Covid-19 Epidemic In Kentucky Decidedly Abating But Still A Threat.

We still need to keep up the good work!

As of Wednesday, October 20, the number of new cases of Covid-19 and the test positivity rate continue to fall sharply. The 7-Day New Case number was 1590 and the 7-Day Test Positivity Rate 6.83. Both of these are about where we were last February when we were halfway down from winter’s peaks, but still considerably above last summer’s nadirs of 142 cases and 1.79 percent of tests.

Hospital bed and ICU utilization (which track each other closely) are also clearly easing but not to the same extent as new cases. For example, ICU bed occupancy this week is nearly as high as the peaks of December and January. (One could speculate that this may be connected to the enhanced virulence of the Delta variant or perhaps even better reporting.) If we continue to see fewer new cases at the same rate since September 8, we could be below 500 daily by mid-November.

We should expect to see the number of deaths reported daily to begin to fall also– but we are not there yet. A substantial proportion of individuals still on respirators will not survive despite optimal treatment. It takes weeks or months to clear out a backlog of reported death certificates. It will take many months to arrive at an estimate of the number of “hidden” Covid deaths due to long-term systemic damage caused by Covid-19, or to delayed or absent care for unrelated illnesses.

Altogether, this week continues the decidedly good news we have been seeing for the past 4 weeks. This does not imply that we can back off of the public health measures that brought us to this point. The majority of Kentucky counties are still in the red in terms of high-risk case incidence rates. As is the Game of Thrones, “Winter is Coming” and with it a season of indoor activities and respiratory illnesses. The big-time holidays of November and December will soon be upon us.

Schools will be in session. Since August 18, the 7-Day average of new cases of Covid-19 in individuals 18 years old or younger has usually exceeded 25%. The good news is that vaccinations are currently available for children 12 and up and we are on the brink of having a vaccine approved for children as young as 5. The rate of vaccinations in these groups remains to be seen, but schoolrooms are obviously mixing bowls where students, teachers, staff, and their families are exposed to Covid-19 infection.

You can explore the full portfolio of Kentucky Covid data visualizations at KHPI’s Tableau Public website.

We can do this, but only together as the community we aspire to be!

Peter Hasselbacher, MD
Emeritus Professor of Medicine, UofL
21 October, 2021