New virus cases up for 5th day; covid-19 patients’ ICU use spikes; positive-test rate declines; studies don’t look good for school

By Al Cross and Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

New cases of the novel coronavirus in Kentucky increased for the fifth straight day, to 778, the fourth largest number yet, and the number of Kentuckians in intensive care for the virus’s covid-19 disease rose to the highest in months.

Gov. Andy Beshear emphasized the third consecutive decline in the percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the last seven days.

The 5.43 percent rate was slightly under the daily average for the week so far, 5.51%, and notably under the 5.81% reported Wednesday. Last week, the rate rose above 5 percent for the first time since testing became generally available, helping prompt Beshear to impose new restrictions.

“We still have too many cases and we need to do everything we can to try to decrease those,” Beshear said in a press release. “We’re also seeing an increase of patients in the ICU.”

The release didn’t mention the intensive-care-unit numbers from the state’s daily report: 150, up from 110 on Thursday, a 36% increase, and exceeding the recent ICU high of 145, reported July 22. Higher numbers were reported in the spring, during the pandemic’s first surge in Kentucky.

Beshear continued to say the latest surge has slacked off to a plateau, based on weekly figures. He said it appears that this week will end with about the same number of cases that were reported last week. That is speculative, because two days remain in the reporting week, which runs from Monday through Sunday.

Two different snapshots of the data illustrate how different it can look. The state’s seven-day rolling average stands at 609, close to where it has stood for the last five days. But the three-day average is at 685, the highest since the 748 recorded on July 25, when the state recorded its third-highest number of new daily cases, 836. Here are graphs of the three-day and seven-day averages this month:

Kentucky Health News graphs, based on daily reports from state Department for Public Health

Counties with more than 10 new cases Friday were Jefferson, 203; Fayette, 51; Warren, 45; Madison, 26; Graves, 23; Boone and Mercer, 19 each; Kenton, 17; Bullitt and Hardin, 16 each; Harlan and Pulaski, 15 each; Barren and Scott, 13 each; Campbell, McCracken ans Oldham, 12 each; and Shelby, 11.

Studies on virus spread by children have implications for schools

study released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that children of all ages are susceptible to the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and can spread it to others. The study is one of the few that documents spread among children, so it could guide school officials as they decide when and how to resume classes.

“Asymptomatic infection was common and potentially contributed to undetected transmission, as has been previously reported,” CDC said. “This investigation adds to the body of evidence demonstrating that children of all ages are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection and, contrary to early reports might play an important role in transmission.”

The study looked at an outbreak at an overnight camp in Georgia last month, where 260 children and staff got the virus. The median age of the campers was 12, all were required to test negative before arriving, and staff were required to wear masks, but the campers were not.

Another study has found that children under age 5 with mild to moderate covid-19 had as much or more virus in their their upper respiratory tract as adults, Dennis Thompson reports for MedicineNet. The authors wrote in a research letter in JAMA Pediatrics that “Young children can potentially be important drivers of SARS-CoV-2 spread in the general population.”

The studies “could have massive impact when it comes to school reopenings,” CNN‘s Jake Tapper reported. Dr. Michael Saag, professor of medicine and infectious diseases, University of Alabama at Birmingham, told him, “This is a giant experiment; we don’t know what to expect.”

In other covid-19 news Friday:

  • Kentucky’s covid-19 death toll rose to 735, with the deaths of a 75-year-old man from Fayette County, an 86-year-old woman from Jefferson County, a 63-year-old man from Perry County and an 80-year-old woman from Taylor County.
  • “The $1 trillion coronavirus relief plan U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans unveiled this week will not meet the needs of struggling Kentuckians, said a group Thursday representing restaurants, the homeless, education and local governments,” Jack Brammer reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader.  Ryland Barton of WFPL also reports on critics of the plan, and USA Today breaks down what Democrats and Republicans want, along with easy to read graphs.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, told the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronaviurs today that he was “cautiously optimistic” we could have a vaccine by late fall or early winter. A Herald-Leader story offers a short overview of the vaccine’s progress.
  • The Hispanic population in Kentucky has been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus.  Only 3.9% of the state’s population is Hispanic, but 14.4% of coroanavirus cases and 4.19% of covid-19 deaths are among Hispanics. Louisville health officials plan to expand testing sites aimed at Hispanic communities, Deborah Yetter reports for the Courier Journal.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers a Q&A page on antibody, or serology, testing for the virus. Antibody tests can help identify people who may have been infected but had no symptoms.
  • As scientists have converged on a theory that the virus is largely spread among people through large droplets expelled in sneezes or coughs, or through smaller aerolsolized droplets, like those created by talking, public-health experts have put more emphasis placed on wearing masks and social distancing, and less emphasis on extensive surface cleaning in public places, except in health-care settings. It is also important to remember the importance of keeping hands washed, Derek Thompson reports for The Atlantic. Emanuel Goldman, a microbiology professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, told him, “Masks, social distancing, and moving activities outdoors. That’s it. That’s how we protect ourselves. That’s how we beat this thing.”