Pandemic’s decline stalls in Kentucky; more schools drop masks; shots for kids 5-11 are days away; vaccination data corrected

Graphic from Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

The pandemic’s decline in Kentucky stalled Friday. On the state’s daily report, the last one until Monday, the seven-day infection rate rose for the second day in a row, to 24.01 cases per 100,000 residents. It had hit a recent low of 23.58 on Wednesday, after 12 days of decline.
The state reported 1,623 new coronavirus cases, lowering its seven-day rolling average by only one daily case, to 1,307. However, the share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the last seven days continued falling. It dropped almost 0.1 percentage point, to 5.08%.
Most of the state’s hotspots are in south-central Kentucky. Counties with infection rates more than double the state rate are Russell, 145.1; Green, 130.6; Adair, 111.6; Clinton, 106.3; Powell, 57.8; Jackson, 55.7; Letcher, 49.7; and Cumberland, 49.7.
As the statewide decline in new-case numbers lagged, the decline in Covid-19 hospital numbers reversed, at least for a day. Kentucky hospitals reported 864 Covid-19 patients, three more than Thursday, with 273 in intensive care, up two; and 144 on mechanical ventilation, unchanged.
Seven of the 10 hospital regions had more than 80% of their intensive-care beds occupied, but only about 20% were occupied by Covid-19 patients.

The state reported 49 more Covid-19 deaths, raising the pandemic toll in Kentucky to 9,766. Gov. Andy Beshear said in a Facebook post that one of the dead was 31.

Dept. for Public Health map, adapted by Ky.Health News; click to enlarge.

Masks coming off in schools: More school districts decided this week to drop their mask mandates, citing relatively low numbers of virus cases.

Pulaski County did so Monday, and Bardstown dropped its rule Wednesday. Boyle County and Somerset will go mask-optional Monday, Nov. 1; Jessamine County will follow suit Nov. 3; and Madison County will do likewise Nov. 8, WKYT-TV reports. Pulaski Supt. Patrick Richardson told the station that the county has citizens who are “very outspoken” on each side of the issue.

Beshear said Thursday that it’s too soon for many schools to drop mask mandates.

Vaccine for kids: On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration paved the way for children 5 to 11 to get the Pfizer two-dose vaccine. Vaccinations are expected to begin Wednesday, after a Tuesday meeting of the CDC advisory committee that will make more detailed recommendations on which children should be vaccinated.

Beshear said Thursday that he would take his 11-year-old daughter, Lila, to get her shot as soon as possible.

“I can tell people a lot of things, but I can tell people that I love my kids . . . and I will take my daughter the first day I can to get this vaccine,” he said. “I believe for her it is the way that her school gets back to normal. . . . I so want her world to be a post-pandemic world and not a continuing pandemic world.”

The CDC released a study showing that people who had a case of Covid-19 and do not get vaccinated afterward were five times more likely to test positive for the virus than vaccinated people.

Corrections being made: Kentucky’s better-than-average ranking for vaccination against the coronavirus is likely to slip next week, as state and federal officials finish correcting databases that included hundreds of thousands of duplicate vaccinations administered by Kroger Co. clinics.

Beshear said about 431,100 duplicates will be removed, and about 252,500 are first doses, which are the basis for the numbers on the state’s vaccine dashboard. Friday afternoon, it showed 2,788,884 first doses, giving the state a vaccination rate of 62%. Beshear said the new figure would be 56% to 57%.

He said some counties that relied heavily on Kroger for vaccinations, such as Franklin County, could see as many as 20% of their vaccinations vanish from the database. Franklin County currently ranks second in the state with 80% vaccination, second only to adjoining Woodford County’s 81%.

UPDATE, Oct. 31: In the revised database, Franklin County lost 20 percentage points (not 20 percent), falling to 60% and out of the state’s top five. The new top five are Fayette, 68%; Woodford, 67%; Jefferson, 64%; and Campbell, 62%. The bottom five are Spencer, 28%; Christian, 33%; Edmonson, 34.4%; Elliott, 34.6%; and Hart, 35%.

“We believe this has happened in at least three states that will likely be reporting it,” Beshear said. He said Kroger reported to both the state and the federal government, incorrectly “expecting that there would be a de-duplication algorithm.” He added, “This was not intentional by anyone.”

Beshear said Kentucky officials raised the issue with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after they noticed the federal data showed more than 100% of some age groups in some counties as vaccinated. “What it does to our numbers hurts a little bit,” he said, “but if we’re going to get everybody vaccinated and protect everybody, we really have to have the most accurate count of who is and who isn’t” vaccinated.

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