Cases and hospitalizations keep escalating; state prepares for a medical surge; in-home gatherings discouraged in 43 counties

Dark blue line on K-12 school dashboard shows number of quarantined students; light blue line is the number of quarantined staff; red line is new student cases; the orange line is new staff cases.

By Lisa Gillespie
Kentucky Health News

Gov. Andy Beshear announced the state’s fourth highest day of coronavirus cases on Tuesday, 1,312, along with increases in almost every other measure indicating the state is headed for trouble, including hospitalizations, the rate of people testing positive for the virus, cases in schools, and deaths.

“Today’s report is grim,” Beshear said. “It is grim because it shows that we are not just continuing in our third escalation, but this one is probably now the second most worrisome escalation we have seen surpassed only by that original March increase.”

Beshear noted that both Monday and Tuesday’s new cases have been the highest yet for each of those days of the week. He said the state is now preparing for a surge, including looking at increasing capacity in hospitals for covid-19 patients.

“Because of what we are seeing with this escalation, you should know that we have begun as a state, surge preparations,” Beshear said. “We are now going back to our plans about capacity in hospitals, looking if we have to add hotel options and the use of state parks and ensuring that we have the operational plans to stand up the field hospital if necessary.”

Beshear said 776 people in Kentucky are hospitalized with covid-19, which set a record for the second day in a row. He said 202 of them are in intensive care, up 12 since yesterday, and 96 of those are on a ventilator, seven more than yesterday.

The statewide positivity rate – a seven-day rolling average of the number of coronavirus tests that come back positive out of the total number of tests done each day – is now 5.08%, the highest it’s been since late August.

The school coronavirus dashboard, where schools report new cases that haven’t yet been verified, tallied 97 new cases on Tuesday morning, Beshear noted. And 1,109 students are in quarantine because of potential exposure. The dashboard also shows 75 new staff and faculty have tested positive for the virus, and 218 are in quarantine.

“That tells us how the virus is out there and spreading and how we’ve got to tamp it down and lessen the spread in a community to protect the education of our children,” the governor said.

Beshear urged churches and other venues to enforce guidelines like mask wearing inside and keeping six feet of distance. He pointed out that nationwide, the spread of the virus has been linked to social gatherings and funerals.

“Different venues that are out there, we need you to double down on what you’re doing,” Beshear said. “Our houses of worship, just please make sure that you’re following all the protocols and redouble your efforts, all the way through.”

The governor also mentioned the most recent White House Coronavirus Task Force report recommends that residents of the 43 Kentucky counties in its red zone, including Jefferson, Laurel and Pike, not have any gatherings at all in their homes.

“The White House recommends that we don’t have gatherings in our homes at all while we’re in the red and just stay there with our close family; that is the recommendation from them,” Beshear reiterated. “They are also encouraging us in each community to spend your money at businesses that are following the rules.”

The report said about 70% of Kentucky counties have moderate to high levels of community transmission. Beshear noted that the report, which uses different metrics than the state, advises Kentucky to continue its mask mandate and encourages states that haven’t done it yet, such as Tennessee, to do so.

Kentucky’s guidance for social gatherings is not so strict, limiting such gatherings to 10 people or less.

Beshear announced 16 new deaths from covid-19 on Tuesday, bringing the state’s death toll to 1,342.

Rev. Robert L. Boyd

Beshear honored the life of 89-year-old Rev. Robert L. Boyd of Cadiz, a veteran who died of covid-19. Boyd was a relative of a member of Beshear’s security team. Beshear said Boyd was a boxer, a farmer and a historian who came from a large family.

“He loved retelling the stories of his family and church, and could recount historic dates and stories from the local area,” Beshear said. “A man of many talents, Rev. Boyd was a talented singer and a former member of the gospel group, Israel Life Travelers. Family was everything to him. . . He was loved by so many who will carry his strength and encouragement in their hearts.”

