Ky. could be in third big escalation of cases, just as most schools open; Beshear lectures those that are open in ‘red zones’

State graph, adapted by Kentucky Health News; for a larger version, click on it.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

After Kentucky hit the highest number of weekly coronavirus cases yet, Gov. Andy Beshear said a “third escalation” has begun, and called on Kentuckians to commit to a sense of urgency in their actions to thwart it.

“With our kids going back to school in many places today or in some version we need urgency from everybody,” the governor said at his daily briefing.
“Let’s step up and show the urgency we need so we don’t have another escalation, so it doesn’t impact our economy, our kids, their education. So it doesn’t take more lives of Kentuckians,”

Beshear again pleaded with Kentuckians to wear masks, which are proven to slow the spread of the virus, but stressed it more than usual, saying mask-wearing has become urgent.

“We’re not seeing enough of it at the moment,” he said. “I can plead, I can beg, but I can also tell you that for a fact, the amount of our economy that’s open, the ability to get our kids back in school, and the number of lives we lose or do not lose depends on a number of things, but primarily, the number of people willing to wear these masks,” he said, holding one high.

Beshear said certain events seem to cause a relaxed approach to the virus, such as the beginning of summer, which preceded the escalation that prompted him to issue a mask mandate on July 9.

With the onset of colder weather, when more people move activities inside and are more susceptible to infection, he said, “I now believe that we are not sitting at a plateau, but we are seeing what would be the third escalation that we’ve dealt with here in the commonwealth,” he said. “We have to do better. We have to act with that urgency.”

Beshear used the word time and again, including in his next-to-last slide.

Screenshot of next-to-last slide also shows Facebook comments with differing views. Click to enlarge.

This week’s White House Coronavirus Task Force report also speaks to the need for urgency, with Kentucky’s case numbers moving into the critical “red zone.” The report puts 56 of the state’s 120 counties into one of the danger zones; 14 of them in the red zone.

Kentucky’s own case-incidence map has 13 counties in the red zone, and the state’s color-coded guidance calls for schools in such counties to move to remote learning and halt all sports until they can get to the yellow zone, the lowest danger level.

But Beshear said some counties in the red zone are still holding in-person classes. “If the approach is we’re gonna do what we want to do no matter what,” he said, “then we can’t manage the virus in that way.”

Beshear said at least 44 of Kentucky’s 538 high-school sports teams are under quarantine.

Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman announced the rollout of the state’s new K-12 coronavirus dashboard, which will require each school to report daily the number of students and staff who have tested positive for the virus. The data will lag one day behind and can be sorted by state, county, school district and individual school.
Coleman said parents and caregivers “deserve to know how the covid pandemic is impacting not just the greater community, but specifically the school building that they send their children to every day. It also is very imperative for our teachers and our school staff to know how this covid pandemic is affecting the children and other adults that they interact with every day.”
Beshear, asked about Florida’s decision to open its bars and restaurants to full capacity, noted that Florida has more than 700,000 cases and huge numbers of deaths (more than 14,000, according to a state covid-19 website), said “What Florida is doing is reckless and it’s dumb.”
He said every public-health expert says it’s not a good idea, and “As long as I am governor, we’re not pretending like this virus doesn’t exist until we have a vaccine, and until we can deploy it. We’re gonna continue with our current levels on bars and on restaurants. And if anybody out there thinks that we should just fully open ’em up to 100 percent capacity and fill up an internal arena, well, you’ve got the wrong governor. I’m going to do what it takes to protect people. And just because there might be states around us making dumb decisions, we’re not going to here in Kentucky; we care about each other way, way too much.”
Last week, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb allowed restaurants and bars can to open at full capacity, creating more competition for those in Louisville.

Beshear announced 456 new cases of the coronavirus today, bringing the state’s unadjusted seven-day average up to 740, the highest yet.

The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days was 4.41%.

