Tornadoes leave health issues, Beshear says; state’s 14-day average of Covid-19 deaths is 53.5 per day, the highest yet

Dept. for Public Health graph, adapted by Ky. Health News, shows case numbers flat; click to enlarge.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

The tornadoes that ripped through Western Kentucky Friday night will leave environmental, physical and mental health issues that will need to be addressed, Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday.

“There’s gonna be a lot of health issues that come out of this,” he said at a news conference. “There is everything that is inside some of these older buildings that people were exposed to. And then there’s, the trauma is going to impact people who live there, their family members, the first responders, those that have been down there trying to help. It is very, very, very real.

“And so we’re gonna need to be vulnerable enough to admit that this has really impacted our mental health as people even and then at the appropriate time, to get the help, to set an example. And I know people out there want to help all of us process everything that we are feeling.”

Beshear said at least 74 Kentuckians have been confirmed dead and 109 remain unaccounted for in the tornado outbreak. He said many injuries have also been caused by the storms, but the state has not collected data on them.

Click here for a more detailed storm response report, including details about the Western Kentucky Christmas Toy Drive that was announced Monday.

Beshear said the state Department for Public Health, including Commissioner Steven Stack, will visit local health departments to assess their needs.

“We are ensuring that the vaccination program is not interrupted or that others can come in and help,” Beshear said. “We want to make sure that as many of the services that can continue, continue, especially at the at the most difficult times.”

Covid-19 report: New coronavirus cases have declined slightly in the last six days, but state listings of deaths from Covid-19 recently reached a record level.

The state reported 120 more Covid-19 deaths since Friday, 28 of them on Monday. That brings the  pandemic death toll to 11,662. Over the last 14 days, the state has reported 53.5 deaths per day, the highest average yet. Deaths have declined the last four days, so the average is likely to fall. Death reports can be delayed weeks or even months by the state’s confirmation process.

Beshear said one of the deaths reported Saturday was 38 and one of Sunday’s reported deaths was 27.

Kentucky reported 4,386 new coronavirus cases since Saturday, 1,089 of them on Monday. Beshear noted that was less than the previous Monday, which drove the seven-day rolling average down for the sixth straight day, to 2.236. He said the disaster may have limited testing and reporting.

After several weeks of increase, except for Thanksgiving week due to less testing and reporting, Kentucky’s latest weekly coronavirus case number is 22 fewer than the week before, at 15,875 cases.

“Certainly we are grateful that this week had fewer cases than the week before,” Beshear said. “I think it’s still too early to determine if that might mean cases are stabilizing or plateauing.” He noted that Covid-19 hospitalizations, intensive-care cases and ventilator use are “all going up.”

The positive-test rate for the Monday-to-Sunday reporting week also went down, to 8.9%, after going up for five consecutive weeks. As of Monday, the share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the last seven days is 8.78%. Beshear said this rate is “still way too high.”

State Dept. for Public Health graph, adapted by Ky. Health News; to enlarge, click on it.

All the hospital numbers remain on the rise. On Monday, Kentucky hospitals reported 1,253 Covid-19 patients, 61 more than Friday; 315 in intensive care, four fewer than Friday; and 181 on mechanical ventilation, down 10.

“[We] do not have hospitals sounding the alarm yet, but everybody is watching this very, very closely,” said Beshear.

Eight of the state’s 10 hospital-readiness regions are using more than 80% of their intensive-care beds, with four above 90%. Northern Kentucky is fullest, at 97.62%.

The state’s seven-day infection rate is 43.71 daily cases per 100,000 residents, down from 45.76 on Friday. Counties with rates more than double that rate were Menifee, 162.9; Wolfe, 107.8; Lewis, 100.1; McLean, 93.1; and Union, 91.4. The New York Times ranks Kentucky’s infection rate 19th among the states.

All but 14 of the state’s 120 counties are in red on the state infection map, for counties with more than 25 cases per 100,000 residents, considered a high level of transmission. Twelve counties are in orange, for counties with more than 10 to 25 cases, considered a substantial level of transmission; two are in yellow, for counties with more one to 10 cases, considered moderate transmission.

More and more Kentuckians are getting vaccinated, said Beshear. He said over the weekend, 14,880 Kentuckians got a first shot; 16,813 became fully vaccinated; and 46,373 got a booster. So far, 2,731,731 Kentuckians have received at least one dose.

Beshear encouraged parents and guardians of children between the ages of 5 and 15 to get their children vaccinated, noting that his 11-year-old daughter is now fully vaccinated. As of Monday, 14% of 5- to 11- year-olds and 45% of 12-to-15-year-olds have gotten at least one shot.

“It does appear that many parents are waiting on the 5-to-11-year-olds,” Beshear said. “It is safe. It provides protection for your child. It is a smaller dose They even packaging differently. . . . I would not have taken my own children to get vaccinated if I didn’t not only believe [this].”

Tuesday marks the anniversary of the first Covid-19 vaccination given in Kentucky, Beshear noted.

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