FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A prominent Kentucky infectious disease specialist who was hailed by the governor as a “front line hero” has died after a nearly four-month battle against COVID-19.
Dr. Rebecca Shadowen, who tested positive for the virus on May 13, died on Friday night, Med Center Health in Bowling Green said. Gov. Andy Beshear tweeted Saturday that he was “heartbroken" to hear of her death and urged people to follow her advice and “wear a mask in her honor."
Connie Smith, president and CEO of Med Center Health, said Shadowen “will forever be remembered as a nationally recognized expert who provided the very best care for our patients and community. She was a dear friend to many.”
Before contracting the virus, Shadowen led Med Center Health’s work in National Institute of Health trials of patients’ treatment for the virus, according to media reports.
Shadowen had said she believed she contracted the virus after an elderly family member received care at home from an infected caregiver.
“COVID-19 does not discriminate in its ability to penetrate our homes and communities," Shadowen said when announcing in the spring that she had tested positive for the virus.
While battling the virus, she surprised members of the Bowling Green–Warren County Coronavirus Workgroup by joining in a conference call, telling the group: “It’s a great day to be alive.” She stressed the importance of wearing a mask in public.
In his social media tribute Saturday, Beshear referred to Shadowen as a “front line hero who worked tirelessly to protect the lives of others."
Also Saturday, Beshear reported 721 new coronavirus cases in Kentucky, including 81 people who are 18 and younger. The state's total number of cases surpassed 56,410 since the start of the pandemic.
He reported 13 more virus-related deaths, raising the total statewide death count to 1,057.
The state’s closely watched positivity rate — a seven-day rolling figure reflecting the average number of tests coming back positive for COVID-19 — declined to 4.14%, the governor said.
“Our positivity rate is down from yesterday but we need to continue to push that number down,” Beshear said.
Meanwhile, the state's public health commissioner, Dr. Steven Stack, urged people to take precautions for the flu season as a way to help in the fight against the coronavirus.
“As we wait for a vaccine, there’s one thing we can do," he said. “We can get an immunization that already exists: the flu vaccine. Protecting ourselves against the flu is more important than ever. An influenza outbreak on top of the COVID-19 pandemic could be disastrous this fall and winter."
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal. The vast majority of people recover.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.