A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky a pandemic hot spot in mid-January; deaths spiked, but COVID-19 hospital admissions fell

Kentucky was a pandemic hot spot in the week covered by the first White House Coronavirus Task Force report from the new Biden administration, issued Thursday for a reporting week that had ended nearly a week earlier.

Perhaps the most striking figure in the report was that deaths from COVID-19 were up 35 percent from Jan. 16 to Jan. 22, compared to the previous week. That reflected the increasingly lengthy lists of deaths that the state announces on weekdays (with numbers on weekends).

Week-to-week comparisons are tricky, because deaths are not listed until they are confirmed by a review process, which can take days or even weeks after death. During the reporting week, Kentucky had 275 deaths, or 39.4 per day, 35 percent higher than the 205 deaths and 29.3 average of the previous week. Gov. Andy Beshear has blamed the spike in deaths on the surge in cases during and after the holidays.

The report ranks Kentucky 12th in the rate of new coronavirus cases Jan. 16-22, and sixth in the percentage of residents testing positive for it. State officials say the federal calculation method overstates the state’s positive-test rate, but unofficial pandemic trackers ranked Kentucky as a hot spot.

Both rates were down from the previous week, but how much was unclear because the outgoing Trump administration did not issue a report that week. Cases were also down in nursing homes, where the first round of vaccinations has been completed, with perhaps a few exceptions.

The first Biden administration report did not begin with the usual narrative about the status of the pandemic in the state and recommendations of what to do about it. A short note at the top of the report said, “The weekly State Profile Reports are currently under review. The format and content may change in coming reports.”

It said the rate of new hospital admissions for COVID-19 was high, but down slightly from the previous week. A graph in the report showed that new COVID-19 admissions at the 98 reporting hospitals were lower than in any of the eight weeks immediately preceding the reporting week.

From Kentucky Health News

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