Covid-19 cases in Kentucky dropped 41% last week, after two weeks of steep increases; hospitalizations and deaths remain low

National Geographic map, adapted by Kentucky Health News, shows high infection rates during the last two weeks in McCracken, Boyle and Montgomery counties; for a larger version, click on it.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

After two weeks of new Covid-19 cases increasing by more than 37% each week, new cases in Kentucky dropped 41% last week. Other key Covid-19 metrics show that the share of Kentuckians testing positive for the coronavirus increased, as did hospitalizations, but fewer deaths were reported.

The state’s weekly report shows 7,927 new coronavirus cases, an average of 1,132 per day. That’s 41% fewer than the week before, when the rate was 1,928 per day.

Over the last two weeks, The New York Times ranks Kentucky’s infection rate sixth among the states, with a 91% increase in cases. The Times says daily new infections nearly doubled this month in Kentucky, and cases and hospitalizations are increasing substantially in the South and West.

Children continue to get infected with the virus; of last week’s new cases, 16% were in people 18 and younger. Now everyone older than 6 months can get a vaccine, which is considered the best way to protect yourself and your children against the disease.

On Saturday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave final approval for Covid-19 vaccinations for children aged 6 months to 5 years.

The vaccines could be available in some Kentucky locations this week.  The state has an estimated 246,000 children 6 months to 4 years old who will be newly eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, according to the state Department for Public Health.

Ilhem Massaoudi, chair of immunology in the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, said on KET‘s “Kentucky Tonight” that she would tell doubtful parents that “Covid-19 is amongst the five leading causes of childhood death” in the U.S. “We’re taking a lot of risks; it’s not worth it,” said the mother of children 5 and 2½.

The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the Monday-to-Sunday reporting period increased to 12.45%.  up from 12.07% the prior week. Eleven weeks ago, this rate was at a low of 1.97%.

The statewide incidence rate was nearly the same this week as last week, decreasing 0.01, to 24.41 cases per 100,000 residents.

Three Kentucky counties have rates more than double that rate: Lyon, 66.1; Wolfe, 57.9; and Livingston, 51.3. The other top-10 counties were Breathitt, 39.6; Hickman, 39.1; Boyd, 36.7; Montgomery, 36.5; Woodford, 35.3; Perry, 34.9; and Henry, 33.7.

The state reported 51 more Covid-19 deaths last week, an average of 7.3 per day. That’s down from 8.4 per day the previous week. The state’s pandemic death toll is now 16,114.

Kentucky’s Covid-19 hospitalization numbers remain low, but have been creeping up a bit. Kentucky hospitals reported 369 patients with Covid-19 Monday, up from 352 a week ago, with 48 in intensive care (down two) and 25 on mechanical ventilation (no change).

“Even though the numbers are sky-high we don’t have that many critically ill patients in the hospital,” Dr. Mark Dougherty of Baptist Health said on KET. “I really don’t think we’re going to get the point where we’re going to be overwhelmed any more. . . . We’re in a big transition.”

Those case numbers are much lower than the actual numbers, Dougherty said: “We are probably undercounting by an order of magnitude of 10 or 20,” because people are testing at home or not getting tested at all. Home test results don’t show up in the positive-test rate.

The latest CDC national Covid-19 risk map, which measures cases and hospital capacity, shows 19 Kentucky counties with a high level of coronavirus transmission and 29 with a medium level of risk. The map is updated on Thursday evenings.

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