In other covid-19 news Monday:

  • Beshear reported five more deaths from covid-19, raising the state’s death toll to 1,162. The fatalities were a 56-year-old woman from Fayette County; an 84-year-old woman from Johnson County; and a 91-year-old woman and two men, 93 and 97, from Jefferson County.
  • Beshear noted the Thursday death of Alice Sparks, 86, of Fort Mitchell, a prominent civic activist and philanthropist, from covid-19. “She lived a wonderful life and lived life to its fullest, but she should still be with us,” he said.
  • Fayette County led the list of counties with new cases, with 108. Others with five or more cases were Jefferson, 100; Warren, 25; Daviess, 13; Madison, 13; McCracken, 12; Boone, 11; Allen, 10; Bullitt, Pike and Whitley, 8 each; Henderson, 7; Fulton, Harlan, Kenton, Pulaski and Union, 6 each; and Barren, Calloway, Marshall and Mercer, 5 each.
  • The state’s daily report said 507 people were hospitalized in Kentucky for covid-19 and 106 of them were in intensive care.
  • In 338 long-term-care facilities, there were active cases in 630 residents and 450 employees, and the total of residents dead of covid-19 reached 667.
  • In 232 child-care centers, there were 191 cases among employees and 138 among children.
  • In 564 K-12 schools, there were 731 active cases among students and 337 among employees. In 55 post-secondary education institutions, the state reported active cases in 1,415 students and 47 employees.
  • Fayette County schools could admit small groups of elementary students “starting Oct. 19 for two hours at a time of tutoring, special education and to supplement at home-learning,” Valarie Honeycutt Spears reports on a school-board meeting for the Lexington Herald-Leader. “That is contingent on the board seeing a more specific plan from district staff at an Oct. 12 meeting. Individual schools will decide whether to bring the small groups back . . . Kindergarten through fifth grade students could begin returning the week of Oct. 19 for the targeted services. The week of Nov. 2, middle- and high-school students would return for the two-hour classes. No more than 15 total people would be in a classroom at one time. Only 15 percent of students at a school could be in the building at the same time.”
  • The coronavirus infection rate of 12- to 17-year-olds is about double that of 5- to 11-year-olds, says a study report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study also found that children with underlying conditions were more likely to have severe covid-19 outcomes. “Among school-aged children who were hospitalized, admitted to an intensive care unit, or who died, 16%, 27%, and 28%, respectively, had at least one underlying medical condition,” said the report, which added that testing of school-aged children varies across the nation.
  • CDC Director Robert Redfield “suggested in a conversation with a colleague Friday that Scott Atlas is arming Trump with misleading data about a range of issues, including questioning the efficacy of masks, whether young people are susceptible to the virus and the potential benefits of herd immunity,” NBC News reports. “‘Everything he says is false,’ Redfield said in a phone call made in public on a commercial airline and overheard by NBC. He acknowledged that he was speaking about Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no public-health background.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is assembling a $300 million advertising campaign to “defeat despair” about the coronavirus, reports Dan Diamond of Politico. “The effort has been roundly criticized by Democrats, particularly given the timing of trying to rush ads on air” before Election Day, Nov. 3. Politico’s “Monday Pulse” update observes, “This is not how the department has ever run a public health awareness campaign, particularly one of this size, and it gives significant power to a small group of political appointees with little oversight.” Career HHS spokesman Mark Weber said, “There is no room for political spin in the messages and materials designed by HHS to help Americans make informed decisions about the prevention and treatment of Covid-19 and flu.”
  • “The nearly 1 million people around the world who have lost their lives to covid-19 have left us a gift: Through desperate efforts to save their lives, scientists now better understand how to treat and prevent the disease — and millions of others may survive,” Marilynn Marchione of The Associated Press reports. “Though more deaths are expected this fall because of the recent surge in coronavirus infections in the U.S. and elsewhere, there also are signs that death rates are declining and that people who get the virus now are faring better than did those in the early months of the pandemic.”
  • In what could be a harbinger of Kentucky’s next legislative session, the Republican-controlled Louisiana legislature has called itself into session for 30 days to deal with 70 topics, and “A political tug-of-war over Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ orders to curb the coronavirus may take center stage,” The Advocate reports. In Kentucky, only the governor can call a legislative session.
  • Screengrab from WKYT

    WKYT reports on a weekend demolition derby held by the Lincoln County Fair Board at its fairgrounds near Stanford, showing photos of grandstands full of people siting close together with few if any of them wearing masks. “I was very disappointed,” county Health Director Diane Miller told reporter Phil Pendleton, saying she had given the board guidelines to follow. An attendee told Pendleton that people were “extremely respectful” of one another’s space and “I’ve never seen that much active consideration for the space between people in a crowd this size.” The fair board told Pendleton that signs had been posted with CDC guidelines at the gates and ticket booths, that free masks were provided, and that they walked the grounds reminding people to spread out, and attendees were asked for their names and phone numbers for contact tracing. Below is a wider view, also from WKYT, which said it was taken with a drone:

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