Amid national coronavirus progress, Kentucky must keep eyes on the ball

The Thinker at the University of Louisville, lit up green in memories of those who have died of COVID-19, and their families.


Every once in a while, this needs to be said. Today seems like a good time to do it: We need to keep our eyes on the ball. COVID-19 cases in New York, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called the “canary in the coal mine” in the U.S. battle against the novel coronavirus, appear to be decreasing.

A prominent model of COVID-19 projections on Wednesday dropped its number of expected deaths in the U.S. from just over 80,000 to just over 60,000, as a result of social-distancing measures.

The crush on the hospitals in New York City, while still considerable, may be moving toward a manageable situation. If you watch cable news (and I don’t recommend it) some semblance of normalcy is back because all the talk has returned to the personal blame game or the attempted destruction of one party or the other.

If I had to guess, we’re about a week away from a full-on return to full-octane animosity.

Don’t be distracted. Keep your eye on the ball.

Even as people start talking about ideas for re-starting the economy and the president starts talking about “light at the end of the tunnel,” it is a life-and-death matter to remember – we aren’t through the tunnel yet.

Fact: More people died Wednesday from COVID-19 than any day yet in the United States. On Wednesday, the U.S. officially recorded 1,970 new deaths from the coronavirus, including 779 in New York alone. On Sunday, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said, “The next week is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment. It’s going to be our 9/11 moment.”

In those two attacks, the U.S. lost 5,399 people. So far this week alone, 6,331 have died of COVID-19.

As I’ve pointed out, when it comes to hospital beds and total cases, Kentucky would appear to have avoided some of the more frightening scenarios that showed the state needing more capacity than it has.

Where the projections haven’t been off, however, is in number of deaths. Kentucky reported 73 deaths as of Wednesday afternoon. A model from the University of Washington called for the state to have 75. That’s pretty close. Which means that if the overall projection for the state of 1,017 by the end of June is correct, we’re in for a grim several weeks.

“While nationally they’re talking about this week and next week being very tough weeks that our nation is going to face,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said on Wednesday, “we know that we’re going a little bit slower and maybe a little bit longer, and hoping to save lives.”

As frustrating as it is – particularly for those who are out of work or who have businesses that they fear won’t come back – Kentucky is going to have to remain hunkered down for a little longer. It’s our only weapon against this virus. The other weapon that could be deployed – testing on a mass scale – is nowhere close to happening here, nor anywhere else.

So while the time has come for government and business leaders to think about plans for returning to life in a limited way and figure out the best way to restart a sedated economy, here in Kentucky, the fight remains in its early stages.

This virus can kill you. Because of the health profile of many Kentuckians, it can kill many in this state if given the opportunity.

There are a great many distractions out there. Political allegiance. Economic frustration. Just plain boredom and cabin fever.

Even President Donald Trump, who badly wants the economy restarted, can’t venture a guess as to when the return to business will come.

“The numbers are changing and they’re changing rapidly and soon we’ll be over that curve,” Trump said Wednesday. “We’ll be over the top and we’ll be headed in the right direction. I feel strongly about that. . . . I can’t tell you in terms of the date.”

For now, distractions in Kentucky could remain deadly. We have to keep our eyes on the ball.

ENDING ON A POSITIVE

Good news for Louisville journalist Jody Demling. He’s off the ventilator and conscious. He still has a little ways to go, but has apparently passed the crucial test in has battle against COVID-19 and looks to be on his way to recovery.

Demling, a color analyst for University of Louisville sports and a part-time analyst for WAVE-TV, fell ill just over two weeks ago and went into the hospital last Friday with difficulty breathing. He went onto a ventilator on Saturday.

His recovery illustrates the seriousness of the virus even for some who beat it. But his recovery is welcome news for sports fans in the city and state.