A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

New coronavirus cases continue to increase across Kentucky, but hospitalizations are on the decline


Kentucky Health News chart compares daily case numbers with rolling average for past seven days.

By Al Cross and Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Gov. Andy Beshear reported 258 new cases of the coronavirus in Kentucky Friday, the sixth day out of the last seven that the number has risen.

Following his recently revised schedule, Beshear did not hold a press conference Friday, but issued a press release. It did not emphasize the increase in cases, putting the number in the fifth paragraph and making no comments about recent trends.

Friday’s numbers raised the state’s case total to 13,454. While Beshear has said he will base his reopening decisions more on hospitalizations than daily case numbers, the press release did not mention those numbers, leaving them to the state’s daily report.

Dotted line on KHN chart shows trend for the last month

The report showed 339 people in Kentucky hospitals with covid-19, and 64 of them under intensive care. The hospitalization number was the lowest of the week, and well under the averages of 387 for the last five days and 409 since June 11. Hospitalizations often drop on Fridays, but the number has generally declined since a high of 518 on June 4. Friday’s intensive-care number was about average for the week.

“I know Kentuckians have what it takes to reopen as safely as possible,” Beshear said in the release. “We must continue to strike the balance between supporting our local economies and still cutting our contacts significantly.”

While social distancing and masks wearing are the two main prevention measures, Beshear said this week that people should also limit their daily activities to reduce exposure to the coronavirus and the pressure on their immune systems.

He said in the release, “As we realize that this fight will be a marathon, not a sprint, we have not lost heart. We have not lost our determination to protect each other. Instead, we have steeled ourselves to live in this new normal until we get a vaccine.”

Beshear reported two more deaths from covid-19, a 68-year-old man from Harlan County and a 95-year-old man in Franklin County, raising the death toll to 522.

“This year has been tough for everyone,” he said in the release. “But just imagine, in addition to all this fear and uncertainty and sudden change, also losing a loved one, and not being able to grieve with extended family and friends.” He has limited funeral homes to 40 people at a time.

The third and fourth paragraphs of the release recounted Beshear’s Thursday proclamation of Friday, June 19 as Juneteenth National Freedom Day and noted the disproportionate effect of covid-19 on African Americans.

In other COVID-19 news:

WYMT-TV of Hazard reports on cases in Eastern Kentucky, following up on reports early in the week about increases in some counties.

Health officials warn that the novel coronavirus is still circulating, even as the state eases into reopening, and that public health precautions — like hand hygiene, wearing masks and social distancing — must be taken seriously or Kentucky will risk another shutdown, Deborah Yetter reports for the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Dr. Forest Arnold, an epidemiologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Louisville, told Yetter, “I think a partial reopening can work and be successful if people would be serious about wearing masks and washing their hands and cleaning up after themselves. Occasionally, I go to the store and see a lot of people doing that and a handful of people not doing that. A handful of people not doing that is all it takes.”

Results of the first phase of U of L’s Co-Immunity Project in Louisville shows that preventive measures thwarted most transmission of the virus among health-care workers, says a U of L news release. The researchers tested 1,372 health workers and found that two had an active infection and 14 tested positive for antibodies, suggesting they had been exposed to the virus.

“This is good news,” said Assistant Professor of Medicine Rachel Keith, who conducted the study. “It shows that the precautionary measures adopted by our hospitals are working, and that patients seeking care in our hospitals are at a low risk of being infected by their health-care providers.” She said the results show that with proper social distancing and personal protective equipment, “We can minimize the threat posed by the virus to our health-care community.” 

National Cancer Institute Director Ned Sharpless offered a “conservative” estimate of 10,000 additional deaths from breast and colorectal cancers over the next 10 years due to coronavirus-caused postponements in diagnosis and care, The Washington Post reports.
 
Wondering how to stay safe at the beach during the pandemic? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has guidance that largely mimics the same advice for most activities: social distancing, wear a mask during close contact, and wash your hands.

“A federal judge has ruled that Kentucky’s most populous counties will not have more than one polling location during the upcoming primary elections,” Ryland Barton reports for WFPL. U.S. District Judge Charles Simpson wrote: “Comprehensive plans were put in place which included making absentee ballots available for all voters, providing early in-person voting options for 15 days leading up to Election Day, and establishing a polling place for Election Day in-person voting. This Triple Crown of voting options wins against the pandemic’s risk of disenfranchising the Kentucky voter.” 

As of 8 a.m. Friday, the unofficial U.S. coronavirus toll had reached 2,191,200 cases and 118,435 deaths, up about 28,000 and 720 from the day before, according to the MedPage Today real-time tracker.
 
Politico reports on the rising coronavirus cases among Latinos, reporting that Latinos age 25 to 54 have a COVID-19 death rate at least five times greater than white people. In Kentucky, 17.21 percent of the coronavirus cases have been in the Hispanic population, along with 4.08 percent of death, as of June 18. The daily report is not broken down by age. The Hispanic and Latino population in Kentucky is 3.8 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.


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