New case numbers decline, but deaths continue; 13,000 Kentuckians have died from Covid

Published 6:00 am Friday, February 4, 2022

As the metrics used to measure the pandemic in Kentucky keep dropping, deaths from Covid-19, considered a lagging indicator, went above 13,000 on Thursday. The disease is still killing an average of about 25 people a day for the last few weeks.

The state Department for Public Health reported 30 more Covid-19 deaths Thursday, bringing Kentucky’s pandemic death toll to 13,026. One of the fatalities was 41 years old.

The state reported 8,994 new coronavirus cases Thursday, bringing the seven-day rolling average to 8,699, down 5.8% from Wednesday and 29.5% lower than a week ago.

Gov. Andy Beshear said at a news conference that overall, he believes the state’s case numbers have crested, but some parts of the state are only cresting right now.

“I really think it’ll be next week, when we have all of next week’s data, that we’ll start to see how rapidly it’s declining. . . . But everyday we’re having a little bit less,” he said.

Of today’s cases, 27% are in Kentuckians 18 and younger.

Many children in Kentucky are still not vaccinated for Covid-19. So far, only 21% of those 5 to 11 and less than 51% of those 12 to 17 have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

Beshear noted that vaccinations have slacked recently. The seven-day average is 6,548 per day, well below the nearly 11,000 per day of a month ago.

The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus dropped again, to 25.7%, down from 26.8% on Wednesday and from a high of 33.1% just 10 days ago. In other words, only abut one in four Kentuckians who get tested are testing positive, compared to almost one in three just 10 days ago.

That said, the state-reported positivity rate does not include any at-home tests, so the overall positive rate may be higher.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced today that Medicare will cover eight free over-the-counter Covid-19 tests a month beginning early this spring. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Covid-19 at-home tests will be available through eligible pharmacies and other participating entities

“This is the first time that Medicare has covered an over-the-counter test at no cost to beneficiaries. There are a number of issues that have made it difficult to cover and pay for over-the-counter Covid-19 tests. However, given the importance of expanding access to testing, CMS has identified a pathway that will expand access to free over-the-counter testing for Medicare beneficiaries,” CMS said in a news release.

Until then, people with Medicare can access free tests through home delivery at covidtests.gov, through health care providers at free testing sites or can have a lab-based PCR tests and antigen test performed at a laboratory at no cost, says the release.

The tests seem to be in high demand. Taylor Six of the Richmond Register reports that 180 at-home Covid-19 test kits were given out in less than an hour opening a vaccine-and-test event to the public.

“This really demonstrates there is a need for tests and a desire to have them,” Kelley McBride, the Madison County Health Department public information officer, told Six.

Another piece of good news is that the weekly number of Covid-19 hospitalizations in Kentucky continues to go down.

Kentucky hospitals reported 2,443 Covid-19 patients Thursday, an increase of five from Wednesday, but the seven-day average went down by nine, to 2,438. Hospitals reported 455 Covid-19 patients in intensive care, up seven from Wednesday and 223 on mechanical ventilation, up four.

Nine of the state’s 10 hospital regions are using at least 80% of their intensive-care beds, with four above 90%. The Barren River region has the highest rate, 97.65%.

The seven-day infection rate also dropped again, to 157.17 daily cases per 100,000 people. Counties with the highest rates are Muhlenberg, with 300 cases per 100,000; Clay, 292.2; Powell, 280.9; and Whitley, 271.8. The New York Times ranks Kentucky’s infection rate second among states, even though it has dropped 16% in the last 14 days.

In other pandemic news: 

 

  • A recent study, published in JAMA Network, found that “passive surveillance” reporting in the U.S. showed an increased risk of myocarditis after receiving either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna Covid-19 vaccine, the mRNA-based vaccines. The risk was highest after the second vaccine dose in adolescent males and young men under the age of 25. The heart condition is treatable.
  • The study notes that among more than 192 million persons older than 12 receiving more than 354 million mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccines during the study period, there were 1,991 reports of myocarditis, with 1,626 of them meeting the case definition of the disease.
  • “Among persons younger than 30 years of age, there were no confirmed cases of myocarditis in those who died after mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccination without another identifiable cause and there was 1 probable case of myocarditis but there was insufficient information available for a thorough investigation,” says the report.
  • The report concludes that while this is a “rare but serious adverse event” than can occur after taking these vaccines, “This risk should be considered in the context of the benefits of Covid-19 vaccination.”