Covid-19 trend remains good, but governor says we have a way to go and cautions Kentuckians to not let their guard down

Ky. Dept. for Public Health graph, adapted by Ky. Health News; for a larger version, click on it.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Kentucky’s Covid-19 metrics continue to move in the right direction, with cases, positive-test rate and hospitalizations all going down, but Gov. Andy Beshear cautioned Monday that it is still not time to let our guard down.

“I don’t see people letting down just yet, but I have a concern that they will,” Beshear said at his weekly pandemic press conference. “This is good news, but we are still really high. And people should be concerned that if enough people don’t get vaccinated, we may see another thing like Omicron again. . . . I’m certainly going to continue wearing a mask in crowds and indoors until that number is a lot further down.”

Kentucky’s weekly coronavirus case numbers took a nose-dive in the Monday-to-Sunday reporting week ended Feb. 6, to 46,639. That’s 37% fewer than the week before and nearly 43% lower than the record 81,473 cases reported the week before that.

“We are definitely now moving in the right direction,” Beshear said at his weekly Covid-19 press conference.

Since Saturday, Kentucky reported 12,347 new coronavirus cases, bringing the seven-day rolling average to 6,555, 40% lower than a week earlier. Of Monday’s 3,835 cases, 18.7% are in people 18 and younger.

Beshear cautioned that cases could be under-reported, since so many testing sites closed during last week’s ice storm. Further, he noted that these numbers still represent the fifth highest weekly number of new cases during the pandemic, and “There is still a whole lot of virus out there.”

The weekly positive-test rate, which is a leading indicator, has also gone down for two weeks in a row. The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days dropped to 23.51%. Beshear called this a “good decline,” noting that it has dropped 10% in the last two weeks. This rate hit a high of 33.1% on Jan. 23.

Covid-19 hospitalizations also continue in a downward trend and have dropped 11% in the last seven days, said Beshear, adding that the intensive-care census has plateaued and ventilator use shows a slow decline.

Hospitals reported 2,124 Covid-19 patients; 414 of them in intensive care; and 207 on mechanical ventilation. Eight of the state’s 10 hospital regions are using at least 80% of their intensive-care beds, with three of them above 90%. The Lake Cumberland region is using the most, 98%.

Beshear said 36 of the state’s 96 acute care hospitals are reporting a critical staffing shortage and that this number is likely higher than this. He said the state continues to deploy more than 400 National Guard to help hospitals and other heatlh care facilities.

The statewide new-case rate is 106 daily cases per 100,000 residents, down from 136 per 100,000 on Friday. Eleven counties have rates over 200 per 100,000, and all 120 counties remain red on the state infection map, indicating more than 25 cases per 100,000, considered a high level of transmission.

The New York Times ranks Kentucky’s infection rate fourth among the states, even though the state has had a 38% decline in cases in the last 14 days.

Kentucky Department for Public Health table

Beshear noted that Covid-19 vaccination rates continue to decline in Kentucky. The Washington Post reports, based on federal data, that Kentucky administered 2,609 doses on Feb. 7, with a seven-day average of 4,316 doses per day. That is a 37% decline over the week before.

Beshear offered tips to safely enjoy Super Bowl Sunday gatherings: Stay home if you are sick; everyone present should be vaccinated or boosted; wear a mask if everyone is not vaccinated; get tested that day or as close to the event as you can; and host smaller parties than usual.

As the Omicron surge wanes, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey has lifted the state’s mask requirements in schools, effective in March. Beshear, asked what it would take for him to no longer recommend universal masking in schools, said it would depend on the number of cases and the positivity rate, which still have weekly rates that are the fifth highest of the pandemic; and the vaccination rates, which are “way too low” for Kentuckians 19 and younger.

“Either one of those could be the major lever for not needing to recommend it anymore,” Beshear said.
“Certainly doing it right now would be like doing it in the surge, because there’s still that amount of Covid. And we don’t want to see, you know, our educators, our staff not able to come in and thus having school cancelled.”

The state reported 93 more Covid-19 deaths since Saturday, with seven of the dead aged from 32 to 47. Kentucky’s pandemic death toll stands at 13,156.

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