Beshear asks coaches to put student health first, urges schools in ‘red zones’ to follow guidance; positive-test rate jumps to 4.52%

White House Coronavirus Task force table; for a larger version, click on it.

By Lisa Gillespie and Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

With at least five Kentucky high school football games canceled due to the novel coronavirus only 11 days after the start of a delayed season, Gov. Andy Beshear said coaches are almost in a sacred position to protect the health of their student athletes.

“If I was running a high-school program, I would want my team to be getting tested on some [regular] basis,” Beshear said at his daily briefing. “I would really want to talk about a partnership with my parents, ensuring that I always know how my athletes are feeling.”

The governor noted that college athletes are regularly tested for covid-19, but Kentucky’s school teams aren’t even required to be tested once a week. He said it’s critical that coaches make sure student athletes know their health is a priority.

“I [would] want to make sure I communicated to them that their health is most important to me, because their futures are big and bright, whether they include athletics or not,” he said. “Don’t try to come to a practice just because either it’s your senior year, or ‘We really need you.’ I think that that dialogue needs to be there.”

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that at least five Kentucky high schools have cancelled football games due to covid-19.

Kentucky school districts in “red zones” – where the prevalence of covid-19 is considered ‘critical’ – have been advised to cancel athletics, Beshear noted.

“There’s a lot of anticipation and people look forward to it,” he said, “but I think [we need to be] really clear on the expectations of putting the student athlete first.”

He said football, soccer and volleyball teams have all had new cases of the virus, and two of the five football teams in quarantine because of exposure, Franklin County and Woodford County, played each other recently.

Franklin County‘s soccer teams are out of play and practice for 14 days after a male football player and the head girls’ soccer coach tested positive for the virus, The State Journal reports: “The boys’ soccer team hasn’t had any positive cases, but some members of the team play football and have to quarantine because of contact with the student who tested positive.”

Beshear pointed out that the state and the White House use different calculations to determine the coronavirus safety zones for counties, with Kentucky’s map showing nine counties in the red zone, meaning they have 25 or more cases per 100,000 people daily, and the White House listing 17.

“It ought to tell you that we’re trying to put together a really fair system. . . . in that the White House would have more counties in the red zone,” he said. He stressed that when a county is in the red zone  – like Warren County, which he said has been in the red zone in every single White House report – it means it is in a difficult place and needs to take appropriate actions.

Beshear often points to Warren County, which was one of the first to start in-person schooling. The latest state guidance calls for red-zone counties to offer remote learning only until they get back into a yellow zone, which means they have 1 to 10 cases per 100,000 people daily.

The White House report for the week of Sept. 12-18 has 20 Kentucky counties in the newly added orange zone and 30 in the yellow zone. Altogether, 56% of the state’s counties have moderate or high levels of community transmission, with 14% of them having high levels of transmission.

Communities in the White House red zone have weekly positive-test rates higher than 10% and more than one new case per 1,000 residents. Those in the newly added orange zone have 0.51 to 1 new cases per 1,000, and a weekly positive-test rate of 8 to 10%, or one of those two conditions and one condition qualifying as being in the red zone. Yellow-zone communities have new cases between 0.1 and 0.5 case per 1,000 and a positive-test rate of 5% to 8% — or one of those, with the other in the a higher zone.

Statewide, the White House report puts Kentucky in the orange zone for cases, with the 19th highest rate in the nation. It is in the yellow zone for its test positivity rate, the 14th highest.

Beshear said of the 824 new positive cases of the coronavirus in the state Tuesday, 134 are under age 18, providing stark implications for in-person schooling.

“Whether it’s safe for our kids to be in school doesn’t depend on me, it depends on the virus,” he said. “And what we can do to stop the virus is wearing a mask and limiting your contacts. It’s your patriotic duty as an American and a Kentuckian.”

Seven new deaths were reported, bringing the state’s total to 1,119 of the more than 200,000 that have died nationwide. Beshear again urged Kentuckians to wear masks and social distance, calling the pandemic a war.

“This is a major challenge of our lifetimes: we’ll be judged by how many Kentuckians and Americans we let die,” the governor said. “While we can’t save everybody, we can save a lot of people. Wear a mask. Follow the rules that are out there. If you see crowds that are gathered, don’t go to the crowd.”

Beshear also noted that the state’s positivity rate had jumped up again, after being below 4 percent for a week. The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the last seven days is 4.52%.

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issuing guidance to states earlier this month on how to prepare for covid-19 vaccine distribution, Besehar said he’s created a group that’s working on a plan.

“When we look at all the different steps, the first is what we’ll get and when we will get it, but then we need to think about storage, physical distribution, the fact that it’ll be two separate shots over 21 days that have to be from the same manufacturer when there might be three or four different vaccines, that means it’s the same provider giving them to you,” he said.

The group is also looking at who will get first priority and the overall safety of a vaccine. Beshear said he’d have to feel comfortable getting vaccinated himself before releasing it to the public.

In other covid-19 news Tuesday:

  • The deaths reported Tuesday were of an 87-year-old man from Hardin County; a 79-year-old man from Jefferson County; a 56-year-old woman from Marion County; a 69-year-old woman and two men, 79 and 90, from McCracken County; and a 92-year-old man from Taylor County.
  • Jefferson County had the most new cases on the state’s daily report, 129. Other counties in the daily report with more than five were Fayette, 110; Christian, 78; Madison, 37; Warren, 35; Laurel, 28;Hardin, 24; Boone, 18; Whitely, 18; Daviess, 13; Montgomery, 13; Campbell, Clay and Henderson and Muhlenberg, 12 each; Calloway, Kenton, Oldham, 10 each; Nelson, 9; Franklin, 8; Boyd, Boyle, Bullitt, Hopkins, Knott, McCracken, Shelby, 7 each; Pulaski, Rockcastle and Scott, 6 each; and Allen, Barren, Caldwell and Jackson, 5 each.
  • Beshear said 511 people were hospitalized with covid-19 in the state, 133 of them in intensive care, and 73 of those on ventilators.
  • In long-term care facilities, Beshear said 31 more residents and 50 more staff have tested positive for the virus. The daily report shows 588 residents and 393 staff have active cases. Beshear said four more deaths can be attributed to covid-19 from these facilities, bringing that total up to 622 residents and 5 staff.
  • A “cluster” of coronavirus cases in one unit at the University of Kentucky‘s Good Samaritan Hospital “has forced covid-19 testing of roughly 100 employees, according to a video of a Zoom staff meeting,” Jeremy Chisenhall reports for the Herald-Leader. “Every patient in the unit was to be tested,” and employees were admonished not to congregate in the break room. A UK spokeswoman said Monday that there were eight cases.
  • A closed pharmacy being used as a virus testing site in Lexington was “vandalized with phrases that appear to question the validity of testing,” Morgan Eads reports for the Herald-Leader. “Graffiti had been painted in large red letters.”
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is discouraging door-to-door trick-or-treating and costume masks and parties. “Many traditional Halloween activities can be high-risk for spreading viruses,” the agency said. It listed several “moderate-risk activities,” including “one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance (such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard). If you are preparing goodie bags, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 second before and after preparing the bags.”
  • Beshear also said the state doesn’t yet have guidance on Halloween yet, although parties for children or adults will be strongly discouraged. As for trick-or-treating, “our guidance will try to give our kids that experience but in the safest way possible.”
Previous Article
Next Article