Ky. coronavirus cases still up, with 289 reported Friday; another health-care worker has died of covid-19; how do we safely hug?

Daily cases went down, but the two-week trendline angled farther upward. (Ky. Health News chart)

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

Gov. Andy Beshear announced 289 new cases of the coronavirus in Kentucky, the third straight day the state has seen 265 or more new cases.

“Remember, covid-19 is still out there spreading aggressively and it can be lethal to certain populations,” Beshear said in a news release. “Let’s make sure we’re keeping our social distance, let’s make sure we’re wearing masks, and let’s protect one another.”

Beshear’s release did not address the rising number of cases, but he and his health commissioner said Thursday that they are not yet worried about this upward trend, largely because they look at a whole host of metrics to make that determination, such as the percentage of people who test positive, how many people are in intensive care related to covid-19, and the estimated transmission rate of the virus: how many people an infected person infects, on average.

And by those metrics, things are not discouraging. The number of Kentuckians in intensive care remains low, at 73, though this is a lagging indicator of infection; the Lexington Herald-Leader reports that the percentage of people who test positive for the virus in the state has dropped to 3.99 percent, the first time that number has dropped below 4%; and Vox reports, looking at many of those same metrics, that as of Thursday, June 4, Kentucky was one of only six states that met basic federal criteria to reopen its economy and stay safe.

Vox map; for a larger version, click on it.

The bad news is that two different groups that measure the rate of transmission have just put Kentucky’s rate above 1. A rate of less than 1 means the virus should eventually stop spreading because the average number of people infected by each infected person is less than 1; a rate of over 1 means that the virus is spreading. reports that as of June 1, the rate of transmission was 1.03 based on reported case numbers, and that it has been on the uptick since May 26. CovidActNow calls this a “medium risk” for the spread of the disease, because it is spreading in a slow and controlled fashion. estimates that as of May 30, the rate was 1.02 and has been above 1 since May 17.

Lexington saw its largest single-day spike unconnected to a previous prison outbreak, with 35 new cases and one new death, Jeremy Chisenhall reports for the Herald-Leader.  Louisville’s numbers also remain high, reporting 149 new cases Thursday, and 88 Friday. Other counties with the highest number of new cases are Shelby, with 31; Warren, with 19; and Kenton with 11.

The 289 cases added Friday brought the state’s adjusted total to 10,977, with at least 3,316 of them having recovered.

Beshear announced eight more covid-19 deaths: three women from Jefferson County, aged 52, 77 and 87; an 89-year-old man in Jefferson County, a 66-year-old man from Daviess County, a 48-year-old man from Fayette County, an 82-year-old woman from Franklin County and an 86-year-old woman from Graves County.

The deaths included a health-care worker, the third in the state to die of covid-19. “Like the first two we lost, this person worked in a long-term care facility,” said Beshear. “Let’s make sure that we remember not only the seriousness of covid-19 but that we continue to show our compassion to these families.”
The daily long-term care facility update shows that 1,405 residents and 645 employees have ever tested positive for the virus, with 438 residents and 139 employees currently with it. This is an increase of 27 residents and a decrease of two staff who currently have the disease, compared to yesterday’s report. The update shows that 288 residents have died from covid-19, an increase of five. Including the three employees, 62% of the state’s deaths have been in nursing homes.

The news release adds that the governor has extended an executive order letting pharmacists dispense 30-day refills through July 7 and another prohibiting price gouging throughout the state of emergency.

For additional information, including up-to-date lists of positive cases and deaths, as well as breakdowns of coronavirus infections by county, race and ethnicity, click here.

In other covid-19 news Friday:

  • has posted a graph of every official covid-19 case per 1,000 residents over time for all 50 states from March 20 through June 3. It shows that Kentucky’s rate falls closer to the bottom of the graph, the same as Missouri and Texas.
  • Experts offered advice in The New York Times on safe ways to hug during the pandemic. Tara Parker-Pope writes, “Not only do we miss hugs, we need them,” reporting on how physical affection is known to reduce stress. The experts told Parker-Pope that while the safest thing to do is to avoid hugs, if you choose to hug it is important to take precautions. “Wear a mask. Hug outdoors. Try to avoid touching the other person’s body or clothes with your face and your mask. Don’t hug someone who is coughing or has other symptoms,” she writes. Others advise pointing your face in opposite directions, to not talk or cough when hugging, to do it quickly, don’t  linger and to wash your hands afterwards — and try not to cry. One expert even suggested holding your breath during the hug and another advised choosing your hugs wisely.
  • At a House committee meeting, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield encouraged protesters to “highly consider” getting tested, The Hill reports. He also voiced concern that the CDCs guidance on masks and social distancing is not resonating with the public and when asked about the use of chemical agents at the protest that cause people to cough, he said, “Definitely, coughing can spread respiratory virus, including covid-19.” These concerns have also been regularly voiced by Beshear and Health Commissioner Steven Stack.
  • Norton Healthcare in Louisville is offering free coronavirus testing at 3101 Poplar Level Road from nooon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Registration is required; click here for more information.
  • The Trump administration will require laboratories to include data that includes race, ethnicity, age and sex of individuals tested for the virus starting Aug. 1, NPR reports. Kentucky labs already collect this data. Click here for the daily report.
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