Pandemic declining in Ky. faster than most other states; New York Times ranks state’s infection rate 16th, after weeks in the top 10

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

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

After weeks of being one of the top 10 states for its coronavirus infection rate, Kentucky took a plunge to No. 16 in The New York Times rankings Tuesday, as the state’s case numbers and positive-test rate kept falling.

The state reports Kentucky’s seven-day infection rate to be 30.25 daily cases per 100,000 residents, down from 31.67 cases Monday. Counties with rates more than double that rate are Owsley, 87.4; Powell, 78.6; Cumberland, 77.8; and Mercer, 61.2.

Counties with more than 50 daily cases per 100,000 residents — double the rate needed to put a county in the red on the state’s map — are Floyd, Grayson, Harrison, Jackson, McLean, Caldwell, Trimble, and Rockcastle.

The Times, using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, says Kentucky has seen a 39% drop in its infection rate in the last 14 days. Only six states saw faster drops in the period. (The Times’s rates and the state’s rates vary due to methodology; the example cited by the state is that it removes duplicate test results.)

Four of Kentucky’s 120 counties are in the yellow category, for average daily case rates between 1 and 10 per 100,000 residents: Menifee, 2.2; Elliott, 7.6; Morgan, 9.7; and Hickman, 9.8.

Thirty-four counties are in the orange category, with 10 to 25 daily cases per 100,000; 82 are in the red category, for counties with more than 25 cases per 100,000 residents.

Kentucky reported 1,786 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, lowering the seven-day average by 82, to 1,676. Of the new cases, 24% were in people 18 and under.

The percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days is 7.17%, down from 7.36% on Monday.

All of the hospital numbers were up Tuesday, reflecting a typical early-week trend of hospitals trying to get healthier patients home on the weekend and admissions perhaps being delayed by the weekend. Hospitals reported 1,202 Covid-19 patients at midnight Monday, an increase of nine; 355 intensive-care patients, up 18; and 226 patients on mechanical ventilation, up seven.

Eight of the state’s 10 hospital regions are using at least 80% of their intensive-care beds. Northern Kentucky is at 100% and three others are above 90%: Barren River, at 95%; and Bluegrass and Lake Cumberland, at 92%.

The state reported 29 more Covid-19 deaths. The death toll is 9,425. Kentucky continues to average reporting about 35 Covid-19 deaths per day.

Tammy and Carl Clark (Image from WLKY)

Vaccinations vs. hospitalization and death: Tammy Clark of Shelbyville lost her mother-in-law and her husband of 41 years to Covid-19 while battling the disease herself. Out of hospital for about a month, the 61-year-old told Sarah Ladd of the Louisville Courier Journal that she wishes she’d been vaccinated: “I was afraid of it. But then look what I went through.”

Her husband, Carl Clark, was partially vaccinated, WLKY-TV reports. “You can still get Covid while being vaccinated, but it will be less severe and your odds of surviving and surviving without limitation are significantly higher,” Dr. Greg Pfister, who treated Clark and her family, told Ladd. “And it’s just unbelievable that people are denying that level of protection.”

So far, 2,765,473 Kentuckians have received at least one dose of a vaccine, or 62% of the total population. The fully-vaccinated rate is 54%, which ranks 25th among the states, just barely behind Illinois, and ahead of all other bordering states except Virginia, which ranks 12th.

There’s still a lot of room to get more students vaccinated, especially as Kentucky schools begin to loosen mask requirements. Among youth 12 and older, the only ones who can get be vaccinated at this time, 47% of those 12 to 15 and 52% of those 16 and 17 having received at least one shot.

The importance of vaccinations to protect youth against severe Covid-19 was reinforced by a CDC study of U.S. Covid-19 patients 12 to 18 from June to September. It found that two doses of the Pfizer vaccine were 93% against hospitalizations.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chart; to enlarge, click on it.
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