New cases of coronavirus continue to drop in Kentucky, but state still ranks No. 1 in nation, and deaths from Covid-19 remain high

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

By Melissa Patrick and Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

The leading indicators of the pandemic dropped by big, round numbers Thursday, but the state’s weekly rate of new coronavirus cases remained first among the states, and deaths from Covid-19 remained high.

Kentucky reported 4,867 new virus cases, bringing the seven-day rolling average to 3,808, exactly 300 less than yesterday and a 7.3% decline. Of today’s cases, 26% are in people 18 and younger.

The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days dropped a full percentage point, to 15.19%. The decline has bee rapid lately; on Tuesday, it was 17.16% Today’s rate is half what it was three weeks ago.

The state’s daily report shows Kentucky’s seven-day infection rate is 65.24 daily cases per 100,000 people, down from 69.78 on Wednesday. State data show Lee County, with 260.5 cases per 100,000 and Perry County, with 200.2, have the highest infection rates in Kentucky.

Twelve counties are now out of the red zone, for counties with more than 25 cases per 100,000 people and considered a high level of transmission. They are Gallatin, Pendleton, Owen, Todd, Fulton, Carlisle, Campbell, Crittenden, Kenton, Boone, Ballard and Hickman.

For the third day in a row, The New York Times ranks Kentucky’s infection rate first among the states. The Times uses Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, which differs from state data due to different methodologies; for example, the state says it removes duplicate test results of individuals before calculating the rate.

On the Times map, over half the nation’s top 20 counties in cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days are in Kentucky: Lee, 409; Floyd, 303; Perry, 295; Owsley, 272; Leslie, 263; Butler, 257; Estill, 252; Clay, 217; Letcher, 213; Carter, 205; Knott, 202; Taylor, 201; Bell, 199; Russell, 198; and Morgan, 196. But the statewide infection rate has dropped 45% in the last 14 days.

“Things are getting better,” but caution is still called for, Gov. Andy Beshear said at a regular press conference. “Be excited, be hopeful, be optimistic that we’re moving the right way, but be patient at let us get there.” Monday, he said he expected to relax his prevention recommendations around March 14.

Kentucky’s Covid-19 hospital numbers are also dropping. Hospitals reported 1,634 patients with Covid-19 on Thursday, down 55 from Wednesday, with 302 in intensive care (down 14) and 148 on mechanical ventilation (down seven).

Seven of the state’s 10 hospital regions are using at least 80% of their intensive-care beds, with four above 90%. The share of intensive-care patients with Covid-19 ranges from 12% in Northern Kentucky to 32% in the easternmost region (Lee County to Pike County).

Dept. for Public Health graph, adapted by Ky, Health News

Since Covid-19 vaccinations became readily available in March 2021, state data shows that 73.7% of coronavirus cases, 84.4% of Covid-19 hospitalizations, and 82.3% of Covid-19 deaths have been in Kentuckians who were either partially vaccinated or unvaccinated.

Beshear displayed a graph showing the age and vaccination status of people who have died of Covid-19 since July 2021, when the current Omicron variant became dominant in the state.

If you are under 60 and vaccinated, “This thing isn’t going to kill you,” he said. Since vaccines became available, “Virtually every death we’ve had over 60 was avoidable.”

The Washington Post reports Kentucky has seen a 23% jump in Covid-19 vaccination doses given in the last week over the previous week, with the daily average back above 6,000 per day after dropping below 5,000. Beshear said about 1,000 people a day are getting their first dose of a vaccine.

The state reported 37 more Covid-19 deaths, bringing Kentucky’s pandemic death toll to 13,519.

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