With many Ky. counties at high COVID-19 level, governor hopes for plateau in new cases

The vast majority of Kentucky counties remain at medium or high COVID-19 community levels under the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest update, but with a growing number of counties at low, it could mean the upsurge in cases is cresting in the Bluegrass State.

That was one takeaway from Gov. Andy Beshear’s weekly update Thursday about where Kentucky stands with coronavirus spread.

As of Thursday’s CDC update, about 80 counties in Kentucky are considered at high COVID-19 community levels, meaning people in those communities should mask up when they’re in public and indoors.

Kentucky’s COVID-19 Community Levels as of Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022
Kentucky’s COVID-19 Community Levels as of Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022

“The map is still pretty rough,” Beshear said, referring to a CDC map of Kentucky’s counties and their respective community levels.

The metric gauges how COVID-19 is currently affecting hospitalizations and more. It looks at new cases per 100,000 people, additional hospital admissions for COVID-19 for every 100,000 people (both seven-day totals) and the percentage of inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients (a seven-day average).

COVID-19 in Fayette County

Fayette County retained its high COVID-19 community level with Thursday’s update, consistent with where it stood the prior week.

The county reported 676 new cases since last week, according to CDC data.

The positivity rate remained at 16.25%, and there were 4,503 tests performed between Aug. 5 and Thursday.

COVID-19 in Kentucky

As of the Aug. 8 report from the Kentucky Department of Health, which is the latest available from the agency, there were 15,652 new COVID-19 cases in the state the week prior.

That report also details 67 new deaths, bringing the state’s total virus death toll to 16,464 since the pandemic began.

Kentucky’s positivity rate remained high in this week’s report; it’s still slightly less than 20%.

That said, the rate may not capture the full scope, as it only includes PCR test results and not tests people take at home.

The number of hospitalizations in Kentucky is also increasing, but at nowhere near the levels of previous coronavirus surges here.

“This shows that COVID is less severe, but … that’s still a lot of people in the hospital,” Beshear said, pointing to a graph that indicated more than 500 people were being treated for COVID-19 in Kentucky hospitals.

The governor said this may be indicative of a new trend: there are temporary increases in cases, followed proportional declines that are just as quick as the surges. Generally though, the surges are much lower than the previous surges Kentucky has seen, Beshear said.

Here’s what the CDC recommends for people living in counties with low (green), medium (yellow) or high (orange) COVID-19 community levels.

When the COVID-19 community level is high:

  • Wear a well-fitting mask or respirator.

  • If you are at high risk of getting very sick, consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities in public where you could be exposed.

When the COVID-19 community level is medium or high:

  • If you are at high risk of getting very sick, wear a well-fitting mask or respirator when indoors in public.

  • If you have household or social contact with someone at high risk for getting very sick, consider testing to detect infection before contact and consider wearing a mask when indoors with them.

At all COVID-19 community levels:

  • Stay up to date on vaccinations, including recommended booster doses.

  • Avoid contact with people who have suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

  • Follow recommendations for isolation if you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

  • Follow the recommendations for what to do if you are exposed.

  • If you are at high risk of getting very sick, talk with a health care provider about additional prevention actions.

In other coronavirus news, the CDC revised its guidance Thursday, making some significant changes. Among the biggest changes is exposed contacts no longer have to quarantine, regardless of vaccination status, and testing will no longer be recommended in most instances for people who aren’t exhibiting symptoms.

“This guidance acknowledges that the pandemic is not over, but also helps us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives,” the CDC’s Greta Massetti said, in part, in a statement announcing the changes.

Do you have a question about COVID-19 in Kentucky for our service journalism team? We’d like to hear from you. Fill out our Know Your Kentucky form or email ask@herald-leader.com.