Cases up, but Beshear says State Fair is on and businesses can soon increase capacity to 50%; ACLU wants all inmates tested

Kentucky Health News chart shows the two-week trendline tilting about the same as the day before.

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

The number of coronavirus cases in Kentucky jumped again Tuesday, to 245, after two days of the lowest numbers the state had seen in some time, but Gov. Andy Beshear announced another relaxation of restrictions and gave the state fair a mostly green light.

“Today’s numbers again show the virus is still out there,” Beshear said at his daily briefing. ” They are above yesterday’s number, but below what we’ve seen a couple of days before that.”

Beshear announced that restaurants, retail stores and others that have been operating at 33 percent capacity can increase to 50% capacity one month after they were allowed to reopen because “we have gotten the practices in” to expand. It appears that retail will be able to increase its capacity by June 20 and restaurants by June 22.

Asked if the recent upward trend is worrisome as expansion looms, Beshear said, “Our concern would be if the number of cases continues to escalate and escalate, especially with a multiplier. When we had to take the steps we took at being healthy at home, we were seeing it double every week.”

He said if the numbers “can stay within a range,” such as the rate of positive test results, “We believe that we still can handle the reopening and do it safely.”

Beshear said at least 287,597 tests have been conducted in the state. The 245 new cases brought the state’s total to 11,709, a 4.1 percent positive rate overall; more recent rates have been below 3 percent, he said Monday. At least 3,365 people have recovered from the virus, he said.

The governor said the Kentucky State Fair submitted a good plan and will be allowed to proceed “as long as we continue to have a handle on this virus.” He said agricultural competitions will be allowed, but the fair will have fewer vendors and fewer activities, and most will take place outdoors. “It will look very different,” he said.

Beshear said the portion of the Kentucky Exposition Center that has been converted to a field hospital will remain intact, because the state must continue to be ready for a surge of cases that could overwhelm the health care system, a current threat in states such as Arizona.

The governor reported five more deaths, bringing the state’s toll to 477. The fatalities were a 95-year-old man from Warren County, a 53-year-old woman from McCracken County, a 58-year-old man from Shelby County, an 82-year-old man from Barren County, and a 69-year-old woman from Jefferson County.

Testing and tracing: Beshear continued to encourage Kentuckians to get tested, saying it provides data that we need to track the spread of the virus. He also encouraged Kentuckians to “answer the call” if a contact tracer calls them and be willing to work with them.

“If we can do that, if we can continue testing at a high capacity, and people are willing to work with the contact tracers, it means if there is a significant spike that we can approach it surgically . . . whether it’s the area of the state or the potential industry, that we can approach it in a fashion where we don’t have to pause anything else,” he said.

WHO: Asked about the comment by a World Health Organization official, since walked back, that people who have the virus but no symptoms very rarely transmit the virus, Beshear referred the question to Health Commissioner Steven Stack, who said, “That was a premature statement.”

Stack added, “The jury is still out, and I say that because that is the current state of understanding. Some modeling has shown up to 40 to 40-plus percent transmission from asymptomatic people; we just don’t know yet for sure.”

What we do know, Stack said, is that many people with the virus but without symptoms “are out in the communities and that they are at risk for spreading the disease. So I would not take one data point, one news story and allow that to be expanded to mislead folks that this is not a dangerous disease that does not spread from person to person because the evidence suggest that it does.”

Health inequality: Monday, Beshear committed to an effort to get every black Kentuckian covered by some form of  health insurance in an effort to eliminate the health inequality that has been made more evident by the pandemic, with 15.3% of Kentucky deaths from covid-19 among African Americans, though they make up only 8.4% of the state’s population.

“Eventually we want to get to make sure that everybody who doesn’t have coverage, has coverage,” he said, “but we have an obligation, right here and right now to do what we can for a group that has been subjected to racial inequality in health care.” About 5.6 percent of Kentuckians have no health insurance; among the state’s African Americans, the share is 5.8%.

In other covid-19 news Tuesday:

  • Beshear said 525 covid-19 patients are in Kentucky hospitals, with 75 in intensive care. Click here for the state’s detailed daily update.
  • Counties with the most new cases Tuesday were Jefferson, 91; Warren, 29; Fayette, 18; Shelby, 14 and Allen, 11. All have had elevated numbers recently.
  • In long-term care facilities, 10 more residents and 26 more staff members have tested positive for the virus, bringing the respective totals to 1,463 and 699, Beshear said. He said there have been 15 more deaths among residents, all but two of whom had already been included in the statewide death toll. In all, there have been 304 resident deaths and three staff deaths; the total of 307 is 64.4 percent of the state’s covid-19 deaths. Click here for details.
  • In-home child-care programs were allowed to reopen Monday, and larger daycares can open next Monday, “but the path forward looks murky for many,” Liz Moomey reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. She reports that the centers are struggling with how to stay afloat under a reopening model that will generate less operating revenue because of limits on the number of children in each classroom, laid-off staff that have moved on to other jobs, and nervous parents. A recent survey found that 11% to 15% of Kentucky child-care providers say they may have to permanently close due to the pandemic.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union sent Beshear a letter, dated June 5, demanding that all of the 11,383 inmates in every state prison be tested for the virus, and either release or place on home confinement those who would be medically vulnerable to the virus. ACLU Legal Director Corey Shapiro said the ACLU is “receiving concerning reports about potential exposure to the pandemic at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women and Luther Luckett Correctional Complex, and therefore believe the Department of Corrections must act now to prevent further tragedy and loss of life.” They have called for immediate action, and asked for a response by June 12.
  • Nearly 900 people who participated in Louisville protests against police brutality and racial injustice over the past two weeks were tested for the coronavirus over the weekend at two free sites, reports the Louisville Courier Journal. 
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