906 new coronavirus cases make for state’s third highest day, pushing total above 50,000; 10 more deaths bring toll to 976

Kentucky Health News chart, based on initial daily reports, which are adjusted slightly downward
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By Mary Meehan
Kentucky Health News

As Kentucky saw more than 900 new coronavirus cases Thursday and double-digit death tolls for the fourth straight day, state officials cautioned that a vaccine is unlikely until 2021 and said advances in testing are less dramatic than they may appear.

Gov. Andy Beshear announced 906 new cases and 10 additional deaths during his daily briefing, bringing the death toll since Monday to 46.

The new-case number was the third highest of the pandemic. “Nine hundred and six cases used to be unfathomable here in Kentucky,” Beshear said. The seven-day rolling average jumped to 713, the highest yet.

In one bit of good news, the share of Kentuckians testing positive in the last seven days dropped to 4.53%, from 4.7% Wednesday.

Thursday saw the state pass a grim milestone, passing 50,000 cases; there have been 50,885. That means about 2.5% of the state’s population has been identified as infected. The death toll is approaching 1,000; it stands at 976.

The high numbers come as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking states to be ready to distribute vaccine as early as Nov. 1. Beshear said there will be no vaccine until 2021.

“We’re going to make sure that we do the work to distribute the vaccine as soon as it is safe,” he said, but “We still don’t see any path for there to be a vaccine that’s gone through steps that it needs to before the beginning of the year.”

Health Commissioner Steven Stack echoed the message.

“I’ll say it again, there will not be a vaccine for virtually everybody this calendar year,” said Stack, a physician. “I know that there’s a press to make these timelines suggest we’re going to have vaccine going out the door to people in October and November.” The presidential election is Nov. 3.

“There are some corners that cannot be cut,” Stack said. “You have to ensure that you are not going to take a healthy person and hurt them.”

Stack also cautioned that while progress is being made, there are few affordable rapid-response tests that are accurate and easy to process.

The Food and Drug Administration last week approved a 15-minute test from Abbott Laboratories in the form of a chip card that will sell for $5. The FDA also recently approved a saliva test from Yale University.

“Both tests have limitations, and neither can be done at home,” The Washington Post reported. “Abbott’s new test still requires a nasal swab by a health worker, like most older coronavirus tests. The Yale saliva test eliminates the need for a swab but can only be run at high-grade laboratories.”

Stack said that with the saliva test, getting enough spit in the tube is a challenge. Also, the tube has to be shipped to a lab, and because saliva is sticky, each test must be processed manually or machines will malfunction. “They still have to run it in a high-complexity lab,” he said. “So, it’s not a $5 or $15 test; someone in the laboratory with expensive machines still has to run the test.”

Stack said he understands why people are eager for rapid, widely available testing, but accurate, affordable testing, just like vaccines, will take time. “None of this is intended to discourage us from finding innovative ways to try to manage the disease and get us back to work faster and keep people safe,” he said.

As they have all week, Stack and Beshear said the record-setting levels of new cases mean that this Labor Day weekend is no time to abandon the steps that curb the spread of disease. Beshear stressed the need to keep gatherings under 10 people and practice social distancing especially with the rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday and The Kentucky Oaks on Friday.

 “Do everything a little different this year,” he said. “Do it safely.”

In other covid-19 news Thursday:

  • Counties with more than 10 new cases were: Jefferson, 192; Warren, 89; Fayette, 68; Madison, 66;  Daviess, 25; Green, 21; Henderson and Kenton, 20 each; Pulaski, 19; Union, 18; Franklin, 17; Hardin, 16; Jackson and Logan, 15 each; McCracken and Oldham, 12 each; Bell, Calloway, Campbell and Scott, 11 each; and Barren, 10.
  • The 10 fatalities were a 52-year-old man from Barren County; five women, 60, 72, 72, 79 and 85, and two men, 70 and 73, from Jefferson County; and an 88-year-old woman and 76-year-old man from Lewis County.
  • Of the 906 newly infected Kentuckians, 124 were under 18. There were 67 new cases of students and 22 new staff in K-12 schools. There are 273 active student cases and 102 active staff cases in K-12.
  • Colleges and universities added 69 students and two staff members, resulting in 675 active student cases and 23 active employee cases. Beshear urged people to check the state’s covid-19 website for updates at schools or universities in their communities. He also said the state is working to improve how quickly individual cases are reported.
  • Covid-19 hospitalizations in Kentucky totaled 568, with 132 of them in intensive care.
  • Long-term-care facilities had 28 new resident and 26 new staff cases, and five more deaths. There are 582 active cases among long-term residents and 379 active cases in staff.
  • WKYT reports that Thursday morning, Fayette County School Supt. Manny Caulk and other school officials participated in the Lexington Forum to address concerns over virtual learning. Caulk said the situation was less than ideal. “We have to do something that is less than ideal in order to maintain the safety, the health, safety, and welfare of our children,” he said. “We have to pivot based on the scientific data and evidence that’s before us, based on what’s the community spread right here in Fayette County.” He concluded with this: “I would say this, I would rather have a loss of learning than the loss of life.”
  • The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that as one Northern Kentucky school district decided against fall sports, others around the state are developing limits on fan attendance with games set to begin Monday. Erlanger/Elsmere Supt. Chad Molley announced in a letter dated Tuesday that his district would not participate in high-contact fall sports until it could do so safely. That district’s high school is Lloyd Memorial.
  • Herald-Leader reporters Valarie Honeycutt Spears and Jared Peck explain that in Fayette County, information on who can come to games next week has trickled out to some of its athletic teams, but the district’s full policies have not been released. Communications to soccer parents at Bryan Station, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Tates Creek high schools indicate Fayette County will limit players to four or five family members each, and attendees must be submitted for an entry list this week and remain the same throughout the season. The communications indicate those fans will be the only ones allowed at games.
  • Other districts, including Scott County, are also placing limits on football attendance. The Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s draft guidance for covid-19 issues did not mandate limits. Beshear said plans for football had been approved for University of Louisville and several other Kentucky universities. He said capacity, across the board, will be limited to about 20 percent of a stadium’s capacity and family groups would have distance from one another.