By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
Gov. Andy Beshear called for patience Tuesday as the state continues to battle the novel coronavirus that he said had infected 627 more Kentuckians.
“We are all desperate to get back to our old lives. We have been tested. We have had anxiety. It has lasted a long time,” Beshear said at his daily briefing. “But if we are not patient, we put the lives of other people on the line, we put the health of our economy on the line, and we potentially threaten what we love the most, our children and their well-being. At a time like this, our patience is being tested. My question is, are we going to pass that test?”
Of the 627 new cases, Beshear said 76 were under the age of 18. His news release added that 14 of those were children 5 and younger, including a 1-month-old from Pike County.
The seven-day rolling average of new cases rose to 665, just five below the record 670 set Aug. 8-14.
The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the last seven days is 5.48%, down from 5.8% yesterday and closer to the range of the last 10 days. A rate above 5% worries health experts.
Beshear pushed back on suggestions from some counties that his recommendations and mandates should not all be statewide. He said the latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report on Kentucky, for Aug. 8-14, showed 63 of the state’s 120 counties in a red or yellow danger zone, which he said shows the virus is a statewide problem and is spreading quickly “in a state that has very small counties.”
He cited advice he got from Dr. Deborah Birx, the task force’s response coordinator. “That’s exactly the reason that when we took the actions on bars and restaurants and reduced gatherings to 10 or under, Dr. Birx said you have to do it statewide,” Beshear said.
“She said, ‘I can hand you this report, but when you have this many counties that are in the red or in the yellow zone, you have statewide community spread that is uncontrolled – uncontrolled spread of covid-19.’ That doesn’t mean we can’t get it under control, it just means it takes some time and we have to be patient.”
The report puts 20 counties in the “red zone,” meaning that the number of new cases numbered more than 1 per 1,000 residents and their positive test rate was 10% or higher. The report puts 43 counties in the “yellow zone,” meaning they had between 0.1 and 1 cases per 1,000 and a positive test rate between 5 and 10% in the reporting week.
Beshear pointed out that one county in the red zone has already gone back to school, and others have voted to go back shortly, despite his recommendation that schools delay in-person instruction until Sept. 28. Green County started school Monday and Warren County voted yesterday to start classes Aug. 24, with students alternatively attending two days a week.
Beshear again called for schools to hold off a month, partly to learn from mistakes of other states, pointing to Mississippi, where 71 of the 82 counties are reporting outbreaks in their schools.
“This thing is so hot right now,” he said, “we have to understand our limitations.”
Reporting of school cases: Dr. Steven Stack, the state’s public-health commissioner, said information about cases in Kentucky’s schools will be published on the state’s daily report, including the name of the school and the number of students and staff who test positive.
He said that while they are still working on the details, the plan is for schools to first talk to public-health officials and then to their communities about any new cases before that information is then sent to the state health department.
“The public needs to be able to know what risk they are or are not taking. . . . This is an attempt to be transparent,” said Stack.
He said laws and systems are already in place around such reporting, since schools already report on many other conditions, including lice infestations or strep throat.
Beshear said one Kentucky school that had opened to in-person learning had already moved to a virtual plan after a student tested positive. He said one superintendent has also tested positive. He did not name the school or the superintendent.
Bowling Green Independent Schools Supt. Gary Fields announced in a Facebook post Tuesday that he had tested positive for covid-19, Valarie Honeycutt Spears reports for the Lexington Herald Leader. Fields said he was not symptomatic, but would isolate at home. Bowling Green plans to open Aug. 24 with a hybrid plan that includes both in-person and virtual learning.
Personal testimony: Rocky Adkins, senior advisor to the governor, emotionally told the story of his 84-year-old father who was diagnosed with covid-19 earlier this month. Hospitalized at UK HealthCare, Adkins said he learned Tuesday that he would be discharged to a rehabilitation center. Adkins said his son, who lives next to his father and was the one to drive him to the hospital, also tested positive for the virus, but so far has no symptoms.
“I wanted to give this personal testimony today and this very personal story to hopefully reach somebody across Kentucky,” Adkins said. “First of all to tell you – by phone call or by someone – check on your neighbors. Check on your neighbor. Make sure they’re OK. “Second of all, follow the guidelines. The protocols, the orders, all of these things that none of us may like, but appreciate and respect what’s being handed down. There will be time for debate on all of this, but I’m telling you for now, for Jess Adkins, for an 84-year-old man who will tell you as soon as he can to wear your mask, to wash your hands, to stay away from crowds, to social distance, all of that.”
Daily numbers: Beshear announced 12 more covid-19 deaths, bringing the state’s toll up to 830.
The fatalities were two women, 72 and 83, and two men, 72 and 80, from Jefferson County; a 44-year-old woman from Carter County; a 67-year-old woman from Daviess County; an 89-year-old man from Graves County; a 67-year-old woman from Letcher County; a 75-year-old woman from Oldham County; a 72-year-old woman and a 73-year-old man from Perry County; and an 84-year-old woman from Washington County.
In other covid-19 news Tuesday:
- Counties with more than 10 deaths in the daily report were Jefferson, 131; Fayette, 35; Scott and Warren, 27 each; Hardin, 26; Knox, 20; Kenton, 19; Boone, 18; Bullitt,17; Franklin and Nelson, 16 each; Montgomery, 13; Hopkins, 12; and Jessamine, 10.
- Beshear said 622 Kentuckians are currently hospitalized with covid-19, and 147 of them are in intensive care, with 88 of those are on a ventilator.
- Beshear announced that two more nursing-home deaths have been attributed to covid-19.
- In child-care centers, five more staff and one more child have tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.
- Essex Nursing and Rehabilitation Center fired janitor Kathy Kramer, 64, in May for refusing to work inside the facility while she had covid-19, according to a wrongful-termination lawsuit that has been moved to federal court at the defendant’s request, John Cheves reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Cheves reports that the corporate owner of the nursing home did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment. Essex denied Kramer’s allegations in a written response to the lawsuit, he reports.
- J. Michael Brown, secretary of Beshear’s executive cabinet, reported that 12 more inmates and one more employee have tested positive in state correctional facilities, bringing the total cases to 1,010. He also reported the first staff death, bringing the overall death toll in the facilities to 13. So far, he said there have been 863 total inmate cases, 570 of which have recovered.
- The Southeastern Conference has released health and safety guidelines for fans to potentially attend football games, the Louisville Courier Journal reports. The SEC has announced that it will include conference-only games, beginning Sept. 26. The guidelines say attendance and tailgating guidelines will be determined by each school. MedicineNet reports that experts say the odds are not good for college football conferences that have decided to press forward with their fall season despite the pandemic.
- Dr. Sarah Moyer, Louisville’s public health director, warned at a news conference that covid-19 continues to spread like a “wildfire,” Deborah Yetter reports for the Courier Journal. Moyer said private, social gatherings, usually in someone’s home, are partly to blame, often because people let their guard down and don’t wear masks or social distance. Yetter reports that the positive test rate in Louisville is 8.71%, compared to the state rate of 5.8%.
- The pandemic has caused massive upheaval in Kentucky’s already fragile network of child-care centers that cared for about 27,000 Kentucky children before the pandemic, Yetter reports. About 2,200 licensed or certified child care centers still haven’t reopened, and advocates told Yetter that they worry that some never will.
- Covid-19 deaths have now surpassed accidents as the third leading cause of deaths, with 170,559 being reported through Tuesday, compared to 169,936 from accidents in 2017, the latest data available, Dr. Thomas Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN. Heart disease and cancer are first and second, respectively.