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COVID cases in children are rising; Vaccination is up, but less than cases

Kentucky reported more Covid-19 cases last week than in any other week during the pandemic, 29,456, and Gov. Andy Beshear said at this point the state is in “exponential growth,” with no real end in sight.

“We don’t know where the peak is going to be yet and we ought to be concerned about that,” he said at his weekly pandemic news conference. He said the peak will come when “we force it” with more masking and vaccinations.

Beshear said 27,505 vaccinations were given in the last three days, fewer than the number of new cases in that period.

The governor pleaded again for vaccination and concluded his hour-long news conference by saying, “All we have to do is care about each other . . . to put selflessness above selfishness.” He called for “the vast majority of people who want to do the right thing” to talk with unvaccinated friends and family members.

“I need you to have that uncomfortable conversation, and I’m hearing from all over Kentucky from people who have done it,” he said. “And it’s really that risk of losing the friendship that oftentimes convinces that other person of how genuine you are.”

The state also set records for Covid-19 hospitalizations, intensive-care-unit use and ventilators Monday, and Beshear said 58 of the state’s 96 acute-care hospitals have critical staffing shortages, up from 50 on Friday.

He said more Kentucky children than ever are getting Covid-19, with cases among youth eight times higher than they were last August, going from 2,352 a year ago to more than 18,900 this month. Percentagewise, last August, 11.8% of Covid-19 cases in Kentucky were under 18; this month, it’s 24.5%.

“More kids are getting Covid right now than we ever thought imaginable,” Beshear said.

He said for months, youth and young adults between 10-19 have been getting Covid at a higher rate than other age groups. “These are our school-aged children,” he emphasized.

Beshear spoke at length about the need for universal masking in Kentucky’s schools, a question the legislature will now decide since the state Supreme Court upheld several laws that limit the governor’s emergency powers.

Senate President Robert Stivers said in an interview broadcast Sunday that he expects the legislature to let local school officials decide mask policy, perhaps within some guidelines.

Asked by Kentucky Health News what parameters would be acceptable to him, Beshear again stressed that universal masking is the “one right answer” but said “If they won’t do universal masking, but they say we will establish a metric by which if you hit a certain point, you have to and if you’re under that you still can. If that’s the best we can get, I’ll take it and we’ll do the very best that we can from there to try to continue to educate.”

Nineteen Kentucky school districts have paused normal instruction this month due to coronavirus cases. Heather Antle, an instructional aide at Lee County Elementary School, died Sunday from Covid-19 and three other employees have been hospitalized from it, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports.

Daily numbers: Beshear reported 4,050 new cases on Saturday, 3,249 Sunday and 2,619 on Monday, with 752 of Monday’s cases in people 18 and younger. That raised the seven-day rolling average to new records, but the rise from to Sunday to Monday was only four cases; the average is now 4,232 per day.

The percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days is 13.45%, again the highest since testing became widely available in soring 2020. Beshear said everyone should be tested regularly, since the virus is so widespread and can be spread by people without symptoms.

Hospitals also continue to report record numbers, with 2,198 Covid-19 patients, 615 of them in intensive care and 361 of those on mechanical ventilation.

Beshear said 21 children are hospitalized with Covid-19, seven of them in intensive care and three on mechanical ventilation.

Since Saturday, 56 more Covid-19 deaths have been recorded, with 25 reported on Monday and four of those being people in their 30s. The death toll is now 7,741.

Again, Beshear invited healthcare professionals to tell the real stories of how Covid-19 is overwhelming their hospitals, with all of them asking Kentuckians to get vaccinated.

“That’s the one thing you can do for our community,” said Sherrie Mays, vice president and chief nursing officer for Baptist Health Corbin. “The other thing you can do for our community is pray for our patients, and pray for our staff and our physicians that they can be resilient during this pandemic and that we can get through it as quickly as possible.”

He said the state has 115 intensive-care beds available and has had to provide ventilators to Advent Health in Manchester, after having done the same last week to TJ Samson Community Hospital in Glasgow.

The statewide new-case rate over the last seven days is 87.53 daily cases per 100,000 residents. Counties with rates more than double that rate are Owsley, 284.7; Clay, 246.9; Bell, 245.9; Whitley, 233.2; Perry, 200.8; Powell, 183.8; and Wolfe, 183.6.

The only county not in the state’s red zone, for counties with 25 cases per 100,000, is Woodford County, the county with the highest vaccination rate.

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