Beshear: Some local officials will enforce mask mandate, while others will only encourage; Fayette case backlog makes a record

Beshear wore a mask throughout the briefing and said in reply to a question that doing so might be a good example.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
Gov. Andy Beshear announced 2,398 new cases of the coronavirus Wednesday, by far a record, but not really; 1,472 of them were part of a backlog of cases from Fayette County; 926 were newly reported.
“Even without the backlogged cases, we’re on pace unfortunately to have another record week for the most cases,” Beshear said at his daily briefing.
Beshear said the state has helped the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department get its case data up-to-date, with an expectation that it will be maintained. This matters because the state’s guidance for when it’s safe for schools to hold in-person classes is based on the incidence rates in each county, so the numbers need to be current.
And just as the state has let local school districts decide whether they should hold in-person classes or not, Beshear is now asking local government officials to be the leaders in their communities when it comes to enforcing his mandate to wear masks, a proven way to slow the spread of the virus.
Owsley County Judge-
Executive Cale Turner

Asked about his call that he had yesterday with mayors and county judge-executives, Beshear said Owsley County Judge-Executive Cale Turner, whom he did not name, “talked about how we all need to step it up, that it’s serious and Owsley is in the red” zone for new cases. “So, it was good to hear what he was ready to do.”

Beshear suggested that some mayors want some help in return. “I heard a little bit about some changes that I think we can make in code enforcement,” he said. “Some cities have not been able to get people to cut their grass. That’s something we ought to be able to deal with in the midst of this.
“But my sense is that everybody wants to do the right thing and is ready to do that encouragement. The real response will be what we see in our communities.”
Beshear said Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley and he agreed “that people have gotten more casual about it, and I know he’s ready to step up and do some of those same things that he was doing before. Hopefully we’ll see in their own way every local leader trying to do their part.
“There may be some that feel more comfortable walking into some of their establishments and telling people, ‘You really need to do this,’ and there may be others that are willing to take stronger enforcement methods. Certainly in some of our larger cities, especially with bars, we need to see more direct enforcement.”
Health Commissioner Steven Stack reminded Kentuckians that as cases go up, so do hospitalizations, noting that in late September the state had about 380 hospitalizations a day, but as the cases have surged, so too have hospitalizations.
Beshear said 672 people were hospitalized in Kentucky with covid-19 on Wednesday, with 161 of them in intensive care and 79 of those on ventilators.
Seven states saw record hospitalizations from covid-19 on Oct. 6: Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming, The Washington Post reports.
Stack, a physician, stressed that if Kentuckians will just follow the recommended guidelines, the case numbers will go down.
“I do admit some puzzlement when folks say, ‘So what are you going to do next? What are you going to mandate next?’ I would say that we have very good guidance in place,” he said. “The guidance is, wear your mask, socially distance, keep your hands clean, and you should also stay home if you are sick.”
The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the coronavirus in the past seven days is 4.21%. Stack said the the backlogged cases added today did not affect today’s the positive-test rate, which is determined by test results from laboratories, not health departments.
First Lady Britainy Beshear, who opened the briefing, said more than 40,000 masks have been donated to Kentucky schools through the Coverings for Kids program, and masks will continue to be collected through Oct. 30.
Before introducing the #MaskupKy social media segment of the briefing, she said, “Wearing a mask is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Right now, as we continue to see high case numbers, it is crucial to practice kindness to others, to set a good example by wearing a mask when you are out in public. It helps protect you and the people you care about.”
The governor announced that five more Kentuckians had died from covid-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 1,223. They were a 68-year-old man from Fayette County; an 80-year-old woman from Greenup County; a 65-year-old man from Harlan County; a 79-year-old man from Henderson County; and a 75-year-old woman from Whitley County.
Michael Reynolds
