31 Kentucky counties in COVID ‘red zone,' according to White House report

Gov. Beshear provides Tuesday update on COVID-19

FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX19) - Kentucky’s case report Tuesday provided the first glimmer of evidence the state’s weeks-long case escalation could be stabilizing, though Gov. Andy Beshear was quick to note one report does not constitute a trend.

The governor announced 776 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 alongside 14 new deaths. The state’s positivity rate inched up to 4.59 percent, its highest mark since Oct. 5.

Placing the case report into context, Kentucky reported 1,054 cases last Tuesday, 1,018 cases the Tuesday prior and 824 cases the Tuesday before that.

The state averaged 901 newly confirmed cases per day through the first 12 days of October.

“We’re gonna watch through the week to see if we are on a stabilization trend,” Beshear said of Tuesday’s case report, cautioning it arrives one day after Kentucky’s highest Monday case total of the pandemic. “Obviously it’s early.”

The governor also highlighted “concerning movement” in the number of hospital beds and ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. Kentucky reported 552 patients hospitalized and 138 patients in the ICU on Sept. 1. Those tallies stood Tuesday at 704 and 170, respectively.

The White House Task Force’s Kentucky-specific report provided a similarly sobering retrospective.

Kentucky had 173 new cases per 100,000 residents in the last week, the report says, compared to a national average of 100 per 100,000. That’s good for the 12th highest rate in the country.

Ninety-five percent of Kentucky’s hospitals admitted a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patient each day over the last week, the report says.

The number of counties in the ‘red’ zone (the highest of the report’s three color-coded zones) rose from 26 to 31 over the last week, indicating a high level of community transmission. Forty-one counties currently occupy the top two zones.

Kentucky counties in each of the White House Task Force's three color-coded COVID-19 alert zones.
Kentucky counties in each of the White House Task Force's three color-coded COVID-19 alert zones. (Source: White House Task Force)

All Red Counties: Warren, Christian, Daviess, Henderson, Laurel, Whitley, Bullitt, Calloway, Pike, Jessamine, Union, Shelby, Allen, Graves, Nelson, Muhlenberg, Webster, Clay, Logan, Meade, McCreary, Wayne, Bourbon, Larue, Fulton, Leslie, Hart, Todd, Nicholas, McLean, Washington.

Cases are mainly spreading in the state’s rural areas, according to Health Commissioner Steven Stack, MD. That marks a reversal from the state’s midsummer escalation phase, when cases seemed to rise precipitously around Louisville and Lexington.

The Department of Public Health’s incident rate map bears out the trend:

COVID-19 county-by-county incident rate map for Oct. 13.
COVID-19 county-by-county incident rate map for Oct. 13. (Source: Kentucky Department of Public Health)

Positivity Rate Reporting

Stack explained a transition Tuesday in the way the state will tabulate its positivity rate. Previously Kentucky accepted manually entered positive tests from labs around the state, but beginning Monday it will only accept electronically reported tests.

The change automates the positivity rate calculation, providing a more stable data stream and freeing up DPH staff.

Currently around 55 percent of PCR tests, upon which the state bases its positivity rate, are electronically reported. Stack said he expects that number to rise as more labs are onboarded to the states electronic reporting system.

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