Beshear asks mayors, county judge-executives to help enforce mask mandate; says he expects they will, ‘even though it is hard’

Table from White House Coronavirus Task Force report; for a larger version, click on it.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
Gov. Andy Beshear announced 1,054 new cases of the novel coronavirus Tuesday, and said it signals another record-breaking week.
“We are experiencing an escalation, our third major escalation in this covid crisis, and it is significant,” Beshear said at his daily briefing. “Last week we had 6,126 positive cases and we are on pace to have more than that this week.”
Beshear again reminded Kentuckians that higher case counts result in more deaths, noting that the state can expect 104 more deaths from last week’s cases because its mortality rate for the disease is 1.7%. “That shows you how quickly the number of people that we lose can accelerate,” he said.
The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days was 4.69%, still short of the 5% danger zone. Beshear cautioned that this rate could “be impacted really quickly if we keep having this many positive tests.”
Beshear didn’t announce any new restrictions to stem the escalation, instead reiterating that it’s up to Kentuckians to step up and do their part.
“We must act. . . . It’s not about new steps, but we will take them if we have to. We saw with the last escalation that we have the power to stop it if we simply do what we know works and that is wearing a mask, engaging in social distancing,” he said. “And if we are honest with ourselves, we know that fewer people are wearing masks right now than they were” when he mandated masks in July. (He renewed the order Tuesday.)
Beshear said Monday that he would step up enforcement of the mandate and ask county judge-executives and mayors to help. He said Tuesday that he had talked with them, and they can make a “huge difference.”
“Our expectation is that they will step up, even though it is hard, and begin pushing and pushing and pushing people the right way.” Earlier, he said, “We as leaders need to make sure that if we go to a retail establishment and people aren’t wearing masks, that we say something to that establishment.” He said retailers should not accept money from people not wearing masks.
Asked about President Trump’s actions since being released from the hospital with covid-19, which include downplaying the virus on social media and removing his mask in front of cameras, Beshear said the president has an “opportunity for true leadership” by setting life-saving examples for infected peopleincluding wearing a mask when they are around others.
Beshear didn’t mention Trump’s false tweet about the flu, but Health Commissioner Steven Stack said most Kentuckians understand that the flu killed 22,000 Americans last season, while covid-19 has already killed nearly 220,000.
Twitter added to Trump’s tweet a note saying it violates the platform’s rules about spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to covid-19. Facebook removed a similar post.

Stack, a physician, also pointed to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study showing that Arizona saw a 151% increase in cases after it lifted its stay-at-home orders and largely opened its economy. The spike caused the state to increase its mitigation efforts, including mask mandates, closing bars and gyms and reducing restaurant capacity to 50%. The report says these actions resulted in a 75% decrease in cases. “We know what works,” Stack said.

