Overall, Ky. coronavirus numbers keep falling, but remain high; CDC director says it’s still too early to cut prevention efforts

Graph by Kentucky Health News; click to enlarge.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
Despite encouraging trends in coronavirus case rates, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday that it’s too early to move away from preventive measures.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday at a White House press briefing that nationwide hospitalizations and death rates from Covid-19 are still too high to ditch current mitigation efforts like mask-wearing. “We are not there yet,” she said.
In Kentucky, positive-test rates and new cases are declining, but the virus-transmission rate remains high, sixth among the states.
“We continue to recommend masking in areas of high and substantial transmission. That’s much of the country right now, in public indoor settings,” Walensky said. “And so we’re, of course, taking a close look at this in real-time, and we’re evaluating rates of transmission as well as rates of severe outcomes as we look at updating and reviewing our guidance.”
Walensky acknowledged that mitigation decisions are not made at the federal level, but CDC offers guidance, which she said is based on surveillance and data, including wastewater testing, genomic sequencing, state-level surveillance about how well vaccines are working, and hospital surveillance.
After eight days of decline, Kentucky’s seven-day rolling average of new cases went up by 11, to 6,263.
Of the 8,044 new cases reported Wednesday, 23% are in people 18 and younger.
However, the state’s daily infection rate fell slightly, to 96.28 cases per 100,000 residents. Nine counties  have rates above 200 per 100,000 people (or 2 per 1,000): Clay, 267.8; Wolfe, 267.5; Estill, 259.3; Owsley, 252.4; Lee, 239.3; Powell, 228.9; Letcher, 225.4; Leslie, 215.5; and Rockcastle, 204.5.
Every county in Kentucky is back in the red zone on the state infection map, for counties with more than 25 cases per 100,000 people, one day after Carlisle County moved out of it. Its rate is now 27.
The New York Times ranks Kentucky’s infection rate sixth among the states, with a 58% drop in cases over the last 14 days. The Times, using CDC data, ranks West Virginia third and Tennessee fourth.
The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the last seven days fell for the 17th straight day, to 21.99%. Early in the pandemic, the goal was to get the rate below 5%. The record is 33.1%, set Jan. 23.
Kentucky hospitals reported 2,142 Covid-19 patients, six more than Tuesday, with 399 in intensive care (down 17) and 200 on mechanical ventilation (down eight).
Eight of the state’s 10 hospital regions are using at least 80% of their intensive-care beds, with five of them above 90%. The Lake Cumberland region continues to use 100% of its capacity.
The state reported 34 Covid-19 deaths, bringing Kentucky’s pandemic death toll to 13, 216. The 14-day average of reported deaths rose for the seventh straight day, to 28.5 per day. It the last seven days it has been 31.4.
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