Beshear says Ky. has “exponential growth” of virus cases, so he may impose new statewide restrictions on Wednesday

Dept. for Public Health graph, relabeled by Ky. Health News; for a larger version, click on it.
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By Melissa Patrick

Kentucky Health News
Gov. Andy Beshear warned Monday that Kentucky is having “exponential growth” in coronavirus cases, and said that if the trend doesn’t change by Wednesday, he may impose further restrictions to slow the spread of the virus.
“This thing is going crazy. It’s spreading like wildfire,” Beshear said in a comment that was included in a pandemic story on the CBS Evening News. He pointed to what he called the “stair-step graph” that shows 16,748 cases last week, 30% higher than the previous week.
That is not exponential growth, but Beshear offered this explanation, saying the graph showed “It took us months to have our first day where we had 1,000 cases. It took a shorter period than that to go from a day with 1,000 cases to 2,000 cases. It took us a week to go from 2,000 cases in a day to 3,000, which happened last week.
“So, what do you think happens from here? It either continues to increase like that or we come together as a people, do what it takes, everybody wear their mask, to ultimately lessen the spread of this virus.”
He said Health Commissioner Steven Stack would show models Tuesday “about where we think it’s going; and then on Wednesday, if we don’t see a change in the numbers the first couple days this week, we’ll talk about some additional steps that we may have to take, or by that point we will have to take to try to get this virus back under control.”
Beshear provided no detail on what those new restrictions might look like, but said they would not be as restrictive as they were in the spring.

“If we have to take additional steps, they are going to be more targeted to ensure that we are getting the best possible results,” he said. But he indicated that the targeting wouldn’t be geographic: “If we have to take extra steps, we ought to do it all together at the same time.”

He added that with most counties in the state’s red or orange zones, the two highest levels of infection, the restrictions would be statewide to ensure “maximum impact.”

Beshear said 103 of the state’s 120 counties are in the red zone today, up from 94 on Thursday. He said the spread of the virus in these counties is “truly uncontrolled” and that our families and individuals in them “are in danger.”
The governor announced the second highest additional case numbers for a Monday, 1,514, a day that is usually low because of limited testing on weekends. He said 173 of the newly identified cases were 18 and younger. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases is 2,372.
The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days is 8.98%, again the highest it’s been since testing became widely available in May.
Hospital use: Covid-19 hospitalizations and use of intensive care units again reached all-time highs, with 1,442 people hospitalized in Kentucky with the virus, 309 more than at a week earlier. ICUs have 360 covid-19 patients and 128 of them are on ventilators.
Dept. for Public Health graph, adapted by Kentucky Health News; for a larger version, click on it.

Beshear said that the concern around hospital capacity continues to be less about bed capacity than about staffing, saying health-care workers share the risk when the virus spreads so widely.

“If we don’t have enough staff to help someone that’s in a hospital bed, the bed itself doesn’t help,” he said. “And staffing, we think, is going to run thin before our overall number of beds do.” Asked for the number of staffed beds available, he said he would check.
Vaccine and fatigue: Today’s good news was that Moderna has announced that its two-dose vaccine is 94.5% effective, according to early data released Monday by the company. The news comes a week after Pfizer Inc. announced its two-dose vaccine was more than 90% effective.
It will take several months to vaccinate most of the U.S. population, but the reports gave the most clear picture yet of when the pandemic might end, and Beshear suggested that should make it easier for pandemic-fatigued Kentuckians to “get their second wind” and do what it takes to protect themselves and others as we wait on the vaccines to become widely available.

“This is now a time-limited virus,” the governor said. “We need everybody with this new news, again, to buckle down to make sure you are making good decisions each and every day because people’s lives depend on it.”

Long-term care: Beshear warned that unless Kentuckians do what it takes to lower infection rates, especially in counties with the highest number of cases, there is no way to keep it out of long-term care facilities.
“We shouldn’t be sacrificing our seniors because we don’t want to wear a mask,” he said.

Health Secretary Eric Friedlander announced that visitation in long-term-care facilities would be limited over the holidays and that any resident who leaves a facility should go into quarantine upon return. He also said the state would be further restricting communal dining and group activities.

“We have to take these aggressive actions, and balance it with what we know about loneliness and separation,” Friedlander said. “There will be some personal visitation sacrifices . . . so we’re not sacrificing our seniors.”

