As Supreme Court keeps emergency orders in effect, state reports second largest number of cases found on one day

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

The news Friday that Gov. Andy Beshear’s emergency orders will remain in effect, until the Supreme Court of Kentucky decides their fate, overshadowed his report of another near-record number of coronavirus cases.

The 531 cases reported Friday continued the strong upward trend that the state has seen since July 4, raising the seven-day rolling average of new cases to 428 — double the 214 average of July 2.

The only day that the state found more cases was Tuesday, July 14, when it reported 576, a number Beshear said might have been inflated by delayed reporting. The state reported 625 cases on May 5, but almost half of those were found over several days at a prison.

Beshear indicated that the upward trend may continue for up to a week, until the pandemic feels the effect of his week-old order that masks be worn in indoor public spaces and outdoors when people can’t stay six feet apart.

“The world we have the positive cases from is a world that is at least 10 days old,” he said at his fourth press conference of the week. Before the surge hit, he had cut back to one briefing per week.

Along with the surge came a series of legal challenges, spearheaded by Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who asked Boone Circuit Judge Richard Bruggemann to expand an earlier ruling and declare all of Beshear’s emergency orders unconstitutional. “My biggest fear was that we would have a period of time we didn’t have the tools we need to fight this war,” Beshear said.

Cameron and Beshear’s office said Bruggemann indicated, after a hearing that ran well into the night, that he would rule for Cameron. But at mid-afternoon, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous order blocked all such orders “until such time as the various orders are properly before the court with a full record of any evidence and pleadings considered by the lower courts.”

“I’m happy to do that,” Beshear said. “About an hour, hour and a half ago, we faced a horribly uncertain future . . . zero rules, the wild West. . . . What the Supreme Court has done is ensure the safety and the lives of Kentuckians.”

Beshear said his other priorities are restarting the economy and “trying to get schools open,” stating that goal less firmly than he has before. He said the ruling “gives us a chance to open our schools . . . If we can’t get our cases down, we can’t.”

Jefferson County School Supt. Marty Pollio recommended that the state’s largest school system use online instruction for the first six weeks, reversing an earlier plan. His board is expected to approve the new plan Tuesday.

Beshear said school districts have to ask: “Can they spread people out enough?” How many teachers are at increased risk of infection? What hybrid models are possible to reduce density? When should classes start?

Asked about school sports, he said “We need to be nervous right now about sports. If we wear masks, if we socially distance, we have an opportunity to move forward.” Earlier, he said the football weight room at one school, which he declined to name, was the source of infection for 18 players, three coaches and 15 family members.

Beshear said officials “still have time to get it under control” and the mask order “is going to go a long way” toward that. He said enforcement of the order will be stepped up “in areas where we see spread” of the virus.

The governor again noted the elevated number of young children who have tested positive: 10 in Friday’s list of new cases were under 5, and five were 1 or younger.

“Do you remember the first time your child got a fever?” Beshear asked. “You don’t sleep, you just sit and worry. . . . Now imagine you’re a parent with a child who has covid-19.”

There was one good sign in Friday’s data: Beshear said the seven-day average for the positive test rate was 4.19 percent, down from 4.38% on Thursday. “Once you go over 5, they say you ought to consider rolling back,” he warned.

Noting the rise in cases after the state largely reopened its economy, Beshear said that leveled to a higher plateau that “was at a place where we could really manage it . . . but what we are seeing lately is an escalation we’ve gotta stop.”

In other covid-19 news Friday:

  • Counties with the most new cases Friday were Jefferson, 83; Fayette, 40; Warren, 29; Madison, 18; Kenton, 17; Boone and Hardin, 16 each; Hopkins, 15; Campbell, Christian and Daviess 14 each; Jessamine, 11; Casey and Oldham, 10 each; Bell and Ohio, 9 each; Graves and Laurel, 8 each; Butler, Clay and Franklin, 7; and Barren, 6.
  • The state reported eight more deaths from covid-19: an 85-year-old man from Bell County; an 84-year-old man from Carroll County; a 70-year-old woman from Casey County; a 75-year-old man from Fayette County; an 83-year-old woman from Franklin County; a 60-year-old woman and a 73-year-old man from Jefferson County; and a 68-year-old man from Muhlenberg County. They brought the state’s covid-19 death toll to 658.
  • African Americans’ percentage of deaths has declined a bit, to 14.8 percent of the state’s total, but “still disproportional” to their 8.4% of the state’s population, Beshear noted.
  • Long-term-care facilities, which have accounted for about 65% of Kentucky’s covid-19 deaths, have 25 more residents and 17 employees with the virus, and one more death, Beshear said. Four more facilities have at least one case.
  • Beshear said four more child-care facilities have been connected to a case, and two more employees and two children have tested positive.
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