New daily cases of Covid-19 in Kentucky have been dropping sharply since mid-September in close parallel with the Test Positivity Rate. Hospital utilization is falling as well but remains high with ICU utilization even higher than it was last winter as measured by number of beds currently filled. Daily reported deaths (expected to lag new cases) have not yet begun to fall with a current 7-Day average of 35 deaths per day. A complete tally of Covid-19 deaths will require weeks to months to be compiled. This welcome turn-around in what was an even worse flair of the Kentucky epidemic is the result of more rigorous attention to the same proven public health measures that reversed our three previous ones and the increasing rates of effective vaccination. The fact that case and death rates match or exceed those of last mid-winter should be sobering as the pool of susceptible individuals of any age by virtue of vaccinated status has shrunken! Raw incidence rates of new cases show that all but two of Kentucky’s counties are still in the in the high or moderate range of risk. We need to remain humble and focused until we can reliably consider ourselves to be approaching “normal.”
There is no longer any doubt whatsoever that many fewer people are getting sick from Covid-19. Even though considerably volatility in daily case counts throughout each week remains, the counts for each of the seven individual weekdays are way down. The 7-Day average of new cases is falling much faster than that of the 14-Day average. Each of the last three full weeks has had dramatically fewer cases than the week before. The semi-log plot of new cases is also decidedly falling. However, the open question remains, “how low can we go” as we enter the indoor winter season with its sports and holidays and the delta variant still alive and breathing down our necks throughout the state and country. In retrospect, it is somewhat unnerving to see the relentless aggregate rise in both cases and deaths over the last twelve months. As reassuring as things seem now, we have been here before. In my thinking, our best public health measure is to both believe and act on our state motto: “United we stand, divided we fall.”
Here are some representative data visualizations. You can see the full interactive profiles on KHPI Tableau Public Website.
The following is a simple plot of aggregate cases and deaths from October 1, 2020 to the present. While we have has spurts and remissions since our epidemic began in earnest last Fall, the upward thrust has been relentless. This is what we must turn around!
Peter Hasselbacher, MD
Emeritus Professor of Medicine, UofL
Kentucky Health Policy Institute
12 October 2021