Christian County COVID-19 cases surge; health department reports first death in 3 months

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13.2

was the most recent incidence rate.

102
65

new cases of coronavirus have been reported in the last 7 days.

7267

total cases have been reported since the pandemic began.

Local & Active

The last time there was such a sharp increase in local coronavirus cases was July 2020.

In the two weeks ending on July 23, the seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases in Christian County increased 282%. Prior to this month, which has seen a sharp increase in cases of the virus, the county hasn’t seen such such an upsurge since July 20, 2020, when there was an increase of 350% over the previous two weeks.

A report Friday from the Christian County Health Department confirmed 65 new cases of the virus — up from 37 last week — and the first COVID-19 death in more than two months.

“Increases across the state are often within communities with lower vaccination rates,” Christian County Health Department spokeswoman Amanda Sweeney Brunt said in a news release Friday morning. “If you haven’t already, we strongly encourage our community members to get vaccinated and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The health department continues to offer free Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccinations every Thursday from 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome.”

As of Friday, 7,267 Christian County residents had tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began — more than one in every 10.

The most recent report marked the ninth weekly release of COVID-19 information by local health officials since they announced they would stop giving daily updates.

Christian County has confirmed 3 cases or the Delta variant, but it’s likely the number is much higher.

Three cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant had been confirmed in Christian County as of Wednesday, according to a report provided to Hoptown Chronicle by the Kentucky Department for Public Health.

The variant is likely the source of a much larger number of infections locally, government and public health officials warn.

According to the most recent estimates from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention, the highly contagious Delta variant — previously known as B.1.617.2 — accounts for more than 83% of new COVID-19 cases nationwide.

The variant is “currently surging in areas of the United States with low vaccination rates,” CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky said during a recent White House briefing. It’s a point of concern for Christian County, where just 22.47% of the population was vaccinated as of Friday.

In Kentucky, like other states, sequencing of confirmed COVID-19 cases is done only occasionally and is oftentimes reported on a significant delay.

“Molecular sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 virus detected from individuals with COVID-19 in Kentucky to identify variants of concern/interest is performed at the Kentucky Department for Public Health laboratory by request only,” department spokesman Brice Mitchell told Hoptown Chronicle. “This testing is prioritized for cases of COVID-19 that are of particular concern to public health, including suspected vaccine breakthrough cases, outbreak-associated cases, travel-associated cases or other cases of public health significance. Typically, results from molecular sequencing are available several weeks after the case has occurred due to normal delays in case identification, specimen transit and testing protocols.”

As the coronavirus mutation escalates in Kentucky and elsewhere, Gov. Andy Beshear on Monday urged unvaccinated Kentuckians and vaccinated residents with heavy exposure to the public to wear a mask when not in their home.

Counties across the state, including several in western Kentucky, have returned to the ‘red zone.’

Kentucky Department for Public Health incidence rate map for Thursday, July 22 (Based on reporting times, local and state numbers can be slightly different.)

At 13.2, the local incidence rate returned to the orange “accelerated” zone of transmission — a category that it hasn’t been included in since May 5.

Two neighboring counties — Hopkins and Muhlenberg — were among just 13 communities in the state that received the red “critical” designation for transmission. Nearby Webster County also was among the red zone counties, which includes counties with 25 or more new cases per 100,000 residents. It’s a label Christian County has avoided since February.

On Thursday, Beshear issued several recommendations for such counties, including postponement of large public events. He also said he hasn’t ruled out re-imposing restrictions, noting his decision would be basked on the number of hospitalizations and how sick individuals are, as well as the percentage of breakthrough cases among vaccinated people.

In Christian County, confirmed active cases have more than doubled in the last week.

The health department’s report included 99 active COVID-19 cases — more than doubling last week’s total of 47.

Of the active cases, 74 were among residents between the ages of 22 and 59. No active cases were confirmed among the community’s oldest population group, which is also the group that has the highest rate of COVID-19 vaccination. 

The highest the county’s active caseload has ever reached was 924 on Jan. 13. On March. 1, there were 140 active cases. The health department considers a COVID-19 case active if the infected individual is still under quarantine and is, therefore, deemed contagious.

Hospitalizations

On Monday, there were 3 people hospitalized with COVID-19 at Jennie Stuart.

There were three people hospitalized with COVID-19 Monday at Jennie Stuart Medical Center, according to spokeswoman Jayme Tubbs. Over the last week, there has been an average of three patients being treated for the virus each day — up from one a month ago.

After dropping to zero on seven different occasions between June 11 and 27, Jennie Stuart has seen an uptick in coronavirus hospitalizations, twice reporting six patients who were being treating for the virus.

