Thursday, June 25, 2020

State health chief tells Kentuckians who've been to Myrtle Beach to self-quarantine; some long-term-care visitation to resume Mon.

By Al Cross and Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

As it reported 280 more coronavirus cases in Kentucky, the state Department for Public Health issued an advisory to Kentuckians who had traveled in the last two weeks to Myrtle Beach, S.C., which has turned into a hotspot.

“DPH advises Kentucky residents who have traveled to Myrtle Beach in the past two weeks to self-quarantine for 14 days and monitor themselves for covid-19 symptoms,” the advisory says, then adds a message from Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the agency:

“If you or someone to whom you are close has been to Myrtle Beach in the past two weeks, please be aware that you have a good probability of having been exposed to the novel coronavirus. Please avoid contact with those who are vulnerable, such as the elderly and anyone with significant medical conditions, including diabetes, obesity and heart disease.”

Some other South Carolina beach counties are also hotspots, and the advisory warned, “Exposure to covid-19 is not limited to Myrtle Beach. Multiple states have reported a rise in covid-19 cases, and the guidance should be applied more broadly, including social situations where people gathered in numbers of 10 or greater and in situations where people are not observing recommended precautions, including practicing social distancing and wearing a cloth mask when in public or in groups. Kentuckians should also practice thorough and frequent hand-washing."

Kentucky Health News chart
Gov. Andy Beshear announced the 280 new cases in a press release, bringing the state's total to 14,617. That pushed the seven-day rolling average to 211, from 204 the day before. The average has risen for five days in a row. Fayette County again led the new-case list with 57; Jefferson had 42, Warren 32, Kenton 18, Shelby 15 and Boone 10.

Beshear also reported eight additional deaths, making the state's toll 546. The fatalities were an 81-year-old woman from Warren County, a 69-year-old man from Christian County; a 63-year-old man from Fayette County; an 89-year-old woman and an 86-year-old man from Jefferson County; and three women from Shelby County, 84, 90 and 93.

The state's daily report said 377 Kentuckians were hospitalized with covid-19, and 79 of them were in intensive care.

Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander announced in the release that on Monday, June 29, the state allow visitation at assisted-living and personal-care homes, group activities with 10 or fewer people in facilities, communal dining, and off-site appointments. Visitation in nursing homes and intermediate-care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities will resume July 15.

In other covid-19 news Thursday:
  • Deborah Yetter of the Courier Journal tells the story of 106-year-old Sherman Guthrie Price, who had covid-19 but really died of complications from pneumonia, which he had before he tested positive for the virus, his family says. A grandson said that "profoundly affected his final days by keeping him isolated from family and friends except for video visits."
  • Churchill Downs said the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby will be run with fans in the stands and still-to-be-specified capacity reductions. "The plan approved by Gov. Andy Beshear’s office will restrict holders of general admission tickets to the track’s 26-acre infield and impose density limits on reserved seating and suites," the CJ reports.
  • Beshear's office said he would hold one coronavirus briefing a week, on Tuesdays.
  • "State health departments reported 38,115 new infections on Wednesday," the most ever, and “Our best estimate right now is that for every case that’s reported, there actually are 10 other infections,” The Washington Post reports. "The new spike was caused by a rush to reopen without proper safety measures in place, infectious-disease experts say, and the push to do so, even as cases climb, sends a dangerous and inaccurate message."
  • The University of Kentucky is adding extract from the medicinal plant Artemisia annua, also known as sweet wormwood, to its innovative clinical trial of covid-19 therapies to test its effectiveness against the coronavirus, following studies in Germany that showed it to be effective, the university reports. The trial will also test artesunate, "a derivative of the plant that is a standard treatment for malaria in many parts of the world," UK's Elizabeth Chapin writes.
    • UK President Eli Capilouto has made a public service announcement to encourage everyone to follow the suggested guidelines to decrease the spread of the coronavirus, with a focus on why it is important to wear masks. 
    • A federal judge ruled that Beshear went “too far” in limiting in-person protests at the Capitol during the pandemic, Jack Brammer reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. District Judge Greg Van Tatenhove said Wednesday that Beshear must amend his mass-gatherings order to allow for in-person protests. Despite the order, several large gatherings have been held outside the Capitol in recent months, at least one of which Beshear attended himself, Brammer notes.
    • The annual political speaking will not be held at the Aug. 1 Fancy Farm Picnic in far Western Kentucky due to the pandemic. The priest at St. Jerome Catholic Church overruled the picnic committee, which had announced the event would be held with a limited audience in a school gym, the Mayfield Messenger and the Herald-Leader report.
    • An updated model by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation released Wednesday projects that 33,000 American lives would be saved between now and Oct. 1 by near-universal wearing of masks.
    • Eleven Kentucky hospitals received $151.8 million to respond to the coronavirus pandemic "because of their focus on providing medical care to all patients regardless of ability to pay," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. They are UofL Health (Jewish Hospital and Shelbyville Hospital), St. Claire HealthCare in Morehead, Pikeville Medical Center, CHI St. Joseph (Mount Sterling and London), Methodist Health in Henderson, St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Northern Kentucky, Hardin Memorial Health in Elizabethtown, Murray-Calloway County Hospital and Baptist Health Richmond.
    • West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice forced out his top public-health official "hours after he publicly questioned the accuracy of the state’s coronavirus data and detailed growing outbreaks in about a dozen counties" and "vented during a news conference," The Associated Press reports. Dr. Cathy Slemp "was a regular feature of the governor’s daily virus news conferences, at which he "showered Slemp with praise." West Virginia's estimated virus transmission rate has been rising slowly and was at 1.06 Thursday morning, meaning that every 100 infected people in the state would infect 106 others, and so on. Kentucky's was 0.99.

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