State reports 371 coronavirus cases, most found in a day; masks required in W.Va., Cincinnati and Tenn. county; Fauci endorses it

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News
Kentucky reported 371 new cases of the coronavirus Tuesday, the most ever found on one day, and that pushed the seven-day rolling average to a new high.

“Today is a tough day in our fight against the coronavirus,” Gov. Andy Beshear said in a press release. “Today’s numbers are cause for serious concern. We have worked too long and hard, and sacrificed too much, to squander the gains we have made in this fight.”

Beshear added, “The only way to secure our safety is to recommit ourselves to doing what we all know is required of us: washing our hands frequently, staying at least six feet from others, avoiding crowds, getting tested frequently and cooperating with contact tracers if they call with information.”
The previous one-day high was 322, except the 625 reported on May 5, when the total included 309 case found over many days of testing at a Western Kentucky prison. The seven-day rolling average is now 276 and has set a record three days in a row.
Beshear reported nine more deaths from covid-19, raising the state’s death toll from the disease to 602. Four were in Knox County, where an outbreak at a Corbin nursing home created a major hotspot. The Knox County dead were two women, 86 and 96, and two men, 85 and 95. The other fatalities were a 78-year-old man from Jefferson County; a 52-year-old man from Kenton County; a 70-year-old woman from Logan County; a 64-year-old woman from Mason County; and a 62-year-old man from Monroe County.
Beshear said in the release, “There’s nothing more important to me than protecting the lives of Kentuckians and there’s nothing more difficult in this job than knowing that despite every effort we still have lost more than 600 of our fellow citizens to this deadly virus. Let’s light up our homes and businesses green to show our compassion for these folks, their families and their communities.”
Hospital data remained stable, with 421 people in Kentucky hospitalized with covid-19 and 110 of them in intensive care. Counties with more than five new cases Tuesday were Fayette, 63; Jefferson, 60; Bell, 22; Warren, 19; Christian, 17; Boone, 14; Hardin, 12; Kenton, 11; Laurel, 10; Daviess and Madison, nine each; Hopkins, seven; and Bullitt, Campbell and Scott, six each.

Fayette County’s number was “a new single-day high,” the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. The previous high, which was recorded on July 1, was 46. . . . The city health department said it is still seeing cases in people returning from vacations in Florida and South Carolina.”

rt.live site shows estimates and ranges for Kentucky and three other states.

There was another elevated number Tuesday: The estimated virus-transmission rate for Kentucky on rt.live, a site that uses data to estimate rates by state, jumped to 1.21 after staying at 0.99 for several days. The site also revised Kentucky’s numbers for previous days, especially since June 1. The latest estimate was the highest since March 31, when it was 1.22. Operators of the site did not immediately respond to a request from Kentucky Health News for an explanation.

A rate of 1 means that each infected person is infecting one other person. Epidemiologists like to see rates below 1.1, meaning that 10 infected people will infect 11 others. CovidActNow, a similar site that estimates transmission rates for state and some counties, estimated Kentucky’s rate at 1.04. Its county estimates included Knox, 1.49; Laurel, 1.22; and Muhlenberg, 1.40.
Masks in the mountains: Public officials in West Virginia, Tennessee and Ohio issued emergency orders requiring people to wear masks in public spaces indoors.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice issued the Mountain State’s order Monday. “We are absolutely in a situation to where we have got to make a move right now,” said the Republican, who is running for re-election. “I know there’s going to be pushback. I know there’s going to be people saying, ‘I don’t have to do that.’ I’ll tell you, West Virginia, if we don’t do that and do this now, we’re going to be in a world of hurt.”
“Justice said it will be up to businesses to enforce his order, adding there would not be any criminal charges or other governmental action for people who do not wear a mask outside of their own homes,” Lacie Pierson reports for the Charleston Gazette-Mail. “Justice said he had ‘all the confidence in the world’ that local businesses would ‘encourage enforcement’ and that West Virginians would ‘do a great, great job with just this’.”
CovidActNow estimates West Virginia’s infection rate at 1.22; rt.live estimates it to be 1.32.  Ohio’s on CovidActNow is 1.21; on rt.live it is 1.12. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, ordered masks Monday “in seven counties where the virus is spreading most rapidly,” including Hamilton (Cincinnati), the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