“We expect the next several weeks that these numbers will go up as the number of cases go up,” he said.
Beshear honored the life of Michael Reynolds, a 58-year-old Louisville man who died Oct. 6 of covid-19. His niece, who was identified only as Ms. Fisher, asked the governor to tell his story to stress the seriousness of the virus. She said her uncle was a man who loved his family and friends, music, sports and shopping. “He was known for his sense of style and for always talking about his children, grandkids, fiancé and friends. He loved them all so much,” she said in a letter to the governor.
In other covid-19 news Wednesday:
  • With the backlogged cases, Fayette County had 1,510 new cases recorded on Wednesday.  Of those, 39 were newly reported today. Other counties with 10 or more new cases in the daily report were Jefferson, 191; Warren, 31; Hopkins, 30; Daviess, 28; Kenton and Laurel, 25 each; Bullitt and Scott, 21 each; Boone, Hardin and Henderson, 20 each; Knox, 16; Christian and Whitley, 15 each; Calloway, Pike and Shelby, 14 each; Franklin, Knott and Letcher, 13 each; Adair, Boyle and Todd, 12 each; Graves, 11; and Allen, 10.
  • In long-term care, 48 more residents and 22 more staff have tested positive for the virus, with 711 active resident cases and 440 active staff cases. The daily report shows 719 residents and five staff have died of covid-19.
  • Beshear said at least 25 veterans have tested positive for the coronavirus at the Thompson-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore. He said veterans and employees are being tested every 72 hours and being screened for symptoms daily. He said the facility has created a covid-19 unit and nine veterans have been transferred to the VA Medical Center in Lexington.
  • The K-12 student daily report and the college and university daily report will not have new numbers added until next week because the system is being automated. Click here for the K-12 dashboard.
  • Kentuckians 18 and younger accounted for 358 of the newly reported cases, and 38 of them were 5 and under, Beshear’s news release said.
  • Officials at Western Kentucky University have canceled spring break and will end the semester a week early, the Associated Press reports. The decision was made “in order to minimize the possibility of a covid-19 flare-up on campus,” a school official said.
  • Health Secretary Eric Friedlander said licensed day-care centers and certified and registered child-care programs will receive a one-time grant of $130 per child from federal relief funds, since many are struggling financially because of the closures and capacity limits placed on them because of the pandemic. He said the facilities received $225 per child earlier this year.
  • Beshear said driver’s license offices in Louisville, Elizabethtown and Prestonsburg are closed because of at least one positive covid test among employees. He acknowledged the inconvenience, but said it’s important to do the right thing to protect other employees.
  • “The White House has cleared the the Food and Drug Administration’s stricter standards for vaccine approval . . . after the FDA “unilaterally published the guidelines on its website,” The Washington Post reports. President Trump had called the guidelines “political” and indicated that he might not approve them, but “Tired of the delay, the FDA circumvented the White House by publishing the criteria online as part of a briefing package for a meeting with its vaccine advisory committee that is scheduled for Oct. 22.”
  • “A former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health titan who led the eradication of smallpox asked the embattled, current CDC leader to expose the failed U.S. response to the coronavirus, calling on him to orchestrate his own firing to protest White House interference,” USA Today reports.
  • Until a coronavirus vaccine is available, “The key to avoiding covid-19 is reducing one’s risk of infection as much as possible. Better sleep can help,” National Geographic reports. It says sleep is a simple but solid way to bolster the immune system.
  • Doctors told Deborah Yetter of the Courier Journal that covid-19 patients in the Louisville area can get similar high-quality care and most of the same drugs received by President Trump for covid-19. The exception is the new, experimental “antibody cocktail” produced by Regeneron that Trump received, though Kentucky is about to launch its first clinical trial of the drug within days. Yetter expands on the use of the other two drugs used, Dexamethasone, a steroid, and Remdesivir, an anti-viral medication, which has been authorized for treating certain covid-19 patients, but is still awaiting final FDA approval.
  • Nine Eastern Kentucky health departments released covid-19 numbers on Tuesday and WYMT reports them.
  • As of Oct. 7, The Guardian and Kaiser Health News has profiled 224 health workers who have died from covid-19. Click here to read their stories.
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