I updated the KHPI Covid-19 Tracking files through yesterday’s December 28 numbers. The full profile of data visualizations is available on KHPI’s Tableau Public Website. If one assumes that data collection and reporting have proceeded in unchanged manner since mid-December, the data would be compatible with having turned a corner with respect to new cases. It is possible such an assumption could be partially correct. The same cannot yet be said for deaths or hospital utilization, but we expect those latter markers of epidemic activity to lag behind the identification of new cases. December deaths were in fact markedly higher than previous months.
However, it would be irresponsible to think that nothing else was going on and experts around the country point out that it will take another week or more for things to become clear. In the first place (as with weekends) data collection and reporting around holidays is incomplete or delayed. It cannot be assumed that people are lining up to the same degree to be tested. Indeed, fewer tests were reported recently. What we do know is that people are traveling more over the Christmas holiday in greater numbers than at any time since last March. I have not yet seen a report or prediction that family or other gatherings would remain the same or lower over Christmas or New Year celebrations. Indeed, it is generally assumed there were increased opportunities for the virus to spread at home and elsewhere in the community.
For these reasons, I count myself among those who want badly to believe that things are getting better in Kentucky but do not yet see conclusive evidence that this has happened or is sustainable. We enter a new year with relaxed public health guidelines and continuing public resistance to following even what had been recommended by those who know and care. The effects of effective vaccines will take a while to become apparent. I have little more to offer for now.
Let us all wish for our better angels to help sing in the New Year with us.
Peter Hasselbacher, MD
Emeritus Professor of Medicine, UofL
29 December 2020