Monday, November 22, 2021

Coronavirus cases, positive-test rate and hospitalizations keep rising in Ky., creating more risk as Thanksgiving approaches

State Department for Public Health graph, adapted by Kentucky Health News; click on it to enlarge.
By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

In the last week, coronavirus cases, the share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus, and Covid-19 hospitalizations all went up again.

"Though we don't necessarily think there's cause for alarm now, we've got to watch this very carefully," Gov. Andy Beshear said at a news conference. He added later, "It ought to tell everybody that we need to be real careful on Thanksgiving this week, as well as Christmas coming up."

Beshear encouraged eligible Kentuckians to get an immunization or booster shot before the holiday if possible, to not attend any social gatherings if you are feeling sick, to wear a mask indoors if you are not vaccinated or boosted, and to keep attendance numbers at gatherings low. 

Slide from Beshear's news conference
"Unlike last year, there's an opportunity for it to be safe," he said. 

Beshear also made a special plea for Kentuckians aged 65 to 74, who have the highest rate of having received at least one dose of a vaccine, 94%, to encourage their children and grandchildren to get vaccinated at an appropriate time during the holidays. Vaccinated seniors are more vulnerable to breakthrough cases.

Beshear said the case numbers for Saturday, Sunday and Monday were all the highest they've been for those days of the week in at least four weeks, and haven't just crept up, but are "moving up." 

Since Saturday, Kentucky reported 3,888 new cases, with 822 Monday. The seven-day rolling average for cases is 1,694, up 7.8% since Friday. Of today's new cases, nearly 24% are in people 18 and younger. 

The weekly case numbers have gone up for two weeks in a row, to 11,572 in the Monday-to-Sunday week ending Nov. 21. The latest weekly case number is the highest in five weeks, Beshear said, "so we're going to have to watch this very, very closely. Our testing has been fairly steady, so something real is happening." 

The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the last seven days is 6.56%, up from 6.24% on Friday.  This rate has gone up for three weeks.

Dept. for Public Health graph, adapted by Kentucky Health News
Also of concern is that hospitalizations for Covid-19 have gone up 21% in the last two weeks. Kentucky hospitals reported 809 Covid-19 patients, 31 more than Friday; 203 of them in intensive care, the same; and 101 on ventilation, down 3. 

Eight of the state's 10 hospital-readiness regions are using at least 80% of their intensive-care beds. Northern Kentucky region is the only region above 90%, with 19.3% of its ICU patients having Covid-19.

The state's daily infection rate is 31.54 cases per 100,000 residents, up from 30.02 on Friday. Counties with rates more than double that rate were Robertson, 128.8; Magoffin, 89.3; Cumberland, 82.1; Bourbon, 80.9; Powell, 75.1, and Breckinridge, 70.5. Eighty-one of the state's 120 counties have more than 25 daily cases per 100,000 residents, considered a high level of transmission. 

All these increases have led to an increase in the demand for monoclonal antibody infusions, said Beshear. He reminded Kentuckians that there is not an unlimited supply of these infusions, although at this time the state has enough supply to meet demand, largely because the demand has been low.

"If we had any type of surge like we did the last time we would not have enough," he said. "And it's a lot better to get a couple of shots and to have to have an infusion."

Monoclonal antibodies, laboratory-produced, mimic the body's natural immune response and reduce the likelihood of severe infection and hospitalization. They must be given soon after the infection is diagnosed and are not a substitute for a Covid-19 vaccine. 

So far, 2.6 million Kentuckians have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, with 32,774 of them children between the ages of 5-11, or 8% of this population. Beshear said 504,028 Kentuckians have received a booster shot. There is still plenty of time to be fully vaccinated by Christmas. 

A Wall Street Journal analysis of new data finds that breakthrough cases of Covid-19 are hitting older people and those with underlying health conditions the hardest. Public health experts told the Journal that it is important to track such cases, especially as we shift to managing Covid-19 for the long term. Asked if the state has such data, Beshear said he would check into it. 

The state reported 42 more Covid-19 deaths Saturday, 15 Sunday and 44 Monday, raising Kentucky's pandemic death toll to 10,707. Three of the fatalities were in their 40s and one was 36, Beshear said.

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