Kentucky’s infection rate remains top among states, even as almost every metric used to measure the pandemic trends down

New York Times map, adapted by Ky. Health News; to enlarge, click on it; here for interactive version.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Even as Kentucky’s daily new-case rate, infection rate, positive-test rate and Covid-19 hospital numbers are steadily trending down, its seven-day rate of daily new cases continues to be the highest among states.

Gov. Andy Beshear reported Monday that Kentucky’s weekly case numbers and positivity rates have now declined for four straight weeks. “This is really good news,” he said at his weekly pandemic press conference. “We’re heading in the right direction.”

In the Monday-to-Sunday reporting week ended Feb. 20, Kentucky reported 25,173 Covid-19 cases, down from 35,961 the previous week. Beshear said this is the lowest weekly number of cases in two months and is now below the Delta variant peak. He said the hope is that Kentucky will drop to case levels seen between the Alpha and Delta variant surges, when the state was reporting around 1,000 cases a week.

In the same reporting week, the average test positive-test rate dropped to 13.1%. The rate Monday was 12.74%.

Asked if he had considered moving his new recommendations up from March 14, especially with the Senate proposing that the pandemic state of emergency end March 7, Beshear said ending the state of emergency would have no impact on the need for him to provide guidance, and while trends could support earlier changes, at this time his best prediction for the new guidance remains March 14.

Beshear continued to caution that while things are headed in the right direction, case numbers and the positivity rate are still too high. He urged Kentuckians to be patient just a bit longer, especially schools who are increasingly making masks optional.

“I would ask that everybody who can, be patient for the next couple of weeks, because right now with the level that we’re at and the low vaccination rates, I don’t believe it’s fully safe to go mask optional,” he said.

Only 51% of 16-17-year-olds, 48% of 12-to-15-year-olds, and 21% of 5-to-11-year-olds have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

The state reported 969 new cases Monday, the lowest number since late December. From Saturday to Monday, the state reported 5,955 new virus cases, lowering the seven-day rolling average to 3,489, down 276 from Friday.

The state says its seven-day infection rate is 52.53 daily cases per 100,000 residents. Counties with rates more than twice that rare are: Perry, 196.9; Lee, 167.9; Leslie, 163.4; Wolfe, 129.7; Breathitt, 126.7; Floyd, 121.2; Menifee, 118.9; Owsley, 116.5; Knott, 114.8; Letcher, 114.7; Carter, 112.5; Powell, 112.1; and Whitley, 108.7.

Two counties are in yellow on the state’s infection map, representing a “moderate” level of infection: Fulton, with 7.2 cases per 100,000 and Hickman, with 6.5. Nineteen counties are in orange, for a “substantial” level of infection, 10-25 per 100,000; and the rest are in red, considered a high level of infection.

Kentucky continues to have the highest infection rate among states, according to The New York Times. Using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, the Times says Kentucky has 10 of the top 20 counties: Perry, Estill, Floyd, Butler, Morgan, Clay, Breathitt, Carter, Whitley and Boyle. (CDC and state figures differ due to methodologies.)

In the last 14 days, Kentucky’s CDC new-case rate dropped 31%, but every other state but Maine and Idaho had larger decreases.

Beshear said current trends give hope that we are moving from a pandemic to an endemic, meaning that the virus will have stopped being widespread, but remain present, with outbreaks limited to particular regions. He cautioned that it is hard to predict since this virus has “thrown us a lot of curveballs before.”

Kentucky’s weekly hospital numbers also continue to decline. On Monday, the hospitals reported 1,333 Covid-19 patients, with 270 of them in intensive care and 141 on mechanical ventilation.

Dept. for Public Health graph, adapted by KHN; click to enlarge.


Six of the state’s 10 hospital regions are using at least 80% of their intensive care unit capacity, with three of them above 90%. The percentage of Covid-19 patients in the ICUs range from 6.6% to 29.2%.

The only metric that remains high in Kentucky is Covid-19 deaths, a lagging indicator that Beshear said he hopes will soon show a decline. From Saturday to Monday, the state reported 82 more Covid-19 fatalities, with two of them in their 30s and four in their 40s. Kentucky’s pandemic death toll is 13,647.

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