State Department for Public Health data and table, adapted by Kentucky Health News; for a larger version, click on it. Some hospitals have staffing shortages, so not all beds are available.
By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News
A huge spike in Covid-19 deaths was just one of the fast-worsening numbers of the coronavirus pandemic in Kentucky Thursday.
The state reported 65 deaths, the second most of any day in the pandemic; 4,849 new cases of the virus, the third highest; a record number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals, and the highest valid percentage yet of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the last seven days.
The deaths reported Thursday were just short of the previous record of 69, reported Jan. 28, and far exceeded numbers of recent weeks. Deaths are not reported immediately, and go through a confirmation process. There have been no reporting anomalies, and 57 of the 65 deaths occurred in August, said Susan Dunlap, communications director for the state health cabinet.
Some deaths are discovered through an ongoing audit of death certificates. Dunlap provided a list showing two each were in November, May, June and July. Among the August fatalities, two were in their 40s, nine in their 50s, 16 in their 60s, 21 in their 70s, five in their 80s and six in their 90s, according to the list.
|Kentucky Health News graph; to enlarge, click on it.
In the two weeks ended Wednesday, the state averaged 10.5 deaths per day. The average is now 14, and the seven-day average is 19.7. The numbers prompted one of the most urgent and cutting Facebook videos yet from Gov. Andy Beshear.
“We are seeing and will see significant death moving forward, but we can do something about it,” the governor said. “You know, there’s a saying, when you can do something to stop devastation and you don’t, that saying is about Nero fiddling while Rome burns. I’m sure there are some that would say it’s Nero’s individual liberty to just fiddle while everything burns down, but I think you got a responsibility to protect the people around them. So folks, get vaccinated, wear a mask, avoid large indoor gatherings. protect yourself, protect your family.”
Beshear’s pleas for vaccination have gone largely unheeded in the last three months. Daily vaccinations have generally increased in the last few weeks, as the threat from the virus has increased, but are still far below the levels seen in early spring, and they pale in comparison to pace of the pandemic.
“We had fewer people vaccinated during this report than we had come down with Covid,” Beshear said. Today’s vaccine doses will be reported tomorrow; yesterday, 12,294 doses were given
. The seven-day average is 13,077 a day.
The 4,849 new virus cases raised the state’s seven-day average to 3,829 per day. Thursday’s number ranked behind only Jan. 6 and 7, when 5,742 and 4,911 new cases were reported. Then, about 12 percent of cases were in Kentuckians 18 and younger; they are more susceptible to the Delta variant of the virus, so now are a much bigger share of cases; their share Thursday was 31.3%.
“Today’s Covid report is heartbreaking. . . . more kids testing positive now than ever before,” Beshear said. “Our hospitals are overrun.”
Kentucky hospitals reported 2,074 Covid-19 patients, 60 more than Wednesday, but the number in intensive-care units fell by 40, to 549, and the number of ICU patients on ventilators remained the same, 338.
Five of the state’s 10 hospital regions reported more than 80% of their ICU beds occupied; the Barren River region had the highest percentage being used for Covid-19 patients, 44%. The effective capacity is not as large as the reports indicate, because some beds are not staffed due to staffing shortages.
The University of Kentucky shut down five of its 42 operating rooms due to its Covid-19 patient load, mainly to make sure beds are staffed and the Chandler Medical Center can continue to fill its role as a major trauma center. Baptist Health Richmond stopped elective procedures for at least two weeks.
The percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the last seven days is 13.16%, the highest since testing became readily available.
Kentucky retained the nation’s fifth highest infection rate over the last 14 days, as reported
by The New York Times
. States with higher rates are Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida and Tennessee. The rate on the state’s daily report
was 79.65 per 100,000 residents; counties with rates more than double that rate were Clay, 245.5; Bell, 191.5; Whitley, 188.7; Owsley, 174.7; Jackson, 167.2; and Magoffin, 160.9. All are in Eastern Kentucky. The next six are LaRue, 156.8; Laurel, 153.2; Taylor, 149.1; Allen, 141.4; Breckinridge, 138.1; and Carroll, 137.1.
Other pandemic news: Kentucky is seeing more “breakthrough” cases among vaccinated people. Revised figures for July showed that the ratio of cases in unvaccinated people compared to those in vaccinated people was 3.7 to 1, not the 5 to 1 initially reported on Aug. 2.
|State Dept. for Public Health chart; click it to enlarge.
The numbers reflect a national trend, but the vaccines still prevent serious disease and hospitalization in the great majority of cases. According to the state Department for Public Health, from March 1 through Aug, 18, Kentucky hospitals admitted 411 fully vaccinated people with Covid-19; among those not fully vaccinated, the Covid-19 admission count was 3,819. That’s 9.7% to 90.3%.
- A new study showed that a second dose of the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine significantly increases protection against the virus. Booster shots might be available next month.
- Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told the Fox News Channel Tuesday the company is planning for a vaccine-resistant variant to emerge: “Every time that the variant appears in the world, our scientists are getting their hands around it. They are researching to see if this variant can escape the protection of our vaccine. We haven’t identified any yet but we believe that it is likely that one day, one of them will emerge.” He said his company should be able to develop vaccines against such strains within 95 days of identification.
- “Federal officials are admitting a hard truth: they don’t know exactly when — and how — this wave will end,” The Washington Post reports. “Delta came along, and it’s almost like we have a new pandemic now,” Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health, told the Post. “Everything we thought we knew about covid-19 has to be revised.”
The Post reports that projections of cases for the next month “are all over the map, and Collins conceded such models make assumptions about human behavior that researchers haven’t been good at predicting throughout the pandemic.” He said, “I think we’re in a world of trouble for at least the next couple of months, but exactly what the shape of that trouble looks like, I can’t tell you.”
- Transylvania University in Lexington joined Berea College to become the second Kentucky institution of higher education to require students and employees to be vaccinated.