Kentucky Meets Most of the Criteria of White House Phase One for Reopening but No Longer Appears to
It does not appear that the Beshear Administration is following the White House’s guidelines for reopening the economy, despite indicating that they would be when the plan was announced on April 16th and repeatedly making reference to the guidelines since. On April 27th, Governor Beshear announced a four phase plan for reopening health care, which bears virtually no resemblance the outline of the three phased Opening Up America Again released by the White House Coronavirus Taskforce.
Regardless, with two additional weeks of data, it remains worthwhile to look at how Kentucky stacks up with the White House’s actual criteria.
The criteria is the following:
- Downward trajectory of influenza like illnesses reported within a 14 day period (AND) downward trajectory of COVID like syndromic cases reported within a 14 day period
- Downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14 day period (OR) downward trajectory of positive tests as a percentage of total tests within a 14 day period
- Treat all patients without crisis care (AND) Robust resting programs in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emergency anti-body testing.
So, How Does Kentucky Stack Up?
Influenza Like Illness numbers, which are tracked by every state in the US and compiled by the CDC, have shown Kentucky declining every week since mid-February.
There is equally growing evidence that Kentucky is on a downward trajectory in overall coronavirus cases. It’s worth noting, the Beshear Administration has chosen to interpret this criteria as 14 consecutive days of declining test numbers, rather than the downward trajectory guideline outlines by public health officials and the White House. It is unclear why the state is using a different criteria.
In his Presentation Heard ‘Round the Commonwealth to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce last week, Pegasus Institute Senior Fellow Paul Coomes measured Kentucky’s peak of cases being around April 10, with a downward trajectory taking place since then.
Also, as Pegasus Institute research showed over the weekend, new hospital admission numbers have declined significantly in the last week as well, with 19.2 admissions per day last week versus 78.4 admissions per day the previous week, a decline of 75%.
Even before those declines the state already met the criteria for crisis care. At no point during the coronavirus pandemic has the state been close to crisis care levels, or even normal hospitalization levels. Kentucky currently has 6,210 available hospital beds and 449 available ICU beds, far more than the current or projected hospitalizations or ICU bed needs for the state. As of April 27th, there are 313 individuals hospitalized for COVID-19 in the Commonwealth with 165 in the ICU.
The most notable area that Kentucky continues to fall short is in testing, a continuous problem for the state over the course of this pandemic. As of Monday, Kentucky ranked 42nd in the United States in tests per capita, with about 1/3 of the tests administered as Tennessee. There has been very little talk, as of April 28th, about anti-body testing in the state, though the state has announced it will be hiring people to help with contact tracing. The testing criteria is specific to healthcare workers, however, and there is every sign that even in this area, Kentucky can meet the requirement to have robust testing for at-risk health care workers.