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Beshear orders audit of COVID death reports

Gov. Andy Beshear says he has ordered an audit of Covid-19 deaths reported in at least some parts of the state, saying that some persons responsible for auditing and reporting Covid deaths had “ stopped” when cases began to spike in November.

Beshear said Indiana and Ohio have conducted audits to ensure their numbers are correct, and now Kentucky will have to do the same.

“We performed this audit in real time until cases skyrocketed in November,” Beshear said. “Recently, we learned those who regularly performed these functions fell behind and stopped doing some of those checks. Instead, they relied solely on reports from local health departments, something the state is fully caught up in, in terms of what it sent to us.”

The Mountain Eagle reported January 6 that numbers of deaths appeared to grossly under reported in Letcher County, based on numbers from a national COVID tracking project, medical personnel, family members of persons who have died of the virus, mortuary sources, and the state’s own numbers of deaths in Letcher Manor Nursing Home as reported over the prior two weeks.

At the time, the state was reporting just four deaths throughout the county, but six deaths at the nursing home along. At that time, the Eagle estimated the number of deaths at between 16 and 20 overall, with more than a dozen in the previous two weeks alone. The number of Covid deaths counted by The Mountain Eagle’s sources have increased since that time, and are now estimated in the mid-30s.

Numbers reported by the state began increased the first week of February – first to six, then 13, then 16. It increased to 18 the following week, and by Tuesday, the number reported dead here was 29. The state is reporting a total of 20 deaths at the nursing home last year and this year.

Beshear reported six deaths in Letcher County on Monday, but it was not clear when those deaths actually occurred.

Those included a 76-year-old woman, an 85-year-old woman, a 91-year-old woman, a 60-yearold man, a 75-year-old man, and a 94-year-old-man.

Meanwhile, the incident rate here continues to decline as the vaccine rollout picks up speed. The county is getting more than 900 doses per week now, and 36,500 doses the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only a single shot, are to be shipped to Kentucky this week. That number will continue to rise.

Experts urge people to continue to wear masks and social distance until everyone is fully vaccinated.

Total numbers of cases and deaths in Letcher and the surrounding area, as reported by the state, are as follows, along with cases reported by the state of Virginia in Wise County and the City of Norton.

Knott – Total 1,055 (17 dead, incident rate 24.1)

Lee – Total 1,195 (19 dead, incident rate 11.6)

Leslie – Total 793 (2 dead, incident rate 28.9)

Letcher – Total 1,698 (29 dead, incident rate 10.1)

Owsley – Total 429 (10 dead, incident rate 55.0)

Perry – Total 2,334 (38 dead, incident rate 18.9)

Wolfe – Total 433 (4 dead, incident rate 4.0)

Harlan – Total 2,399 (69 dead, 16.5 incident rate )

Pike – Total 5,161 (60 dead, incident rate 21.5)

Wise Co., VA – Total 2,878 (149 hospitalized, 92 dead)

Norton, VA – Total 239 (17 hospitalized, 6 dead)

— By SAM ADAMS

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