Share of Kentuckians testing positive for the coronavirus drops below 6%, but Beshear says daily new cases are still too high

Dept. for Public Health graph, adapted by Ky. Health News; first-month figures are unreliable due to few tests.

By Melissa Patrick

Kentucky Health NewsThe metrics to measure the coronavirus in Kentucky continue to improve, most notably with the percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the last seven days dropping below 6%, to 5.84%.

“Things continue to move in the right direction and [are] moving there quickly,” said Gov. Andy Beshear as he began his weekly Covid-19 press conference.

But he closed with a warning that the case numbers are still “too high” and reminded Kentuckians that there is still a deadly variant of the virus out there, and that not enough people are vaccinated.

The state reported 544 new cases of the virus Monday, the lowest daily number since July 25, when the it reported 504 cases. The seven-day average for daily cases is now 1,308.

Dept. for Public Health graph, adapted by Ky. Health News; to enlarge any image, click on it.

Beshear said Kentucky’s weekly coronavirus case numbers dropped to their lowest level in 11 weeks, dropping to 9,749 in the week ended Sunday, the first such week since July 27-Aug. 2 that there have been fewer than 10,000 weekly cases.

“We are almost decreasing in cases at the speed that we increased,” said Beshear. “That is a very good sign.”Kentucky hospitals reported 919 Covid-19 patients; 281 of them in intensive care; and 157 on mechanical ventilation.

Beshear said Covid-19 hospitalizations decreased 20% in the last seven days, but 53 of the state’s 96 acute care hospitals still report critical staffing shortages.

Eight of the state’s 10 hospital regions are using more than 80% of their intensive-care beds, with the northern region at 100%.

The New York Times ranks Kentucky 18th among states for its seven-day infection rate and says the rate has declined 33% in the last two weeks.

The state-reported infection rate fell to 24.39 daily cases per 100,000 residents, placing more than half of the state’s counties out of the highest category of transmission. Counties with rates more double that rate are Owsley, 71.2; Cumberland, 64.8; Russell, 63.8; Jackson, 60.0; Letcher, 56.3; Powell, 53.2; Adair, 52.1; and Mercer, 50.8.

The Washington Post reports that in the last week, Kentucky averaged 10,158 doses of coronavirus vaccine per day, a 29% decrease over the previous seven days. So far, Kentucky has administered at least one dose to 2.8 million people, or 73.4% of the eligible population, 12 and older.

The state vaccine dashboard shows that 80% of the population in Woodford and Franklin counties have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

Beshear encouraged Kentuckians 65 and older, people with significant underlying health conditions and people who have high exposure to others at work to get a booster.

Rebecca Dutch, professor at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, explained why it is so important for eligible Kentuckians to get a booster shot. She said that over time, a vaccinated person’s immune response to the virus slowly decreases. She added that while the protection against getting severe Covid-19 and hospitalization remains, the protection against the virus wanes.

To decrease the chances of getting the virus, she said it’s important to get the booster, calling it a “protective mechanism.”

The state reported 23 more Covid-19 deaths, raising the death toll to 9,640. The seven-day death average is 34.1 deaths per day.

Asked why Kentucky has had a higher case rate than the rest of the nation, while its death rate is just below the national average, Beshear attributed much of the state’s success to his father Steve Beshear’s decision as governor to expand Medicaid, noting that many of the states that did not expand the program have higher Covid-related death rates than Kentucky. He also pointed to Kentuckians working to protect each other and to the hard work of the state’s health-care workers.

“I think we have worked very hard to stay safe,” he said.

Beshear recommended that the General Assembly use $400 million in federal relief funds for bonuses to “essential workers” and asked legislators to participate in a working group to work out the details. He said leaders of the legislature’s Democratic minorities sent him names for this working group on Friday but the ruling Republicans said “No, thank you” and asked him to go through the committee process. He said he would move forward with this incentive plan and will work with the parts of the legislature that are willing to work with him.

In other pandemic news Monday:

  • Beshear reminded Kentuckians that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is offering financial assistance for Covid-19 related funeral expenses incurred after Jan. 20, 2020. For more information, go to or call 1-844-684-6333.
  • In August, Kentucky had the the highest number of people quitting their jobs, at 4.5%. Asked about that, Beshear said it also had fifth-highest hiring rate in the country, which was a percentage point higher than the quit rate — which he said reflects several things, including people looking for a different work environment, a desire for better work conditions, or better pay. He said it has nothing to do with unemployment pay, because people who quit don’t qualify for unemployment benefits.
Map by The Washington Post, adapted by Kentucky Health News
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