Kentucky’s positive coronavirus test rate drops below 4% for first time in eight weeks; Beshear says that puts state in a safer place
By Mary Meehan
Kentucky Health News
While announcing only one new death from covid-19 on Tuesday and a positive test rate dipping below 4% for the first time since mid-July, Gov. Andy Beshear also urged caution.
The seven-day average of Kentuckians testing positive for the coronavirus dropped to 3.91% Tuesday; the last time the rate was below 4% was July 14, at 3.95%.
“Remember, if we can get, especially below four and stay below four, if we can be going down, then we’re in a place where we have a lot more opportunity and it is a lot safer,” Beshear said at his daily briefing, all the while cautioning that this low rate could be the result of limited Labor Day reporting.
State officials say the positive-test rates reported by the federal government are generally 2 to 3 percentage points higher than the rates reported by the state because the feds miss many negative cases due to the ways different labs report, and they include all positive tests for the same person, but the state eliminates those duplicates.
Public health officials consider a rate of 5% a danger level because it increases the risk of community spread of the virus. Anything less than 5% is to be celebrated. Many Kentucky counties are below 5% but many are above 10% and 14 were above 20% last week, according to the latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report.
One of those 20% counties was Lewis, the site of the only death reported Tuesday, a 79-year-old man. He brought the state’s official death toll to 988, inching it closer to the grim milestone of 1,000 lives lost. The toll recorded by local health departments is already over 1,000, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported last week.
“It is going to be a difficult month,” Beshear said. “Last week was the deadliest week in terms of lost lives that we had and we’re going to see more of that moving forward.”
Last week the state reported its highest number of weekly cases yet, 4,742. This was the fourth week in a row the state reported more than 4,000 cases.
|Gaynell Howard died at 89.
The governor highlighted the lost life of Gaynell Howard of Louisville, reminding Kentuckians that even though she was 89, she was the mother of two sons and a grandmother to five grandchildren and a great-grandmother to four.
Beshear said the last time her family spoke to her was March 9 after Treyton Oak Towers, where she lived, stopped visits because of the virus. Howard died April 13.
“These are real people that we love and that we care about. Not just numbers, not something to argue about whether it’s real or not real,” Beshear said. “And don’t tell anybody in her family ‘Oh, she was old.’ She’s special. She had more years left in this world and they were taken from that family because of covid-19.”
Beshear announced 273 new cases of the virus Tuesday, again saying the number may be artificially low because of the holiday weekend and will likely increase as the week progresses.
The state’s daily report
said 510 people are hospitalized with covid-19 in Kentucky, 130 of them in intensive care and 74 of those on ventilators. Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, 74, is one of those newly hospitalized.
The Louisville Courier Journal reports
that Neal’s prognosis is good and that he went to the hospital Monday as a precaution, according to state Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville.
State Rep. Attica Scott, D-Louisville, announced Monday that she had tested positive. Beshear said Scott, 48, has not required hospitalization and has put herself into the required quarantine.
|Tricia Holliday, center, told the Lexington Herald-Leader
that her children, Marvin and Serenity, weren’t able to
join online classes until Friday because a wireless
hotspot wasn’t installed. (Photo provided)
The ongoing debate about the seriousness of the virus played out at the Capitol Tuesday as a group of Fayette County parents and students protested against virtual learning.
that a Facebook group
called “Let Them Learn in Fayette County” organized the event. The group has more than 1,500 members. Members said they are frustrated with virtual learning and are calling on lawmakers and education leaders to reopen classrooms to in-person learning. The few dozen protesters carried signs saying, “Let Me Learn” and “I need school.”
Asked about the protest, Beshear said he was concerned but optimistic that schools will open safely with in-person learning by his recommended date of Sept. 28.
As he has before, Beshear singled out Warren County because of its high daily case count, announcing 42 today. The county was one of the first to start in-person schooling.
Other counties with more than 10 new cases were Fayette, 59; Jefferson, 50; Madison, 13; and Marshall, 11.
Beshear also mentioned Marshall County, but praised school officials there for reporting cases as all school districts have been asked to do.
“While I disagree with that school system going back when they did, it does appear that they are publicly reporting cases,” he said. “That’s a good thing. That’s showing responsibility.”
As schools face such challenges, Beshear reminded them that no school district is likely to have a straight path to success. He said he expects some to experience what happened in Green County, which switched to virtual learning following a spike in new cases.
The latest state report says there are 334 active cases of the virus in K-12 students, and 137 in employees. Beshear said these include 10 students and three employees added Tuesday. Among 31 Kentucky colleges or universities with at least one case of the virus, 63 more students tested positive. The daily report shows 1,020 active student cases and 36 active cases in employees.
Again, Beshear said wearing masks is the key to a safe transition back to school, among other activities.
“This is our greatest tool,” he said while holding up a mask, “our most important tool to getting back to everything that we want to do, about getting back to in-person classes.”
In other covid-19 news Tuesday:
- Beshear said there are 546 active cases in residents of Kentucky long-term care facilities and 340 active cases in long-term-care staff.
- He said 13 additional child-care centers have reported at least one case, including 10 more staff and five more children.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Republicans will unveil a new covid-19 relief bill. The bill apparently will include an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, Postal Service aid, money for schools and more enhanced unemployment insurance, which are among points of agreement between the two political parties, Politico reports. Democratic leaders rejected the bill even before its details were released. Beshear said he was unaware of the specifics, but said if federal dollars aren’t made available to offset state and local deficits, Kentucky state government could see more budget cuts of as much as 8 percent. “We’ve already cut through the muscle; they would cut deep into the bone,” he said. Click here for McConnell’s press release.
- Beshear announced details of the Healthy at Home Eviction Relief Fund for renters and landlords to get financial assistance. The fund was created from $15 million in federal relief money as a way to make sure renters have homes and protect landlords from financial hardship. Beshear said the funds are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and require both the renter and landlord to submit an application. The application is at teamkyhherf.ky.gov. Jefferson County residents will need to apply for money from a separate fund; they should connect with the Louisville/Jefferson County Eviction Prevention Covid-19 Relief Fund. The Team Kentucky Fund is also available to help Kentuckians pay rent.