Why Deaths May Go Up As Kentucky's New COVID Cases Go Down

May 21, 2020

As new coronavirus cases hold steady or even inch downward in the state, Kentucky is seeing a slight uptick in the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19. But there's a reason the disparity in numbers doesn't have health officials alarmed.

Credit AP Photo/Petr David Josek

New COVID cases may already be on a downslope, but the state has recorded 40 deaths over the past three days - a jump from previous three-day totals.

"A couple weeks ago our case rates were a bit higher and now they're going down ... Someone would say why are the deaths going up?" state Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack explained Thursday. "That's because the people who got sick two weeks ago are now in the most severe part of their illness where either they will recover or they will, unfortunately, die as a result of the illness."

Stack says patients in Kentucky who succumb to the disease pass away, on average, about 13 days after symptoms first appear.

"The deaths will peak later than the disease if we are getting the disease under control and the number of new patients is going down," he elaborated.

For now, Gov. Andy Beshear says it's too early to tell whether cases may be on the decline after plateauing for some weeks, but he says infection and hospitalization rates appear to be easing while the state deals with regional hotspots, such as Warren County.

Thursday saw 135 new cases and 10 deaths.

Other news:

  • A new batch of reopening dates were announced Thursday. Smaller family-style childcare facilities (with 10 children or fewer) will be allowed to open June 8th, with larger centers to follow on June 15th. Horse shows can go on starting June 8th. Meanwhile, the state has set a target date for opening bars and allowing gatherings of 50 people on June 29th.
  • Parents and guardians of students receiving free or reduced lunch at school will be eligible for additional benefits to buy food.
  • Gov. Beshear will provide a regular update Friday and an online update Saturday, and take a break this Sunday and Monday. The 5 pm updates will return on Tuesday.