A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Estimated coronavirus infection rates suggest hotspots moving to Louisville-Bluegrass corridor


Hotspots for the coronavirus in Kentucky appear to be moving from a gaggle of counties in near Western Kentucky to more urbanized counties along Interstate 64.

Franklin County has the highest estimated rate of transmission, 1.36, on the CovidActNow website, which estimates rates for counties that have a sufficient number of cases and also categorizes counties by risk level, based on their hospitalizations, hospital capacity, positive-test rate and tracing of people who have had contact with infected people.

Franklin County, which has the highest infection rate estimated by the CovidActNow website, is highlighted. Red counties are rated at critical risk level. (Map labeled by Kentucky Health News)

The estimated rate of 1.36 predicts that every 100 people who have the virus in Franklin County will pass it on to 136 other people, a rate that is likely to accelerate. Epidemiologists want the rate to be less than 1, which would make the virus die out eventually, or at least below 1.1, which many consider to be “controlled spread.” Kentucky’s estimated rate on Friday, June 12, was 1.1.

Other counties over 1.1 were Allen (Scottsville), 1.30, which has had a surge of cases lately; Christian (Hopkinsville), 1.26; Harrison (Cynthiana) and Shelby, 1.20; and the state’s two most populous counties: Fayette, 1.16; and Jefferson, 1.12.

Some of those counties were rated at critical risk of an uncontrolled outbreak, and others were rated at high risk, depending on their hospital, testing and tracing situations. Franklin County was rated critical because it was using 87 percent of its intensive-care beds on June 12, according to CovidActNow, which said the county’s testing and tracing were insufficient to rate. The county’s estimated infection rate on May 30 and June 2 was 1.40, which also put it into the critical category.

Logan County’s estimated infection rate was 1.08, but it was rated critical because it was using 83 percent of its intensive-care beds, the site said. Muhlenberg County’s rate was only 0.92 but it was rated critical because all its ICU beds were in use. (The county’s hospital is a satellite of the large Owensboro hospital, which easily accepts transfers from its affiliates.) Adjoining Ohio County was rated critical because it was using 75% of its ICU beds but had an infection rate of 1.08.

In the I-64 corridor, Scott County lacked the data for an infection rate but was rated critical because all its ICU beds were occupied. Georgetown is close to Lexington, which has several hospitals. Likewise, Shelby County, which adjoins Jefferson County, had all its ICU beds occupied, the site said.

The Kentucky page of the site is covidactnow.org. CovidActNow says it is “a multidisciplinary team of technologists, epidemiologists, health experts, and public policy leaders working to provide disease intelligence and data analysis” on covid-19 in the United States. Gov. Andy Beshear and state Health Commissioner Steven Stack have cited the site, and Beshear has said he will be paying closer attention to hospital data as he makes decisions on restrictions to thwart the spread of the virus.

From Kentucky Health News


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