Local mortality rate rises above state, nation

Although a slight decrease in cases was reported the previous week, Judge-Executive Dan Mosley is concerned about a new threat plaguing Harlan County as the mortality rate of COVID-19 cases seems to be on the rise.

“I have some disturbing news to start this update. For every 100 COVID-19 cases we are confirming in Harlan County, three people are dying from the virus right here in this county,” he said. “This is alarming. The mortality rate in this county is 2.82 percent, undoubtedly one of the highest, and maybe even the highest, in Kentucky. The state’s mortality rate is 0.99 percent, meaning the state average is slightly less than one death per 100 cases. The nation’s mortality rate for COVID-19 is 1.67 percent.”

Compared to the early months when COVID-19 was first beginning to spread in the county, deaths have skyrocketed from a mere two or three during summer to 17 deaths in December and 27 so far in January.

Three additional deaths were confirmed in the county on Monday.

“Please remember the families of these individuals in your thoughts and prayers. Our death toll to COVID-19 is 60 residents since the pandemic began. This is 18 new deaths confirmed since Monday of last week. Five of the 18 occurred in December,” Mosley said.

On Monday, officials reported 27 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 2,126 cases in Harlan County.

There are at least 180 active cases currently, and approximately 1,300 Harlan Countians have recovered from the virus. Mosley said number of recoveries are difficult to calculate due to incomplete follow-ups at this time.

“Just because a case is outside of their quarantine period, doesn’t mean they have recovered from the virus. We are hopeful as case counts come down, more follow-ups can be conducted on the nearly 700 cases we had in December, and more than 500 already this month to determine if they have recovered or are still battling the effects of this virus. Some cases from November are also still struggling with this virus and a few even remain hospitalized,” he said.

Gov. Andy Beshear announced 1,268 new cases on Monday in Kentucky, which brings the state’s total cases to 347,836. Kentucky’s death total from COVID-19 is now at 3,460, with a positivity rate of 9.93 percent, down from last week nearly 1.5 percent.

The United States death toll from COVID-19 is now at 420,673, up more than 22,000 deaths since Monday evening of last week.

Roughly 308,812 vaccines have been administered across Kentucky, up 95,200 vaccines administered since Monday of last week. This includes those allocated for and administered in long-term care facilities.

The state continues to operate in Phase 1B of the vaccine plan, which includes people who are 70+ years old, first responders and K-12 school personnel. Those scheduled to receive second doses of the vaccine during the next three weeks will still receive those on the day scheduled by the facility that administered the initial dose.

Limited quantities of the vaccine remains an issue as the federal government is only allocating around 53,000 vaccines to Kentucky each week.

“We must all be patient with this process. I assure you that our healthcare providers are getting vaccines in people’s arms as fast as they’re received,” Mosley said. “Right now we have more vaccinators than we have vaccines. We have plenty of room in our community for capacity of vaccines and many providers who can administer these, we just need the vaccines!”

Mosley said he is not in favor of the proposed state plan to move into regional vaccine centers at this time, noting the quantities of vaccines are “not high enough to do this and will only pull vaccines from the health departments and hospitals doing it the right way right now.”

“Once quantities of the vaccine triple in availability and we are in Phase 1C, regional vaccine centers make sense. They do not make sense right now, and will only add burden to rural areas getting vaccines in arms of residents. I’ve communicated this concern to state officials and will continue to do so,” he said.

In Harlan County, as of Friday, approximately 1,600 doses of the vaccine have been administered by Harlan ARH, the Harlan County Health Department or the contracted pharmacies assigned to service the long-term care facilities and assisted living facility. Mosley said 1,400 doses have been first-round doses and nearly 200 doses have been second-round vaccines.

Below is the state plan on implementation of the vaccine in phases:
• Phase 1A: long term care facilities, assisted living facilities and healthcare personnel;
• Phase 1B: First Responders, anyone over the age of 70 and K-12 school personnel;
• Phase 1C: Anyone over the age of 60, anyone older than 16 with CDC highest risk C19 risk conditions and all essential workers;
• Phase 2: Anyone over the age of 40;
• Phase 3: Anyone over the age of 16;
• Phase 4: Anyone under the age of 16 if the vaccine is approved for this age group, which makes up 18 percent of the Kentucky population.

The state has set a goal that 90 percent of all vaccines received in state, be administered within seven days of arrival.

To stay updated on COVID-19 numbers in Harlan County, follow the Harlan County Health Department Facebook page or watch for Mosley’s update on the social media platform each Monday between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Scan the QR code with your smartphone or mobile device to see the latest numbers.