(For a while anyhow.)
Wednesday evening’s announced numbers extend the trend of new Kentucky cases decreasing. This is evidenced by simple plots of daily cases and cemented by the falling of both 7-Day and 14-Day rolling averages. Based on available data, the Test Positivity Rate as calculated by our Public Health Department is falling in parallel. Even better, both rolling averages are falling away from the exponential growth trendline on semi-log plots suggesting a plateau of new cases if not better. Weekly new cases per week are on track to be much less than the last 4 weeks, but January will likely still be the worst month so far by perhaps as much as 5000 cases.
For deaths however, January continues to be the cruelest month. With 47 new deaths reported yesterday, the total of 880 so far for the month has already set a new record compared to the 754 in December. In my opinion it is too early to tell what is happening to the numbers of people entering hospitals because the day-to-day reported numbers vary dramatically. It is in hospitals and nursing homes that most of the recognized Covid-19 deaths occur. I have begun calculating the daily number of new additions to the reported “Ever Hospitalized” or “Ever ICU” counts using the same logic I use to count new cases and deaths. This takes much of the volatility away. Since mid-January fewer new people are being hospitalized. Nonetheless it is fair to say our hospitals are still working very hard. Despite that burden, some hospitals are taking on the workload of immunizing people against the virus!
I still do not have a good feel for our testing situation. I am unaware that the damaged reporting system the state uses to share its testing data has been repaired. Tests are no longer reported on Sundays. The recent 7-Day average of new total tests reported daily has been hovering around 20,000 since mid-January which is higher than the 15- to 18- thousand in the first half of the month. Some of that latter is probably related to the holiday disruptions or perhaps reporting system issues.
Where we go from here remains to be determined. The vaccine savior is taking a longer time coming than we hoped for. Countries globally are fighting among themselves for vaccine supplies. We may get caught up in that. Because the challenge of the global pandemic took (or wasted) so much time to get disease expansion under control or to precent surges, the virus had plenty of time to mutate to even more infectious strains. The effect on mortality of these new strains remains unknown but they are among us in Kentucky now. Viral evolution will continue proceed faster than that of humans for the foreseeable future.
The greatest challenge still remains largely unchanged. It is us! I do not feel a sense of recognizing that we all in this together. No community will remain safe until all of us are safe– and that includes the community of Mother Earth. The great plagues of the middle ages changed the direction of world history in ways that structure our world today. The Coronavirus is on track to do the same for whatever emerges from its embrace. We are not powerless before this mindless virus but we must act as though we are brothers and sisters, and not passengers on individual lifeboats launched by a sinking ship left to find their way to safety on their own.
Peter Hasselbacher, MD
Citizen of the Blue Marble
January 28, 2021