Beshear: Don't get too excited about peaks or valleys in COVID-19 data

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Posted at 4:55 PM, May 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-03 18:47:34-04

After taking Saturday off to honor the would-have-been date of the canceled Kentucky Derby, Gov. Andy Beshear returned to his usual COVID-19 news conference schedule Sunday afternoon. He had good news, he said — the new pandemic data he had received that day reported zero new deaths between Saturday and Sunday.

Moments later, however, he acknowledged the good news was largely a product of Kentucky’s testing and reporting practices. Sundays usually bring lower diagnosis and death numbers because fewer labs and health systems send in new data on Sundays.

“But just for one day, even if it’s just the official count, that feels pretty good to read,” he said.

At the time he spoke, the state had recorded a total of 5,130 cases and 253 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Although Sunday’s nil death total might have been a quirk of the reporting system, Kentucky’s numbers still trend low in the single digits more days than not. Neighboring Ohio hasn’t seen a single-digit death toll since April 12.

Beshear said he expected the state’s overall numbers would look worse — “tough,” he said — when new data came in from Green River Correctional Complex in Central City. Two employees at the federal prison tested positive in late March, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader, but masks and gloves remain scarce. One inmate died. At least 34 other people, both inmates and staff, have become ill.

“It’s like a death trap at this point,” one inmate’s wife told the Herald-Leader. “You have all of these men confined together in a space where the coronavirus is running rampant.”

Beshear acknowledged the data arriving from Green River could make difficult reading. However, he said, spikes produced by changes in testing and data collection — large amounts of testing being performed or processed at once in known COVID-positive communities, for instance — should be viewed as equally unrepresentative of Kentucky’s overall trends.

“No day right now just has 80 (new cases),” he said. “Just like no day had 300-something.”

The new week will also bring new testing sites, Beshear said. Hundreds of new slots have opened at Ashland-area Kroger stores; he encouraged Kentuckians to take advantage, sign up and later, most importantly, actually attend their appointment.

About 50 patients per testing site don’t.

“To sign up to take that slot and not show up, we can’t be doing that,” Beshear said.

Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Steven Stack will outline plans for the next phase of Kentucky’s reopening on Monday.