At the pandemic’s peak in early January, the hospital was treating an average of 41 COVID-19 patients per day. 

Patient counts provided by the hospital don’t include COVID-positive individuals who receive treatment in the hospital’s emergency department, physicians’ offices or urgent care.

Vaccine

Only about 3% of local COVID-19 cases have been among vaccinated residents.

Since Christian County’s vaccination efforts got underway, just five cases of the virus had been confirmed among fully vaccinated residents as of Thursday, Sweeney Brunt told Hoptown Chronicle. 

Since Feb. 1 — around the time the first residents would have been considered fully vaccinated — 1,639 coronavirus cases have been confirmed by local health officials.

Christian County has the second worst vaccination rate in Kentucky. 

On Monday, Christian County’s vaccination rate was the second worst in the state at 22.76% for the total population, according to the state’s vaccine database. For the last several months, it ranked last — a position that on Monday was taken by Ballard County, where 22.32% of residents are vaccinated.

According to the database, 30.10% of Christian County adults (18 and older) and 56.60% of the county’s seniors (65 and older) had received at least one dose of vaccine. 

According to the data, 51% of all Kentuckians, 62% of adults and 83% of the state’s seniors had received at least one dose of vaccine. 

Woodford County had the best rate in the state on Monday, with 67.13% of residents vaccinated.

State

Gov. Andy Beshear issued new mask guidance on Monday. 

As the Delta variant escalates in Kentucky and elsewhere, Gov. Andy Beshear urged unvaccinated Kentuckians and vaccinated residents with heavy exposure to the public to wear a mask when not in their home.

The announcement comes just more than a month after Beshear ended the statewide mask mandate and capacity limits for most public venues on June 11.

The recommendations are:

  • All unvaccinated Kentuckians should wear masks indoors when not in their home
  • Kentuckians at higher risk from COVID-19 due to pre-existing conditions should wear masks indoors when not in their home
  • Vaccinated Kentuckians in jobs with significant public exposure should consider wearing a mask at work
  • All unvaccinated Kentuckians, when eligible, should be vaccinated immediately

COVID-19 cases have soared in the last few weeks.

In the last 10 days, the state’s seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases has doubled. On Monday, state health officials reported 783 new virus cases and a positivity rate of 7.89%.

In less than two weeks, COVID-19 hospitalizations in Kentucky also have doubled, with the state reporting 486 patients being treated on Monday. Of those, 159 were in intensive care units and 71 were on ventilators.

Deaths

The county has reported its first COVID-19 death in three months.

Local health officials on Friday reported the first virus-related death in three months.

The deceased was a 65-year-old woman. No underlying health conditions were reported in a news release from the Christian County Health Department.

Department spokeswoman Amanda Sweeney Brunt told Hoptown Chronicle that the woman had died recently. 

Previously, the most recent COVID-19 death was reported on April 23.

According to a state Department of Public Health report released on July 22, Christian County’s coronavirus death toll is 107. The county health department has not provided an explanation for the discrepancy.

Of all months since the pandemic began, the largest number of coronavirus deaths were reported in January, with 17 residents dying with the virus. 

The vast majority of deaths attributed to the virus have been among individuals with underlying health conditions. However, some people may not even be aware they have any medical issues until they contract the virus, health officials warn. Locally, common underlying conditions have included high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease and lung disease.

Remembering the lives lost to coronavirus

While the death total provides a glimpse at the toll the virus has taken on our community, it is more difficult to measure the loss with just a number.

In an effort to provide a more meaningful representation of that loss, Hoptown Chronicle will share the stories of those who have died of coronavirus complications. If you have a loved one you’d like us to feature, let us know.

Tara Felice Mahone

A court designated worker in Christian County known for her passion for mentoring youth within the community, Tara Felice Mahone died of COVID-19 on Jan. 15 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. She was 48 years old, the youngest of Hopkinsville City Councilwoman Patricia Waddell-Bell’s five children.

Mahone, who had earned her master’s degree in social work, was months away from earning a second master’s in criminal justice. She’ll now be recognized with a posthumous induction into the Kentucky Department of Family and Juvenile Services’ Hall of Fame.

Clyde Wallace

Retired Hopkinsville educator Clyde Wallace died Dec. 2 at Jennie Stuart Medical Center, where he was being treated for coronavirus. He was 71.

Wallace began his teaching career in the early 1970s at Morningside Elementary School. He was later principal of Belmont Elementary and finished his career as an assistant superintendent in the central office. During his career as an educator, he influenced the lives of many students and colleagues and was known for his “quick wit and fearless leadership.”

Wallace was the first seriously ill coronavirus patient in Hopkinsville whose story was widely shared during his treatment. Shortly after his father was hospitalized, Taylor Wallace said he hoped the story would make others aware of the seriousness of the disease.

