3 years after its first reported case, Kentucky has nation’s third-highest COVID-19 infection rate

James Helmburg of the Kentucky National Guard opens a tent where COVID-19 patients could receive monoclonal antibody treatments at St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead on Sept. 16, 2021. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

This week marks the third anniversary of the announcement of Kentucky’s first case of COVID-19, a disease that has infected more than 1.7 million Kentuckians and killed 18,130 of them.

And while the Covid-19 national emergency and public-health emergency declarations that have been in place since early 2020 will end May 11 and the state is scaling back its Covid-19 reporting, that doesn’t mean COVID-19 is over. Kentuckians are still getting COVID-19 and still dying from it.

The state Department for Public Health’s new webpage with COVID-19 surveillance data says there were 4,736 new cases of the coronavirus last week, or 676 cases per day. That’s up 44% from last week’s report.

The state attributed 13 more deaths to COVID-19 last week, down from 39 the week prior.

The weekly new-case rate was 7.99 cases per 100,000 residents, down from 9.23 in the prior weekly report. The top 10 counties were Trigg, 25.35 cases per 100,000; Adair, 20.09; Green, 19.59; Rockcastle, 17.97; Lewis, 17.22; Bell, 17.01; Russell, 16.74; Hopkins, 15.03; Bath, 14.86; and Metcalfe, 14.19.

The New York Times ranks Kentucky’s seven-day case rate third among states, even with a 27% decline in cases in the last two weeks.

The newly formatted state report does not include hospital numbers or positive-test rates. Test numbers have become largely unreliable since they do not include results from at-home testing.

Reflections on the pandemic

Health Commissioner Steven Stack and Gov. Andy Beshear were asked at the governor’s March 2 press conference to reflect on what they think future generations will say when they look back at the pandemic.

Stack, a physician, said he hopes Kentuckians will remember how everyone pulled together to face this “once in a century” or once-in-a-generation event, and that graphs and charts won’t reflect that.

“Overwhelmingly, we came together and we worked together,” Stack said. “It was hard, it was difficult, (it) disrupted our lives, all of those things are undeniable, but we faced it and confronted it together. . . . We were one Kentucky, and I think that’s a big deal.”

As for what the charts and graphs will show, Stack said, “People are going to pore over that for a very, very long time. But I am confident that we managed to flatten that curve at various points in time, that people taking actions that we asked them to take and looking out for their neighbors helped us to keep people alive and to save lives. And so I think when history looks back on this, it’ll look back favorably on the four and a half million Kentuckians who all came together to look out for each other and save lives.”

Beshear, who is favored for re-election this year largely on the basis of public approval of his work during the early momths of the pandemic, said he thinks history will show “the most effective battle against a pandemic in human history.”

“Look at how quickly we got vaccines, you look at the initial projections of how many people we’d lose versus the number that we’ve lost,” he said. ” I think we will always look at some things and wonder if we could have done this or that a little bit better. But I don’t think that negates the fact that this, I think, has been the most effective battle against a virus that came to kill as many of us as possible.”

This article is republished from Kentucky Health News, an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

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Melissa Patrick, Kentucky Health News
Melissa Patrick, Kentucky Health News

Melissa Patrick, staff reporter for Kentucky Health News, is a registered nurse and holds degrees in journalism and community leadership and development from the University of Kentucky. She has received several competitive fellowships, including the 2016-17 Nursing and Health Care Workforce Media Fellow of the Center for Health, Media & Policy, which allowed her to focus on and write about nursing workforce issues in Kentucky, and the year-long Association of Health Care Journalists 2017-18 Regional Health Journalism Program fellowship.