Beshear pointed to the latest guidance from the White House Coronavirus Task Force report, which says “Masks must be worn indoors in all public settings and group gathering sizes should be limited.”
The report, covering Sept. 26 to Sunday, Oct. 2, puts 75 of the state’s 120 counties into one of the danger zones, up from 56 the previous week.
The number of counties in the red zone increased from 14 to 26; the orange zone number dropped from 22 to 20; and the yellow zone number rose from 20 to 29. The report says 62% of the state’s counties have moderate or high levels of community transmission of the virus.
Statewide, the report puts Kentucky in the red zone for cases, ranking it 16th in the country. It places the state in the yellow zone for the share of residents testing positive, ranking it 10th.
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 recently 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.
White House Coronavirus Task Force maps; for a larger image, click on it.
Beshear said the report largely lines up with the state’s incidence-rate map, which has 21 red counties today. Red counties on the state map have at least 25 cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days.
Beshear announced four more deaths from covid-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 1,218: an 89-year-old man from Christian County; two women, 69 and 78, from Jefferson County; and an 85-year-old man from Henderson County.
In other covid-19 news Tuesday:
  • Counties with 10 or more new cases were Jefferson, 190; Fayette, 185; Christian, 31; Daviess, 28; Laurel, Madison and Whitley, 24 each; Henderson, 22; Pike and Warren, 21 each; Scott, 20; Calloway and Knox, 17 each; Bullitt, 14; Carter and Shelby, 13 each; Franklin, Lincoln, Nelson and Rockcastle, 12 each; Boone, Johnson, Morgan and Pulaski, 11 each; and Allen and Clark, 10 each.
  • Beshear announced 592 people were hospitalized with covid-19 in Kentucky on Tuesday, wiht 150 of them in intensive care and 93 of those on ventilators.
  • Beshear announced 23 more residents and 30 more staff in long-term care facilities have tested positive, with 12 more resident deaths, for a total of 721 deaths, including five staff. The daily report shows 713 active resident cases and 465 active staff cases.
  • The daily K-12 student report shows 40 more students and 14 more employees have tested positive, with 807 active student cases and 401 active employee cases. Beshear said 15 more schools were added to the list of those with at least one case.
  • The daily college and university report shows 108 more students and two more staff have tested positive for the virus, with 1,164 active student cases and 23 active staff and faculty cases.
  • Of today’s new cases, 144 were children 18 and younger. Of those, 21 were 5 and under and the youngest was 3 months old, according to the news release.
  • Beshear showed pictures of a quilt on display in the Capitol Rotunda, made by over 100 Kentucky mask-makers from scraps left over from masks. He said the quilt is symbolic of a time when Kentuckians came together to do what was needed to help one another stay safe. “They took their own time to protect their fellow human being, not just by wearing one, but by making them,” he said.

  • The Superhero Mask Project, formed in Kentucky, started out making masks for health-care workers and first responders across the nation, but now provides them to Kentucky children in low-income families, WDRB reports. So far, the group has given out 10,000 masks, with 4,000 of them going to children.
  • “Top White House officials are blocking strict new federal guidelines for the emergency release of a coronavirus vaccine, objecting to a provision that would almost certainly guarantee that no vaccine could be authorized before the election on Nov. 3,” The New York Times reports. “The Food and Drug Administration is seeking other avenues to ensure that vaccines meet the guidelines. That includes sharing the standards, perhaps as soon as this week, with an outside advisory committee of experts that is supposed to meet publicly before any vaccine is authorized for emergency use. The hope is that the committee will enforce the guidelines, regardless of the White House’s reaction.”
  • The federal government’s response to the pandemic “has already been the costliest economic relief effort in modern history,” The Washington Post reports. “At $4 trillion, the assortment of grants, loans and tax breaks exceeded the cost of the Afghanistan war. More than half, or $2.3 trillion, went to businesses, which in many ways were not required to show they were impacted by the pandemic or keep workers employed. … At $884 billion, roughly one-fifth of the relief money went to help workers and families. … Only 16% of the money was allotted to fighting the health crisis.”
  • The Commission on Presidential Debates has approved the use of a Plexiglas barrier between the two vice-presidential candidates Wednesday, but health experts say such a barrier is not enough to stop aerosol transmission of covid-19. “Those barriers really don’t do anything,” John Lednicky, an aerobiologist at the University of Florida, told Business Insider. When the candidates speak, they’ll expel aerosols or smaller particles that “can hang suspended in the air for minutes to hours,” according to the publication.
  • The CDC made a long-awaited update of guidance, saying the virus in small droplets and particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours “may be able to infect people who are further than 6 feet away from the person who is infected or after that person has left the space.” Evidence to support this has been found within enclosed spaces that had inadequate ventilation and where infected people are breathing heavily, for example while singing or exercising, says the CDC. NPR reports on the new guidance.
  • More than 30,000 people across Louisville may have been exposed to the coronavirus since the pandemic began in March, with infections much higher in West Louisville compared to other neighborhoods, Grace Schneider reports for the Louisville Courier Journal. In its latest round of testing, the University of Louisville Co-Immunity Project tested more than 2,000 volunteers in Jefferson County and confirmed that the extent of virus has been vastly underestimated there, by about half. The research found an infection rate of 10 to 12% in West Louisville, a heavily Black area, but only 2-4% in other parts of the county.
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