Ky. reports 273 new coronavirus cases, by far the largest in a day, but health commissioner says numbers still ‘relatively plateaued’

Dr. Steven Stack, state commissioner of public health
As news develops about the coronavirus and its covid-19 disease, this item may be updated. Official state guidance is at

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

As he reported by far the largest number of new coronavirus cases in Kentucky a single day, 273, Gov. Andy Beshear said “That doesn’t mean we are not on the right track. We are. This is just how this virus works.”

The day before, Beshear had reported 206 new cases, which at the time was the second largest, but said he thought a plateau had been reached, on the basis of a three-day rolling average. Saturday, that average was 166; on Sunday, it jumped to 204.

Health Commissioner Steven Stack said, “Our numbers are still relatively flat, they’re relatively plateaued, even though today’s the biggest number.” He said Sunday’s figure made clear that Kentucky is at least two weeks from relaxing social-distancing rules that limit sharing of the virus. Federal guidelines call for “downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period” or “downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period.”

“That is something Dr. Stack will watch and make that call on,” Beshear said.

He and Stack indicated that the greatest obstacle may be getting the materials that are needed to expand testing to people who aren’t showing symptoms of the covid-19 disease, another part of the guidelines President Trump issued Friday. Stack said testing, and tracing of contacts of people who test positive, will have to be “much more robust” and last longer “than previous diseases.”

”We may have to, on a typical day, test one-tenth to one-third of 1 percent of the total population, so that would be about 9,000 to about 13,500 tests per day,” Stack said. ”At that rate, in four days the state would exceed the number of tests done so far.”

Previous White House guidelines pointed toward some loosening of restrictions by May 1, but the latest has no dates, and leave testing up to the states.

“I know we all target a May 1 date,” Stack said. “That sorta got put out there. We’re gonna work real hard with all the health-care community and others to try to make sure we can start to do phased steps as soon as are reasonably safe, but remember, we’re gonna have to keep looking for that rate of new cases to determine when we get to the first-stage gate.”

And he warned again that the disease will “come back when we stop doing all of these social-distancing measures. So you are forever gonna have to wash your hands a lot more than you ever did before. Wearing masks is probably going to become a much more normal and typical part of our lives going forward, and doing other steps to have social distancing are gonna be part of our new normal. . . . Obviously we’re gonna work real hard to try to do this in as calibrated a way as we can to minimize disruptions.”

Beshear said the state will “go from encouraging to highly encouraging” that cloth masks be worn in public. “It’s gonna look very different as we go forward,” he said. He began his daily briefing by asking for patience: “I know it feels like a long time. It’s been over a month; remember that greatest generation went through years” of sacrifice in World War II.

Beshear has said the first easing is likely to be among health-care providers. Asked why Kentucky is the only state where chiropractors can’t open, he said “I was relying on our public-health experts,” and called Stack to the lectern. Stack said, “Chiropractic is a real hands-on experience,” and was the health-care field that was “hands down” the target of most complaints about violations of early restrictions. He said all providers will be asked to demonstrate how they will be be efficiently use protective gear and practice social distancing “to keep people from getting infected.”

In other covid-19 news Sunday:

  • Beshear reported four more deaths, for a total of 148; all four apparently were at long-term-care facilities; he said later that they had four more deaths. That makes a total of 50 at such facilities. The deaths were an 85-year-old woman in Jackson County, a 61-year-old man in Jefferson County, a 94-year-old woman in Hopkins County and a 93-year-old woman in Graves County.
  • The Cumberland Valley District Health Department announced that 12 new cases had been found at the Jackson Manor nursing home in Annville, some of whom tested negative earlier. Beshear said people “can test negative before the virus exerts itself,” and testing nursing-home patients is “one of our top priorities.” He said some people aged 60 to 75 with the virus can have mild or no symptoms, including those at long-term-care facilities.
  • Long-term care facilities reported 33 more cases among residents and eight more among staff, for totals of 386 and 172, respectively.
  • Beshear said 129 of Sunday’s new cases were in Jefferson County. Other counties reporting more than six new cases were Kenton, 21; Daviess and Muhlenberg, 17 each; Butler, 10; Graves, nine; and Jackson and Warren, eight each.
  • Asked if was concerned for his safety after a social-media call to “eliminate him by any means necessary via the Second Amendment,” Beshear said he fully trusts the state police, who protect him. “They know what they’re doing, and I couldn’t be in better hands,” he said. Several Republican officeholders who were critical of Beshear last week decried the threat. So did Sen. Steve Meredith, R-Leitchfield, who wrote on Facebook, “Tragically, this is not an isolated incident.”
  • As he made his daily mention of prioritizing mental health, Beshear said, “I’ve struggled with this; I have. … I know you have; I’ve had trouble calling people that I know that I would normally talk with.” He said he joined an online birthday party for the wife of one of his pastors, and “I feel better today because I participated in it.”
  • A federal judge denied the request of Maryville Baptist Church in Hillview for an order blocking Beshear from enforcing against churches his order against mass gatherings. “Church members gathered again anyway Sunday. But this time, no state troopers showed up outside to issue notices,” reports Andrew Wolfson of the Courier Journal.
  • In a long, comprehensive storyThe New York Times looks ahead: “There will be no quick return to our previous lives, according to two dozen experts. But there is hope for managing the scourge now and in the long term.” But also uncertainty, despite what President Trump might say, Donald McNeil writes: “The administration’s view of the crisis and our future has been rosier than that of its own medical advisers, and of scientists generally. In truth, it is not clear to anyone where this crisis is leading us. . . . The scenario that Mr. Trump has been unrolling at his daily press briefings — that the lockdowns will end soon, that a protective pill is almost at hand, that football stadiums and restaurants will soon be full — is a fantasy, most experts said.” Even a vaccine, the Holy Grail of the crisis, may “initially elude scientists.”
  • “The United States is embarking on a rapid-fire experiment in borrowing without precedent, as the government and corporations take on trillions of dollars of debt to offset the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic,” writes David Lynch of The Washington Post. To support such borrowing, the Federal Reserve has dropped interest rates to zero and added more than $2 trillion of loans to its portfolio in the past six weeks — as much as in the four years following the Great Recession.” With government, business and consumer debt already high, economists fret. “We should be very worried,” Princeton University professor Atif Mian told Lynch. “We are talking about a level of debt that would certainly be unprecedented in modern history or in history, period. We are definitely at a tipping point.”
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