Douglas E. Williams

Entrepreneur Douglas E. Williams, of Hopkinsville, died Nov. 19 after a short battle with COVID-19, according to his obituary. He was 89.

Co-owner of Williams Chevrolet and founder of Williams Advertising, Williams worked up until shortly before his death “doing what he loved — talking with his customers, writing up their pen and calendar orders, and refusing to be convinced … that computers were the most efficient way to conduct business.”

Edward Cardin Keller

Edward Cardin Keller, of Hopkinsville, died Saturday, December 26, at Jennie Stuart Medical Center from complications of COVID-19, his obituary states. He was 78.

A native of Pembroke, Keller served as a locomotive engineer for CSX Railroad and was a member of New Ebenezer Baptist Church. He was remembered as a caring husband and father.

Long-term care facilities

Of Christian County’s total confirmed coronavirus cases, nearly 12% have been among long-term care residents and staff.

Since the pandemic began, 406 residents and 437 staff of Christian County long-term care facilities had tested positive for COVID-19, according to reports released by the Kentucky Department for Public Health. The total accounts for approximately 12% of all coronavirus cases confirmed locally. 

On June 19, the state discontinued its daily report of COVID-19 cases at long-term care facilities. 

Schools

Since September, approximately 16% of the county’s students have had to quarantine.

When local schools adjourned for summer break in late May, 1,525 students — approximately 16% — and 56 staff members had been placed in quarantine due to school-related exposure to COVID-19. Additionally, 407 students and 172 staff had tested positive for the virus.

The data was made available by schools after Gov. Andy Beshear implemented a self-reporting requirement in September. The state required all public and private schools to report positive coronavirus cases, as well as quarantines that are a result of school-related activities, including extracurriculars and athletics.

For the last several months of the school year, Christian County’s private schools — Heritage Christian Academy, University Heights Academy and Saints Peter and Paul — effectively ceased reporting. 

Mobility

Mobility data shows local social distancing trends.

Visits to Christian County transit stations peaked on Oct. 18, a marker that typically precedes a spike in cases. People spent 50% more time than normal at locations like highway rest stops and car rental agencies, according to recent Google location data. The second-highest level the metric has ever reached was 49% above baseline on Oct. 4, which marked the beginning of fall break for local schools.

Using the same kind of aggregated and anonymized information used to show popular times for places in Google Maps, the tech company in April began releasing COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports to help public health officials manage their response to the ongoing public health crisis. The reports show movement trends to various places as compared to a median value established during the five-week period from Jan. 3 to Feb. 6, 2020.

Movement trends within Christian County compared to a median value, for the corresponding day of the week, during the 5-week period Jan 3–Feb 6, 2020. Click any line to isolate a category.

About the data

Hoptown Chronicle is using data provided by the Christian County Health Department, Christian County Public Schools, Jennie Stuart Medical Center, the Kentucky Department of Public Health and Google’s Community Mobility Reports to track the novel coronavirus in Christian County.

Incidence rate

The incidence rate is the seven-day average of new cases adjusted for a population of 100,000.

Because state case numbers typically lag behind, Hoptown Chronicle is calculating the local incidence rate using the health department’s daily reports and the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau population estimate for Christian County — 70,461, the same figure used by the state — to provide readers with the most current information available. Learn more about how we calculate this metric and why it’s important here. This information is also used to determine the level of community spread within the community or if the county is considered to be in a “red zone.”

Active cases

The determination of whether a coronavirus case is considered active is made by the Christian County Health Department. 

The health department makes the determination on a case-by-case basis, but individuals are only considered for a “recovered” designation if they have completed a 10-day mandatory isolation period, have been fever-free (meaning he/she is not taking any medication to suppress fever such as Tylenol, etc.) and has had an improvement in any symptoms.

Schools data

State law requires parents and guardians to notify a student’s school within 24 hours if a student tests positive for COVID-19. In turn, all schools are required to report positive coronavirus cases each weekday their school is in session (whether instruction is in-person, virtual or a combination of both) to inform communities as they make decisions during the pandemic. They must also report the number of students and staff quarantined due to exposure that has occurred through school-related activities, including extracurricular and athletic activities.

Long-term care data

Positive cases of the novel coronavirus in long-term care facilities are reported every day by local health departments and long-term care facilities to the Kentucky Department for Public Health. The state DPH makes this information available to the public almost every day on kycovid19.ky.gov.

Correction: Dec. 30, 2020
Because of a miscalculation by Hoptown Chronicle, the incidence rate and seven-day average listed for Dec. 28 and Dec. 29 in an earlier version of this article were incorrect. The number of confirmed cases so far this month also was misstated.