Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Daily coronavirus cases spike, but estimated transmission rate based on earlier data is stable; state's rate ranks 30th in nation

Estimates of coronavirus transmission rates by the RT.live website show Kentucky's differences with two border states to the north and one of the states in the South, where cases and rates are rising. A 1.09 rate means 100 infected people will infect another 109, who will each infect 109 more and so on. A rate below 1 means the virus will eventually stop spreading, over a long period. Ohio's estimated statewide rate is 0.96; it and Kentucky rank 29th and 30th in the nation, respectively. West Virginia's is 1.05; Tennessee's is 1.06. CovidActNow also has Kentucky's rate at 0.98.
As news develops about the coronavirus and its covid-19 disease, this story may be updated. Official state guidance is at kycovid19.ky.gov.
Kentucky Health News chart shows two-week trend still slightly downward.
By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

After a general decline over the last two weeks, the daily number of new coronavirus cases hit a near-record Tuesday, and after a day with no covid-19 deaths, Gov. Andy Beshear reported 11.

Beshear is not doing coronavirus briefings on Tuesdays, and his press release offered no comment on the 315 new cases. That was near the record of 322 reported April 19, except the day that all the cases from a Western Kentucky prison were added to the daily total. The state's case total is now 14,141.

For the first time, Fayette and Jefferson counties tied for the largest number of new cases, 44. The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that Fayette reported 49 total cases from Sunday and Saturday and 21 on Friday. County reports often differ from the state report. "Lexington’s rolling seven-day average had fallen over the last week," the paper reports. The average was just over 20 cases per day after climbing closer to 30 earlier this month. The average had fallen below 10 in late May but had a resurgence after more and more businesses opened."

Other counties with more than five new cases Tuesday were Daviess, 21; Christian and Warren, 16 each; Kenton, nine; Franklin and Scott, eight each; Hopkins, seven; and Harrison, Nelson, Perry and Shelby, six each.

Tuesday's 11 deaths raised the state's covid-19 toll to 537. The fatalities were a 52-year-old woman from Allen County; a 78-year-old woman from Fayette County; an 84-year-old woman from Graves County; a 46-year-old woman from Harlan County; a 67-year-old man from Jefferson County; a 106-year-old man from Logan County; a 77-year-old woman from Shelby County; and three women, 77, 77 and 91, and a man, 90, from Clark County.

“These are 11 Kentuckians whose families are hurting and who need all of us to keep them in mind and in our prayers,” Beshear said in the release. “Let’s remember to light our homes and businesses up green and to ring bells every morning at 10 a.m. to let everyone who has lost someone to the coronavirus know we care.”

Beshear recently said that his decisions about the virus would be guided more by hospital data than new cases. The state's daily report said 376 Kentuckians were hospitalized for covid-19 and 70 of them are in intensive care. Those figures have been increasing since the 339 and 64 reported Friday.

In other covid-19 news Tuesday:
  • "In what could represent the leading edge of a wave of litigation," families of two patients killed by covid-19 and a third who suffered from it for weeks are suing the owner of their Columbia nursing home that was hit hard by it," the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. The suit in Adair Circuit Court alleges that Signature HealthCare "failed in its duty to provide adequate care and protect residents. Fifteen residents and two employees have died at Summit Manor after contracting the coronavirus," and 96 have tested positive for it. "The suit also represents one Summit Manor resident . . . who was hospitalized March 30 for kidney failure and blood clots but who did not test positive for covid-19," the newspaper reports. The plaintiffs' attorney, Derrick Helm, "said [the] case reflects neglect by the nursing home."
  • Helm said he didn't know of other such litigation against Kentucky nursing homes, but expects to see it soon. The suits will likely "have to clear the hurdle of arbitration," reporters John Cheves and Bill Estep write. "It has become common for nursing homes to ask people to sign arbitration agreements during the admissions process. Later, if the resident or their families want to sue, the nursing home instead can insist that the dispute be resolved outside of the courtroom by a professional arbitrator, who is less likely to award the sort of large damages sometimes handed down by juries."
  • Myrtle Beach, S.C., a popular vacation spot for many Kentuckians, has become a coronavirus hotspot. In Horry County, the transmission rate of the virus is 1.52, estimates the website CovidActNow, and a health official in Roanoke, Va., is blaming part of an increase in cases there on residents who vacationed in Myrtle Beach, The Roanoke Times reports
  • President Trump, asked if he had directed his administration to slow coronavirus testing, said he wasn't joking when he said that during his rally in Tulsa on Saturday. “I don’t kid,” he told reporters. But then, in testimony to a House committee, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said, “None of us have ever been told to slow down on testing. ... In fact, we will be doing more testing.” Other administration officials said likewise.
  • In response to a question from Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, Fauci said some counties "may have such a low level of infection that schools can open in a way that is exactly like normal . . . You want to tailor it to the degree of viral dynamics in the particular location. Guthrie said that means "We have to get closer to that point before we make those decisions."
  • Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the committee that tracing the contacts of infected people and getting them to self-isolate will be “critical” as schools open, and the CDC will issue guidance for them soon.
  • Fauci said several states are seeing a “disturbing surge” of cases, and then next two weeks “are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges.” He said the surges "were largely attributable to an increase in community transmission . . . contrary to statements from President Trump and Vice President Pence that the recent increase in infections was largely due to an increase in testing," The Washington Post reports. "In his opening statement, Fauci [said] he was 'cautiously optimistic' that an effective vaccine will be available to the American public by the end of this year or the beginning of next year."
  • "European Union officials are racing to agree on who can visit the bloc as of July 1 based on how countries of origin are faring with new coronavirus cases. Americans, so far, are excluded, according to draft lists seen by The New York Times."

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