Positivity rate down slightly, state still hopeful on COVID plateau

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The state’s new coronavirus cases continued in the ‘plateau’ range Thursday and the positive test rate edged down as leaders continued hold their breaths and stress safety measures to head off a full-fledged outbreak.

“We continue to see a signal of a decrease in the overall escalation” of cases, Gov. Andy Beshear said during his daily briefing Thursday while announcing 659 new cases with 11,217 tests confirmed.

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“The numbers are higher than we would like but they don’t show an escalation,” he said.

The positivity rate fell slightly from almost 6 percent Wednesday to 5.66 percent.

Those included 22 kids under 5. Jefferson County had 138, Fayette had 42, Laurel had 22, Shelby had 18, Mercer 13, Scott 12, Franklin 11, Pulaski 11 and Knox nine, among the counties in the region.

Two new day-care centers brought the total to 51 where cases have been confirmed, including 44 staff and 40 kids.

To illustrate the plateau pattern, Beshear cited numbers during the last month, started with 1,675 cases the week of June 25 to 2,482 the week of July 6, 3,772 cases the week of July 13 and 3,918 the week of July 20.

So far this week, the cases have been 532 Tuesday, 619 Wednesday and 659 Thursday compared to 674, 518 and 611 the same days last week.

As of Thursday, 587 people were in the hospital with coronavirus-related treatment and 110 are in ICU. Those numbers are down slightly over the course of this week.

The state unfortunately had seven additional deaths, bringing the state’s total to 731 Since March.

“Do everything you can, be a good role model,” the governor continued to encourage, urging residents to not get complacent at any sign of good news.

He and Mark Carter, who heads the state’s contact tracing program, used Bell and Harlan counties as example of how quickly the disease can spread. There, people went on vacations and returned, spreading the virus at work, health care facilities and sports teams and other places before they knew they were infects.

Carter, executive policy advisor at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, updated Kentuckians on contact tracing and tracking across the commonwealth, an effort that Carter leads.

There are now 631 contact tracers in Kentucky and 63 more will be added Aug. 4. In addition, there are 190 disease investigators, 54 regional team members and 11 social support connectors.

He announced the program has already seen notable successes. In addition to their work preventing COVID-19 from spreading, contact tracers are able to offer reassurance, help monitor symptoms and connect Kentuckians to food and medical support during quarantine and isolation.

Also, local health departments report that many residents are well-prepared and take the time to write down their contacts before they are contacted by contact tracers.

“Overwhelmingly once the health department is able to reach people, they are being cooperative. They want to protect their health, they want to protect their loved ones,” said Carter, noting tracers have been able to rech “70 to 75 percent” of the people they’ve tried.

Asked if he had eough people, he replied, “Right now we do…we are in good shape but we are concerned about what can happen.”

Carter said his team’s greatest challenge is that some residents still do not understand the seriousness of COVID-19. People believe they do not have the disease and refuse to name their contacts, contributing to more positive cases and the loss of information.

“I feel like the progress is good, were in good shape. But we all worry about what might happen with the spread of the virus and what it might mean for our public health response,” said Carter.

Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Department for Public Health, provided an update on the known long-term side effects of COVID-19.

“People in high-risk categories are relying on the rest of us to behave responsibly,” said Dr. Stack. “I may not be at high-risk, but other people are and I have an obligation to not recklessly endanger them.”

In children, COVID-19 can cause multisystem inflammatory disorder, rashes, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, low blood pressure, shock and heart damage.

In young adults, COVID-19 can cause blood clotting disorders, including strokes and pulmonary embolisms. One in five young adults still have symptoms 14 to 21 days after being diagnosed with COVID-19. In severe cases, recovery can take six weeks or more.

Adults 50 years old or older are twice as likely as young adults to have symptoms 14 to 21 days after diagnosis.

Finally, COVID-19 survivors of any age may have long-term, irreversible lung damage.

Dr. Stack emphasized that some side effects may still be unknown, and its side effects that “we already know about highlight why our fight against COVID-19 is so important.”

“There’s a lot we don’t know, and so I’m not trying to fear-monger, I’m just trying to tell you, there’s a lot we don’t know,” said Dr. Stack.