Beshear says more time needed to detect a ‘new bump’ in virus cases; says Supreme Court upholds his orders on gatherings

Kentucky Health News chart shows upward two-week trendline slightly lowered by latest report. 

As news develops about the coronavirus and its covid-19 disease, this item may be updated. Official state guidance is at

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

As he announced 155 more cases of the novel coronavirus in Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said he still wants more time to analyze the upward trend of recent days.

“It’s going to take five, six, seven days to try to truly see if this was perhaps related to our testing in long-term care [where] we are seeing an escalation of cases,” he said at his daily briefing. “We want to try to make reasonable determinations based on data and we simply don’t have enough right now to suggest that there is a new bump right now.”

Beshear said a week ago that the state had begun the long-forecast decline from a plateau of several weeks, but high numbers at the end of the week reversed the two-week trendline, a key metric for any epidemic. Tuesday’s number of 155 cases was much lower than those on three of the last four days, which had 214 or more cases. But the two-week trend remained decidedly upward.

“I still believe that if we are not plateaued, we are decreasing, but the data is going to bear that out,” Beshear said. “We are going to have to watch and see.”

The governor did not give an update on long-term care facilities Tuesday, but the latest long-term care facility report, dated May 31, showed that 1,358 residents and 621 employees had tested positive for the virus in 124 facilities, and 250 residents and two employees had died from it.

Beshear reported an adjusted total of 10,185 cases of the virus in Kentucky, at least 3,275 of whom have recovered. He said 481 people are hospitalized with covid-19, including 85 in intensive care. The counties with the highest number of new cases Tuesday were Jefferson, 46; Franklin, 17; and Fayette and Warren, each with 10.

He said 253,585 tests for the virus have been done in Kentucky, bringing it into the top half of states. As he has reopened the state’s economy, Beshear has encouraged Kentuckians to consider getting tested monthly, and more often if they have lots of contacts, to track the spread of the virus. “If we can continue our pace that we are on right now, it will certainly help us in restoring our economy more safely,” he said.

Beshear also announced that there have been three more deaths from covid-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 442. The fatalities were a 69-year-old woman from Clay County, a 94-year-old man from Jefferson County and a 92-year-old man from Muhlenberg County.

“Let’s keep lighting our homes up green” in honor of the dead, Beshear said. “Let’s continue to ring our bells at 10 a.m. Let’s do it for those that we’ve lost from this and from senseless violence. Everybody that we’ve lost that should still be here deserves that same level of compassion.”

The first part of Beshear’s briefing was spent on an update of the protests against police violence that have been going on in Louisville and across the state. He reiterated that black Kentuckians continue to be disproportionately affected by the virus, at a rate more than double their share of the state’s population.

“Before what we are seeing in Louisville and around the country, this again was showing what inequality results in, which is death,” he said. “We were seeing that because of inequalities that have lasted hundreds of years and absolutely exist in our health-care system. . . . This is not OK and we’re going to do something about it.”

Beshear said he would announce later this week an initial plan to address inequalities in health care, which will intend to “actually make change in the health of individuals.”

“Just like in many ways it shouldn’t have had to take some terrible incidents around our country to wake people up or to get them to listen to the type of injustices that are occurring in our society, it shouldn’t take a one-in-every-100-year pandemic for us to see the same in health care,” he said.

Beshear again cautioned protesters that the virus is still spreading, and asked them to do their best to be safe by wearing a mask, social distancing, and staying away from seniors and others vulnerable to the disease.

Switching to the courts and politics, Beshear noted that last Friday, the Supreme Court issued an order upholding the California governor’s orders limiting mass gatherings in houses of worship, orders similar to those issued by Beshear and other governors. The vote was 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court’s four liberals.

A Beshear news release noted that Roberts said state officials have broad latitude to protect public health. Roberts wrote, “Where those broad limits are not exceeded, they should not be subject to second-guessing by an ‘unelected federal judiciary,’ which lacks the background, competence, and expertise to assess public health and is not accountable to the people.”

Beshear said the ruling should resolve all current federal-court challenges to his emergency orders.

For additional information, including an up-to-date list of cases and deaths, as well as breakdowns of the virus by county, race and ethnicity, click here.

More covid-19 news for Tuesday: 

  • MedPage Editor in Chief Dr. Martin Makary of Johns Hopkins University talks about what the second wave of infections could look like, what vaccines and treatments in the pipeline are most exciting to him, and the value of wearing a mask, noting that the risk of airborne transmission is far greater than from the transmission of the virus through surfaces. “We’re increasingly learning the value of wearing masks in a situation like this,” he writes, “and I think it’s powerful.”
  • White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx said the U.S. should not expect the coronavirus outbreak to wane over the summer, Politico reports.. “None of us can be lulled into this false sense of security that the cases may go down this summer,” Birx said in a discussion with the German Marshall Fund president during the organization’s Brussels Forum webcast. She added that American leaders are preparing actively for the possibility of finding and containing future outbreaks through contact tracing and proactive surveillance.
  • About seven in 10 Americans say they would get a vaccine to protect against the coronavirus if it was free and available to everyone, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll. This number was higher among Democrats than Republicans, 81% and 58% respectively, the Post reports.
  • The University of Kentucky‘s College of Public Health and Gatton College of Business and Economics will hold a free webinar from noon to 1 p.m. June 3 to discuss research demonstrating that strong social-distancing measures imposed at the onset of the pandemic were effective in slowing disease transmission, thereby saving lives. Click here for more details.
  • The Lexington Herald-Leader offers tips on how to stay safe at yard sales in the pandemic. Experts also tell the Herald-Leader in a separate article that playgrounds are not safe and can lead to the spread of the disease.
  • A Lexington pharmaceutical company is developing a nasal spray to treat covid-19, Alex Acquisto reports for the Herald-Leader. The spray would be used on patients who’ve been diagnosed with the virus, but who “have not yet exhibited symptoms severe enough to require hospitalization,” says the press release.
  • The pandemic has resulted in the closing of more than 100 day centers for elderly adults and adults with disabilities in Kentucky, leaving about 9.500 individuals “suddenly cut off from the daily meals, health services, therapy and social activites they and their caregivers rely on,” Deborah Yetter reports for the Louisville Courier Journal.
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