After three months with no fatalities, Pulaski County reported two deaths in two days related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Lake Cumberland District Health Department (LCDHD) reported that a 53-year-old male who passed away Thursday had been released as free of the virus but succumbed to lingering complications from the disease. A 66-year-old female was reported late Friday.
The new fatalities bring Pulaski's total to four, after losing a 62-year-old man and 79-year-old woman in April. The first three had been hospitalized at the time of their passing but little was known about the fourth person at press time.
"Someone can be virus-free and thus 'released' from public health COVID-19 tracking — even while they are still in the hospital for lingering COVID-19 related complications — but later succumb to those complications," Shawn Crabtree, LCDHD Executive Director, noted.
As of Friday evening, there have been a total of 343 COVID-19 cases in the county since the first local case was reported in March with 249 having recovered. Of the 90 active cases, only two are hospitalized while the rest are in self-isolation.
The 10-county Lake Cumberland District has experienced a total of 1,285 cases since the onset of the outbreak.The top three categories of what the district's active cases are tied to, in descending order, are business, recreation, and travel.
As of Friday afternoon, there had been at least 33,796 coronavirus cases statewide, 573 of which were newly reported. The new Pulaski deaths — along with three others from Laurel, Graves and Jefferson counties — raised the number of fatalities in Kentucky to 765.
Of concern to Crabtree are social media posts and comments suggesting public health officials are inflating the numbers by counting duplicate positives or people who test negative.
"There are no duplicates," the executive director said. "Ninety-six percent of cases in our district are lab-confirmed."
Crabtree called the remaining four percent "epi-linked" – meaning that the individuals may not have been tested but are symptomatic and have been in close contact with someone who was positive. He added that less than one percent of those epidemiologically-linked cases may have actually tested negative but noted that would likely be due to a false negative or not carrying enough "viral load" to register.
"That is extremely rare," Crabtree said, "but no test is 100 percent accurate."
Crabtree also pointed out that the district's 1,251 cases (as of Thursday) represented just .6 percent of the total population across LCDHD's 10 counties. The district had seen 121 hospitalizations and 41 deaths (now 42), but he noted that those cases have been spread out since March. With the district's growth rate indicating that total cumulative case count will double about every 23 days, there is potential to strain the area's medical infrastructure.
"I think it's a fair observation that people who tend to be conservative tend to look at the here and now and be minimalist while people who are liberal look at trend analysis and projections and become alarmist," Crabtree said. "The truth is in between.
"I don't look at the models and become alarmist but I am realist," he continued. "We don't have to shut everything down but let's use common sense and avoid crowds when we can, wear face coverings, practice social distancing and wash our hands often. If we do that, then we should slow it down."