Kentucky Health News chart shows the two-week trend is still up, but less steeply than last week.
As news develops about the coronavirus and its covid-19 disease, this item may be updated. Official state guidance is at kycovid19.ky.gov.
By Al Cross and Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
Gov. Andy Beshear reported Monday a marked drop in new coronavirus cases, reversing a nine-day trend of elevated case numbers.
He also announced what he said would be the first step to eliminate the health inequality among African Americans that has been “laid bare” by the pandemic, an effort to get every black Kentuckian covered by health insurance.
Beshear said only 70 new cases of the virus were reported in Kentucky on Sunday, and just 120 on Monday, with only one death each day. Sunday’s number of cases was the lowest reported since Sunday, April 27, when 71 cases were reported. Sunday numbers are often lower due to limited reporting.
The two-day report followed a four-day period that had an average of 292 cases per day, which was part of a nine-day stretch with an average of 244. The increases drove up the estimated transmission rate of the virus in the state to seventh highest in the nation, by one measure.
Beshear said Kentuckians’ increased number of contacts as their economy continues to reopen “is creating more cases. Now, those cases are still in a certain range that is manageable, but we will have to be watching as that continues. We still don’t have enough data from the last several days to have a full conclusion.”
Asked if he still feels comfortable with his strategy for reopening the state’s economy, Beshear said, “I do. We are very carefully monitoring this. . . . Remember, when we had a two-week decline, it took us almost a week after that to truly see it.”
He added, “I do worry that some aren’t taking it a seriously as we should. . . . We know that distance and masking work, and if people are unwilling to do those things, it makes it less safe.”
Asked if he has decided that the state will have to live with a certain number of new daily cases for then foreseeable future, Beshear said it would be “really hard” to keep the number under 120 “in the near future, and as long as we are taking care of people, as long as we are protecting the long-term-care facilities, which we really need to, as long as we’re ensuring there’s not an outbreak like [one at a state prison], then we’ve got an opportunity to reopen our economy while dealing with this virus.”
Among the new cases Sunday and Monday, 61 were in Louisville Metro and 48 were in Lexington. The state has had 11,476 people with the virus, 3,359 of whom have recovered and 472 of whom have died.
Noting that African Americans have accounted for 16.4 percent of the deaths, Beshear said, “Inequality here has resulted in death, and it’s our job to do something about it. Let’s make sure everybody has the means to see a doctor.”
He said the one thing he can do immediately to address health inequality is “an effort to cover 100 percent of our individuals in our black and African American communities. Everybody. We’re going to be putting dollars behind it, we’re going to have a multifaceted campaign to do it.”
He offered few details, but suggested that the effort would look like the one that the administration of his father, Steve Beshear, conducted to sign up people for Medicaid and subsidized health insurance after expanding it under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. “The blueprints are out there on how to do it,” he said. “There are multiple groups out there that have done this at different times.”
About 5.8% of black Kentuckians had no health insurance in 2018, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The statewide figure was 5.6%.
Beshear said two other areas for effort in the future will be quality and access. “You shouldn’t have to take multiple buses to see a doctor,” he said.
In other covid-19 news Monday:
- Since Thursday, 69 more residents and 34 employees at Kentucky long-term-care facilities have tested positive for the virus, making respective totals of 1,453 and 673. Six more resident deaths have been confirmed, for a total of 289; three employees have died of covid-19. Eleven more facilities have been added since Thursday to the list of those with at least one case.
- Health Secretary Eric Friedlander said no cases have been found in 22 percent of the 129 facilities where the state has completed testing of all residents and employees. He said about half the population has been tested, and at least half of the facilities will have been fully tested by the end of the week.
- Friedlander showed figures from a federal study showing that the national rates cases among of nursing-home resident and employees is almost double Kentucky’s rate, and the rate of resident deaths is more than double. “Kentucky has done a good job, a very good job” protecting residents, he said. However, the federal agency “allows nursing homes to report only those covid-19 cases and deaths that occurred on or after May 1 – weeks after the pandemic began sweeping through nursing homes,” reports Bob Seagall of WTHR in Indianapolis.
- State inspection records indicate that most Kentucky nursing homes were prepared for the pandemic after it began, Bailey Loosemore reports for the Louisville Courier Journal. “At least 154 of the state’s 285 licensed nursing homes have received covid-19-focused infection-control inspections since late March, including eight facilities that have reported some of the highest numbers of cases.” Only two “were cited for infection-related deficiencies,” both “not properly wearing a mask.” Two others received citations unrelated to the pandemic. Most covid-19 deaths in Kentucky have been of nursing-home residents.
- Asked about the recent coronavirus outbreak at Clays Mill Road Baptist Church in Jessamine County, Beshear said it should teach churches and other facilities that they “truly ready and that we take the guidance seriously” before reopening. “You ought to be asking them to wear masks, and you ought to be leading with it. You gotta make sure that you have the cleaning, that people are spaced out, that you don’t just give lip service to these guidelines. . . . Put your credibility behind it.”
- Lexington is going through a third round of increases in new daily coronavirus cases, but not because 10 nights of protests have spread the virus, public-health officials told the Lexington Herald-Leader. It is spreading “rapidly” in the city, local health-department spokesman Kevin Hall said, but “Based on our case investigations, the protests are not contributing to the rise in cases we’ve seen this week and the couple weeks prior.” Symptoms can appear two to 14 days after infection.
- Much of the increase is among Lexington’s Hispanic and African-immigrant populations, the Herald-Leader’s Beth Musgrave reports: “Approximately 17 percent of the 847 people who have tested positive for covid-19 are Hispanic, according to the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department figures. Fayette County’s population is 7% Hispanic.”
- The thousands of jail inmates released to keep them from getting infected had a re-arrest rate identical to the 4.6 percent rate for jail inmates released during the same period last year, Chief Justice John Minton told a legislative committee, the Herald-Leader reports.
- Americans experienced more depression and loneliness during the early covid-19 pandemic, but those who were able to maintain frequent in-person social and sexual connections had better mental health outcomes, according to an Indiana University study. “This data reaffirms our understanding of the importance of human connection for mental health and well-being,” said the lead author, Molly Rosenberg. “It also suggests that these kinds of connections are not easily recreated with remote technology where direct touch is not possible.” The researchers don’t say limits on contacts should be lifted, but call for an increase in mental-health services and better ways for interpersonal connection.
- The state Department of Corrections says 105 of 982 inmates at the Green River Correctional Complex in Central City have not been retested for the coronavirus, almost a week after the deadline to do so, Jared Bennett reports for WFPL. Inmates have told loved ones that the facility ran out of test and do not know when more will arrive, but the department did not respond to a follow-up question about this, Bennett reports. After a spike in cases, the entire complex was tested for the virus, resulting in 363 inmates and 51 staff testing positive for the virus. The department reports that 192 inmates and 42 staff have since recovered, and three have died from it.
- A study in BMJ Open Diabetes and Research Care found that high blood sugar levels at the time of hospital admission is a good predictor of that a covid-19 patient will become critically ill or die.
- The New York Times tracks infection rates in each U.S. county over time. Here’s a screenshot of the 20 counties with the most cases on its Kentucky chart as of 11 a.m. Monday: