Most Ky. counties still have low Covid-19 risk, but number of high-risk counties rose last week and new-case rate is first in nation

This story has been updated.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health NewsWhile most Kentucky counties continue to have a low risk from Covid-19, the number of counties with a high risk went back up to 11 this week, after dropping to five in last week’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

Gov. Andy Beshear acknowledged that Kentucky’s case numbers continue to fluctuate each week and Covid-related hospitalizations remain low, but the death rate remains high, making it important to get vaccinated.

“Folks, Covid is still out there,” Beshear said at his weekly news conference Thursday, held before the latest CDC report was released. “We still lose typically 40-plus people a week. So please, if you haven’t gotten vaccinated or boosted, please consider it.”

On Saturday, Feb. 4, The New York Times ranked Kentucky’s new-case infection rate for the week first in the nation, barely ahead of Rhode Island, Puerto Rico and Alabama, even though the rate had declined 27 percent in the last two weeks.

The CDC map, which is based on Covid-19 cases and hospital numbers to determine risk, shows 40 counties at medium risk, shown in yellow; and 69 at low risk, shown in green. High-risk counties, shown in orange, are Barren, Adair, Cumberland, Clinton, Breathitt, Letcher, Greenup, Carter, Boyd, Lawrence and Martin.

In high-risk counties, the CDC continues to recommend that you wear a well-fitting, high-quality mask in public indoor spaces, and if you are at high risk of getting very sick, consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities in public where you could be exposed.

If you live in a medium or high-risk county, the CDC advises those who are at high risk of getting very sick to wear a well-fitting mask when indoors and in public and to consider getting tested before having social contact with someone at high risk for getting very sick and consider wearing a mask when indoors when you are with them.

The CDC also has a transmission level map, largely used by researchers and health-care facilities, that shows the level of virus spread in each county, at one of four levels. The map shows 10 counties had a moderate level of transmission, down from 26 the week before, and the rest had either substantial or high levels of transmission.

An example of how these transmission levels are used by hospitals became evident this week when Norton Healthcare reinstated masking rules for its Louisville-area hospitals, based on the CDC’s transmission report and the recommendation of its accrediting agency.

“Norton Healthcare continues to evaluate local and national data and the current status of Covid-19 cases throughout our community to guide our protocols and practices,” a hospital spokesperson said in a statement. “Jefferson County has experienced continued community transmission of Covid-19 as detailed in the CDC’s Covid Data Tracker that lists Louisville as being at a ‘high’ level of transmission.”

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