In other coronavirus news Tuesday:

  • Counties with 10 or more new cases were Jefferson, 324; Fayette, 47; Laurel, 45; Boone and Nelson, 36; Christian and Pike, 35; Kenton, 29; Bullitt, 28; Scott and Warren, 27; Madison, 22; Daviess and Fleming, 19; Barren and Hardin, 18; Bell; 17; Allen, Henderson and Wayne, 15; Johnson, Martin and Whitley, 14; Floyd, Hopkins and Perry, 12; Franklin, Jessamine and Magoffin, 11; and Campbell, Clay, Clinton, Knox, McLean and Todd, 10.
  • The 16 deaths were a 56-year-old woman from Bell County; a 73-year-old man from Boyd County; an 86-year-old woman from Daviess County; two women, 96 and 97, from Fayette County; an 82-year-old woman from Hopkins County; four women, 67, 74, 76 and 80, from Jefferson County; a 92-year-old woman and three men, 64, 94 and 96, from Jessamine County; an 89-year-old man from Marshall County; and a 78-year-old man from Muhlenberg County.
  • In long-term care, 44 more residents and 29 more staff have tested positive for the virus, with 979 active resident cases and 569 active staff cases. Beshear said nine more deaths can be attributed to the facilities, for a total of 811 resident and five staff deaths attributed to covid-19.
  • Beshear said there’ve been a total of five deaths at the Thomson-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore, with 71 residents and 42 staff testing positive. Thirteen of the veterans have been hospitalized. Beshear said 15 nursing staff have been provided to the center after the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affiars asked for more assistance. The Paul E. Patton Eastern Kentucky Veterans Center has reported two deaths and has eight active cases.
  • The college and university report shows 19 more students have tested positive for the virus, bringing the number of  newcases in the past 14 days to 363 students.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued new guidance that strongly recommends all passengers and workers on planes, trains, buses and other public transportation wear masks to control the spread of the coronavirus. “Face masks help prevent people who have covid-19, including those who are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic, from spreading the virus to others,” the CDC guidelines say. “Masks are most likely to reduce the spread of covid-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings.” The Post reports that the new guidance has received mixed reaction from the transportation industry, saying it falls short of what is needed because the recommendation is only that, and not a mandate.
  • The Lexington Herald-Leader talks to experts about whether air filters can help prevent coronavirus spread in your home. The bottom line, there is still a lack of evidence that they work, but the potential benefits outweigh the cost. That said, one expert says they should be part of your plan rather than your whole plan.
  • The head basketball coach of Washington County High School, Stephen Woodson, describes his “tough” battle with covid-19 in hopes that it will encourage others to share their stories, WDRB reports.“Covid is real,” he posted on Facebook. “I couldn’t even go to the bathroom on my own. I had to have oxygen to help me breathe and wasn’t even strong enough to open my eyes. Honestly, one night, I didn’t think I was going to make it, my body felt pain I have never felt and I didn’t know what to do.”
  • “Prospects for an economic relief package in the next two weeks dimmed markedly on Tuesday after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell revealed that he has warned the White House not to strike an agreement with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi before the Nov. 3 election,” The Washington Post reports, citing three anonymous sources after Republican senators’ weekly lunch, where McConnell spoke. The New York Times cited four and reported, “He made it clear that he knew his counsel was likely to leak out, making reference to the possibility that his remarks could appear in the news media, two of the Republicans said.”
  • A large national poll released Monday by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 49% of Americans trusted Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert who has served under six presidents, “a lot” as a source of information about the coronavirus pandemic, ranking him second on the list of eight choices. University research centers ranked first, at 51% and President Trump ranked last, with only 14% saying they trusted him “a lot” when it comes to the pandemic, the Post reports. On a Monday conference that included reporters, Trump criticized Fauci, calling him a “disaster” and said “people are tired of covid” and “are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots.”
  • The New York Times/ Siena College poll, taken Oct. 15-18, found that regardless of how Americans might vote, 52% said they trusted Joe Biden to do a better job with the coronavirus pandemic and 40% said they trusted Trump to do a better job. The poll found that 59% would support a national mask mandate and 39% would oppose it.
  • The Aug. 7-16 motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D., may have helped spark a major outbreak of the virus, the Post reports: “Experts say they will never be able to determine how many of those cases originated at the 10-day rally, given the failure of state and local health officials to identify and monitor attendees returning home, or to trace chains of transmission after people got sick. Some, however, believe the nearly 500,000-person gathering played a role in the outbreak now consuming the Upper Midwest.”
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