By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
Gov. Andy Beshear announced only 69 new coronavirus cases Thursday, but cautioned that the number was artificially low because of an issue with the federal system that is used to input the data. He said Friday’s numbers will likely need to be averaged with Thursday’s to show a more accurate count.
“Our number today is really low,” Beshear said. “You should not read anything into that.” He said between 5,000 to 8,000 test results still need to be processed.
Still, the governor said he believes Kentucky is at a new plateau in its number of cases, and likely no longer in a decline, which it saw two weeks ago. “We probably ought to expect to be in or around that as we move forward,” he said, “with the number of contacts we are going to have, with reopening, with the ability to get together with other people.”
Asked if he would pause reopenings in counties that show spikes in cases, Beshear said he would decide that with local officials. He said counties have always had the option of opening more slowly than the rest of the state. He also noted the state’s ability to do widespread testing of targeted groups, including neighborhoods, to help make such decisions.
“If we have a significant regional outbreak and we are forced to pause, our hope is to pause just regionally at that point,” he said.
He added later, “We are seeing spikes in a lot of states and with more contacts, with reopening, we are going to add more cases, we are going to. The question is, are those that are getting the virus in harm’s way? Are they getting sick? So the numbers that we are really going to be looking at are hospitalizations, ICU use and ventilators.” He said 514 people are hospitalized with covid-19, with 81 in intensive care.
Beshear has said his plan is to do aggressive testing and contact tracing so that the state can execute a “surgical approach” if and when Kentucky sees a surge in new coronavirus cases. Some other states are also using that strategy, according to Politico.
Beshear said 308,786 tests for the virus have been conducted in Kentucky. He again encouraged everyone to get tested, and cautioned against testing fatigue. He recognized that the test is uncomfortable, “but a lack of comfort is a very small price to pay to ensuring the safety of the people around you and of the community as a whole.”
Nursing homes: Beshear reported that 19 more nursing-home residents and 11 more employees have tested positive for the virus, bringing those totals to 1,457 and 705 respectively. Click here for the daily report.
He announced that starting June 29, nursing-home residents will be able to participate in congregate meals and some group activities, and that starting July 15, they will be allowed to have modified visitation. He said adult day-care programs are set to reopen June 29. He said the state is expected to wrap up testing all of the nursing-home residents and staff by July 1.
Lexington surge: The only county with a double-figure case count Thursday was Fayette, with 14. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported today that Lexington’s covid-19 cases have now topped 1,000, with more than half of them occurring in the last month.
Lexington’s WKYT-TV reported that the county’s effective transmission rate is 1.14, meaning that on average, 100 infected people infect 114 others. A rate that stays below 1 means that the virus will eventually die out; a rate between 1 and 1.1 is considered “controlled spread,” and rates above that are reason to worry.
Deaths: Beshear announced nine more deaths, with three of them from the same nursing home in Boone County. That brings the state’s death toll to 493, with 63 percent of them residents of long-term-care facilities.
Today’s deaths include 74-, 80- and 85-year-old men from Boone County; a 69-year-old man from Fayette County; a 75-year-old man from Gallatin County; 68- and 93-year-old men from Jefferson County; and a 63-year-old woman and an 81-year-old man from Kenton County.
As he usually does, Beshear encouraged Kentuckians to ring bells at 10 a.m. and to light their homes and businesses green, as a sign of compassion for those who have died from the virus. “Let’s not let fatigue get in the way of our compassion,” he said.
Back to school: Beshear said that on Monday, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman would present the results of a task force that has been working on plans to reopen Kentucky’s schools. That will follow a Friday meeting of health and education officials to work out the guidelines.
“My expectation is that we will put out a plan that makes all of the best recommendations, but it will ultimately be up to each superintendent on the implementation.” He also said that any plans to open schools will depend on what the virus does in the future.
Mental health: Beshear opened his final briefing of the week reminding people to take care of their mental health, noting that a recent poll shows many people feel that the world is out of control.
“We’ve got to breathe,” he said. “We’ve got to stay calm, and we’ve got to know that we’ve got to get through this together.”
In other covid-19 news Thursday:
- Adding the day’s 69 reported cases, the state’s adjusted total is 11,945. The New York Times reports the total to be 12,066. The state says at least 3,379 people have recovered.
- A study using mathematical models to analyze how different combinations of mask use and periods of lockdown affect the spread of the coronavirus found that if people wear masks all the time in public, not just when they show symptoms, it is twice as effective in reducing the number of people infected, Dawson White reports for McClatchy Co. newspapers, including the Lexington Herald-Leader. In every scenario, when at least half the population routinely wore a mask, the number of people an infected person passed the virus to fell below one, which is needed to stop the spread of the virus. Study author John Colvin said, “Cultural and even political issues may stop people wearing face masks, so the message needs to be clear: my mask protects you, your mask protects me.” The research was done at Cambridge and Greenwich universities in the United Kingdom.
- Nielsen reports that alcohol sales have risen 27% in the past three months, Don Sweeney reports for McClatchy, citing CNN.
- The Kentucky Derby will be held Sept. 5, but it won’t be preceded by the usual Pegasus Parade or Thunder Over Louisville fireworks show due to concerns about the spread of the virus, the Courier Journal reports.
- Coronavirus cases topped 2 million in the U.S. “It took the U.S. nearly three months to hit 1 million confirmed cases, but just six weeks to double that figure,” Politico says in its daily roundup, saying part of the acceleration is due to more testing, “but there’s little doubt current conditions have set the U.S. up for a surge.”
- Politico reports that political leaders “insist they’re better equipped to deal with the outbreak than they were just a few months ago” and notes that Texas continues to reopen amid record numbers of hospitalizations; Arkansas’s governor insists an infection surge is not tied to lifting restrictions; and North Carolina’s governor summed it up when he said, “We want to avoid going backwards if we possibly can.”
- The Washington Post reports on covid-19 patients who have been sick for more than 60 days, and says doctors aren’t sure why. “Post-viral syndromes have been associated with numerous viruses in the past, but until the pandemic, they were considered relatively rare. In the case of covid-19, researchers are unsure whether people with extended symptoms are simply facing a long recovery — or whether their illness will come to resemble something like myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, a complex illness characterized by profound exhaustion and sleep problems, or other conditions that can last for years, or a lifetime,” Ariana Eunjung Cha and Lenny Bernstein report.
- Whether it’s confusion about symptoms, where to get tested or information about contact tracing, speakers at an online briefing said a lack of health literacy is preventing people from having a good understanding of the virus. They added that as we move to a vaccine, there will great work to do to convince people of the need to get vaccinated, especially if we use the lack of compliance with flu shots as an indicator, Medpage Today reports.
- Politifact explores what the most recent data shows about how reopenings and protests affect coronavirus infections.