Friedlander said the state will add five additional National Guard “strike teams” to help with non-clinical needs of the facilities, for a total of 10 teams.
The state reported 1,598 active cases among residents and 970 among staff in long-term-care facilities. Beshear said 52 more deaths have been attributed to them, bringing the total to 1,049 resident deaths and six staff deaths. Residents have accounted for 63% of Kentucky deaths associated with covid-19.
Beshear said another veteran has died at the Thompson-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore, bringing to 25 the number of deaths of veterans who lived at the state facility. He said 11 at the facility have an active case of the virus, with six in isolation and five in the hospital.
Prisons: J. Michael Brown, Beshear’s executive cabinet secretary, said “The news from the corrections front is not good,” noting more than 2,000 virus cases among inmates and more than 280 among staff since March.
He called it “alarming” that more than half the 700-plus inmates at Lee Adjustment Center, a privately operated state prison at Beattyville, have tested positive for the virus, and tests on some are still pending. He said 474 have tested positive for the virus and 380 of them still have active cases.
“We wanted to bring this to everyone’s attention just to show that sometimes in spite of our best efforts, this virus continues to strike us,” he said. Since March, one in five inmates has been infected, John Cheves reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Deaths: Beshear announced that the state had confirmed three more covid-19 deaths, bringing Kentucky’s death toll from the disease to 1,664.
“We right now are suffering from avoidable loss, meaning we are having loved ones die that we can stop, that we can prevent,” Beshear said.
The fatalities were all women: a 66-year-old from Graves County, a 63-year-old from Henderson County and an 83-year-old from Jefferson County.

In other covid-19 news Monday:

  • Counties with 10 or more new cases were Jefferson, 268; Fayette, 190; Kenton, 65; Hardin, 54; Boone, 49; Campbell, 46; Madison, 45; Graves, 44; Powell, 39; Bullitt, 29; McCracken, 27; Oldham, 26; Mercer, 24; Jessamine, 23; Warren, 22; Pulaski, 20; Boyle, 19; Pike, 18; Marshall, 17; Breathitt, 15; Daviess, 15; Perry, 14; Shelby, 14; Grant, Scott and Taylor, 13 each; Nelson, 12; Boyd, Floyd and Whitley, 11 each; and Barren, Franklin, Harrison and Lincoln, 10 each.
  • The K-12 public health report, which includes verified cases, shows 929 students and 481 staff testing positive for the virus in the past 14 days, with 334 students and 174 staff reported today.
  • The college and university report shows 693 students and 10 staff testing positive in the past 14 days, with 265 students and three staff reported today.
  • Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman said the state will no longer take applications for the Team Kentucky Fund, which raised more than $3.7 million to help Kentucky families who have been economically hurt by the pandemic. She said the fund has assisted 2,500 families and all funds will likely be exhausted once current applications are processed. Anyone who still needs assistance should contact Community Action Network, which has partnered with the state to distribute the funds. Additional resources can also be found at kycovid.ky.gov, she said.
  • Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Saturday that the coronavirus is more contagious than seasonal flu. Speaking on NPR‘s “All Things Considered,” he said, “Covid seems to spread much more easily than the flu, and it causes much more serious illnesses in some people.” He encouraged people to seek medical guidance if they have symptoms that may be from colds or flu, and to not self-diagnose. “And the one symptom that I would alert people to that really differentiates flu from covid is loss of taste or smell,” he said. “If you get that symptom, then you need to be reaching out to your health provider right away and going in and getting a covid test.”
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined the Fayette County Schools Transportation Department $9,000 after 19 employees tested positive for the virus at a bus garage last spring and one died, Valarie Honeycutt Spears reports for the Herald-Leader. The fines were for not reporting the death and hospitalizations; the school district said it reported the cases to OSHA, prompting the investigation.
  • Lexington set a one-week record for new coronavirus cases and covid-19 hospitalizations over the past seven days, according to the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department. A spokesman told the Herald-Leader that the surge seems to align with Halloween parties. “We’re not able to trace anything specifically to parties or gatherings, but it’s very likely part of the increases come from events like that,” Kevin Hall said.
  • The free version of Zoom caps calls at 40 minutes. On Thanksgiving, Nov. 26, Zoom will lift the limit for free calls globally, the company announced. The limit will be reinstated at 6 a.m. ET Nov. 27, the Herald-Leader reports.
  • Becker’s Hospital Review has collected 10 clinicians’ opinions on what Thanksgiving and the holiday season should look like. Their general advice: cancel, or celebrate only with your household.
  • Twelve hospitals have closed during the covid-19 pandemic, including Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital in Ashland, which closed April 30, Becker’s reports. Its closing was announced Jan. 21.
  • Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a medical analyst for CNNcalled U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s advice that people who have had covid-19 to throw away their masks and resume life as normal, based on his belief that they are immune, “very, very disturbing.” Reiner noted that Paul, an ophthalmologist, was the “medical genius” who went swimming in the Senate pool while awaiting results of his coronavirus test. “I’d put no credence in anything he says about anything having to do with this virus,” he said, and encouraged people to consider the “long-haulers,” which Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease doctor, has said could be up to 20% of covid-19 cases.