Sevier County, Tennessee, a popular vacation spot for Kentuckians, is now under a mask order “as the number of cases continues to spike in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville,” WBIR-TV in Knoxville reports. “The order begins on Friday, July 10 and will last through Aug. 3, and applies to public indoor areas and businesses. Masks are not required outdoors, as the county said it would be ‘impossible’ to enforce.” County Mayor Larry Waters issued the order Tuesday afternoon after Gov. Bill Lee gave local leaders in 89 counties the power to require masks. “Sevier County continues to have one of the highest caseloads across East Tennessee and is considered a covid-19 ‘hot spot,’ according to the Tennessee Department of Health,” WBIR reports.

Sevier County’s estimated infection rate on CovidActNow is 1.13, but the adjoining Tennessee counties all have higher rates; the estimated rate in Knox and Loudon counties, which are listed jointly, is 1.34. Tennessee’s overall rate on rt.live is 1.06, but on CovidActNow two Tennessee counties bordering Kentucky, Sumner and Macon, have estimated rates of 1.28 and 1.41, respectively.
Women’s prison: coronavirus outbreak is growing in the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women, with 92 inmates infected as of Monday, local health officials reported. The state Department of Corrections says 159 inmates and 15 employees at the prison in the western tip of Shelby County, near Pewee Valley, have tested positive for the virus since May 26.

“The 733-bed prison houses 643 inmates,” the Herald-Leader notes. “In a pending federal lawsuit, seven KCIW inmates with health problems blame prison officials for a ‘complete failure to respond to the exceptionally severe risks posed by the outbreak.’ The inmates say that even in recent days, prison officials have not provided adequate masking, cleaning and social distancing.

“The physical layout of KCIW generally results in a constant churning of the population, with people crossing paths and coming into contact with each other as they move about the facility to access the recreation yard, dining hall or their work assignments,” the inmates said in a court filing. The Herald-Leader said corrections officials didn’t respond to a request for comment.
In other covid-19 news Tuesday:
  • In an interview with Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., Dr. Anthony Fauci said Alabama and other states with soaring coronavirus rates have a window of opportunity to bring it under control by requiring masks to be worn in public. “We are facing a serious problem now,” said the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “What is alarming is the slope of the curve. . . . The signal should be wear a mask, period.”
  • How did masks morph from personal protection into divisive political symbols? In an opinion piece for McClatchy Newspapers, Andrew Malcolm answers the question and says “both sides are juvenile.”
  • Fauci “called the recent focus on the coronavirus’s decreasing mortality rate in the United States a “false narrative,” while President Trump continued to tout those numbers on Twitter, The Washington Post reports.
  • “Federal guidance calls for nursing home staff to be tested for covid-19 at least once a week, but most nursing homes are waiting so long for results that testing is not an effective way to control the coronavirus’ spread and facilities also can’t afford to test everyone, an American Health Care Association survey of its members found. Six out of 10 nursing homes surveyed said they’ve had to wait two to four days for results and a quarter said it’s taken five or more days. The nursing home lobby group surveyed 1,385 members from June 25 to 29,” Inside Health Policy reports.
  • Northern Kentucky landlords sued Beshear Tuesday to overturn his order banning evictions during the pandemic. The Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Apartment Association and three apartment building owners in the region filed the suit,” the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. “Kentucky is one of 15 states that paused evictions during the pandemic, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
  • “239 scientists in 32 countries are saying the World Health Organization and most other public health agencies are putting the public at risk by leaving out an important route of transmission: through the air,” McClatchy reports. “People may think that they are fully protected by adhering to the current recommendations, but in fact, additional airborne interventions are needed for further reduction of infection risk,” the scientists wrote in an open letter published Monday in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
  • Lysol Disinfectant Spray and Lysol Disinfectant Max Cover Mist have been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as effective in killing the novel coronavirus on surfaces, according to an agency news release.  There are more than 420 products on EPA’s list of products that meet its criteria for use against the virus, but these are the first two on that list for which EPA has reviewed all of its lab testing data and approved its label claims against the virus. The release says more EPA approvals are expected in the coming weeks.
  • The Louisville Courier Journal offers tips on how to host an outdoor party safely during the pandemic.