Beshear projects number of deaths based on compliance rates; plasma from recovered patients helps two critical ones; story tells risks to health workers; what are best materials to make masks?
(Story by Kentucky Health News, which is 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.)
Gov. Andy Beshear put the need for social distancing to fight covid-19 in stark terms Friday, displaying a chart that said poor compliance with his orders could cost 11,000 Kentuckians their lives. The chart resembled others he has shown, but was the first specific to Kentucky, and he said, “As the days go by I’m going to show you other projections. . . . Your choices could save 11,000 people.”
One line on previous charts, but not on Beshear’s, is a horizontal marker showing the capacity limits of the health-care system. His orders are designed to flatten the bell-shaped curve that pandemics follow, so the number of cases doesn’t exceed the system’s capacity. But that also means the restrictions that began in mid-March could last longer, and his projection of 2,000 deaths with strict compliance was for three months.
“If we’re going through May, it’s working,” he said at his daily press conference. “If we have really great success we may be at it a little bit longer.” He said that as the curve subsides, restrictions could be relaxed gradually. At another point, he said, “We know we’re gonna be at this for weeks or months.”
Beshear did not say how his numbers were calculated. The latest projection for Kentucky from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington says the state’s most likely peak for deaths and hospital-bed needs is May 17, with a curve that largely subsides by late June. Its likeliest number of deaths is 821, but like all projections it suffers from limited data; it says the possible number of deaths on the peak day ranges from 1 to 37.
Health Commissioner Steven Stack said on KET‘s “Coronavirus Update” Friday night that the IHME projections “seem to me to be more optimistic than a number of other sources that are publicly available.”
Beshear reported six more deaths Friday, for a total of 37, and 90 more confirmed cases, for a total of 831. “We are not escalating every day,” he said. “I believe that’s directly attributable to the steps that we’re taking, and your hard work . . . 90 will become a small number moving into the future [but] it’s better news at least than many are having.”
Here is other news on covid-19 Friday:
• Beshear said the deaths were two women in Louisville, aged 60 and 88; two men in Louisville, 64 and 69; an 85-year-old woman in Madison County, and a 66-year-old woman in Hopkins County.
• Baptist Health Lexington has used blood plasma from a recovered covid-19 patient “as a potential treatment for two critically ill covid-19 patients,” the hospital announced. “The mortality rate for patients in their conditions is 50 percent to 80 percent, according to Dr. Mark Dougherty, infectious disease specialist and … epidemiologist,” the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. “But he said the two patients were improving and that he was “cautiously optimistic” about their conditions.”
• “Many frontline health-care workers’ protection is being sacrificed for the sake of conservation,” Alex Acquisto reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader, in a chilling story about the critical shortage of personal protective equipment.
• Beshear announced a toll-free number to guide donations of PPE: 1-833-GIVE-PPE. He said donations are being accepted at state police posts and Transportation Cabinet district offices in Louisville and Lexington. “I believe we have millions and millions of pieces of PPE that are out there in Kentucky,” he said.
• Beshear called on 3M Corp. to temporarily license its patent for the badly needed N95 respirator mask so other companies can make it, and President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act “to ensure the federal government acquires more N95s,” the Louisville Courier Journal reports.
• The University of Kentucky said it would convert its football practice facility, Nutter Fieldhouse, into a 400-bed field hospital.
• UK researchers and faculty have formed a work group “to focus on advising covid-19 patient care and clinical trials based on emerging research and potential treatment options,” UK says.
• Kentucky homeless shelters say the state’s homeless are highly vulnerable to the coronavirus, and the shelters have asked Gov. Andy Beshear to use some of the state’s emergency federal money to help them, the Herald-Leader reports.
• “Four in 10 Americans are not properly allowing disinfectant sprays and wipes to kill the viruses and germs that can make us sick,” says the American Cleaning Institute, citing a poll it commissioned.
• Stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea without vomiting and loss of smell could indicate you have the virus, Louisville’s health director says.
• Music can help people deal with the stress caused by isolation and other ramifications of the coronavirus, an Ohio State professor says.
• Asked by Kentucky Health News about farmers’ markets, Beshear said social distancing must be practiced, and there should be one big change: “If you touch it, you buy it.”
• Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer urged retailers that are still open to enforce social-distancing rules. “Everybody has to act like they have the virus. . . . Put six feet of live-saving space between you and other people. . . . This is not negotiable.” He said he would have to close parks and other public spaces if noncompliance continues.
• Bank and real-estate lobbies have asked Beshear “to put guidelines in place for county clerk’s offices, saying that their closure halts essential services,” the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. “While some clerk’s offices have remained open or adjusted their operations, others have closed in an effort to help slow the spread of covid-19.” Beshear said Thursday that the Kentucky County Clerks Association told him it was working with the groups that sent the letter to address their concerns.
• The type of fabric used in homemade masks “is key to their effectiveness, according to tests performed at Wake Forest Baptist Health,” it says in a news release. “The best-performing design was constructed of two layers of high-quality, heavyweight “quilter’s cotton” with a thread count of 180 or more, and those with especially tight weave and thicker thread such as batiks. A double-layer mask with a simple cotton outer layer and an inner layer of flannel also performed well. . . . The inferior performers consisted of single-layer masks or double-layer designs of lower quality, lightweight cotton.”
• Responding to increased consumer demand for eggs during the pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration is allowing grocery stores to sell eggs in unlabeled flats and cartons that are typically sold to restaurants and bakeries.
• Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told McClatchy Newspapers that there are “bound to be plenty of mistakes” with implementing the covid-19 economic-rescue package. “You can’t pass a bill of this magnitude in a week and have a perfect implementation of $2.2 trillion.” The Washington Post has details.
• Covid-19 “seems to be causing gun sales to skyrocket across the country, but . . . Kentucky was the only state to have a decrease in gun background checks, according to data released by the FBI, the Herald-Leader reports.
• A Northern Kentucky woman is suing Beshear and Attorney General Daniel Cameron in federal court, challenging Beshear’s order that people entering Kentucky from other states must quarantine themselves for 14 days.
• “A Lexington-based uniform company that provides N95 masks to police has been accused of price gouging by two Arizona lawmakers,” the Herald-Leader reports. Galls, a uniform, equipment and gear store, was targeted in a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr Wednesday. “Galls provides masks to Phoenix’s police and fire departments, according to a letter posted online by Scripps.” UPDATE: Gall’s said it would sell to the agencies without making a profit.