodford County has the state’s highest vaccination rate, 66% with at least one dose, but was the scene of an outbreak at a church. “Of the 41 cases, 12 were vaccinated, four were hospitalized. None of the four hospitalizations were vaccinated,” county Health Director Cassie Prather told the Lexington Herald-Leader. Eight cases are undergoing genomic sequencing to check for variants.“Vaccines save lives. We have three vaccines approved for use in the United States, and all three are effective,” Prather said. “If you haven’t gotten one, as a public health official, mom, community member, woman of faith, and a believer in science, I encourage you to get one now.”

Hospitalizations have also increased recently. Kentucky hospitals reported 244 Covid-19 patients Tuesday, the most in a month; 63 of them were in intensive care, and 26 of those were on a ventilator.

The hospital readiness region reporting the largest share of Covid-19 patients in intensive care, 16%, was the westernmost region, which is the closest to Missouri and Arkansas, which have relatively low vaccination rates and have been national hotspots for cases in the last two weeks.

Counties in the region are Ballard, Caldwell, Calloway, Carlisle, Crittenden, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Livingston, Lyon, Marshall, McCracken and Trigg. No other region had more than 5.1% of its ICU beds occupied by Covid-19 patients.

The state reported six Covid-19 deaths Tuesday, raising Kentucky’s death toll from the disease to 7,771. The state has averaged about four Covid-19 deaths per day for the last three and a half weeks.

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