Thurs. report: 1,330 new cases and a record 800 hospitalizations, 214 of them in intensive care; positive-test rate jumps to 5.3%

State Department for Public Health graph, relabeled by Kentucky Health News

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

Kentucky recorded 1,330 new cases of the novel coronavirus Thursday, the third-highest daily total, and a record 800 hospitalizations for covid-19, continuing a hospital-case increase that began just over a month ago.

Intensive-care cases rose to 214, the highest since May, and 105 of those patients are on ventilators, “fighting for their lives,” Gov. Andy Beshear said at his last daily briefing of the week.

Beshear announced 17 more covid-19 deaths, for a two-day total of 38. The seven-day rolling average of new cases rose by 10 to 1,172, another record. A month ago, the seven-day average was under 700. The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the last seven says was 5.3 percent, the highest since Aug. 19, Beshear said.

“We have fought and defeated escalation twice; we can do it a third time; it takes all of us,” he said. He added that “the big difference” between now and the initial escalation in March is “We know how to do this. The question is, are we willing to? And we need to answer that question with the affirmative. It’s gotta be ‘yes,’ because if it’s ‘no,’ we lose more people around us. It’s gotta be yes. We’re in the business of saving lives right now, folks, every single one of us. It’s your job, it’s my job, its all of our jobs. Let’s do it.”

Beshear said “We’re going to be looking for additional recommendations we can make to communities.” Asked if he sees more enforcement of measures designed to thwart spread of the virus, he said “It is uneven in some areas but we are seeing a stronger push . . . sometimes the encouragement, sometimes the enforcement. But let’s admit that we can’t enforce our way to into really good practices. We have to encourage our way into really good practices.”

Halloween: Beshear’s briefing and daily news release had much on preparations for Halloween, nine days away.

“You need a plan, because our kids are excited,” he said. “They want to have some way to celebrate Halloween,” but that could pose more danger than usual if not done correctly. He noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “doesn’t think we ought to be trick or treating at all.”

Beshear said trick-or-treaters should go to fewer houses this year, avoid mass gatherings, wear face masks even when wearing a costume mask, sanitize their hands often, maintain six feet of distance from others and walk in groups limited to families.

To those providing treats, he said “You can’t be individually handing it out; that will spread this virus.”  He said candy should be set out only after sanitizing hands, and said “Step on the other side of the glass of your door so that those kids can be safe. . . . Parents, wipe down candy wrappers when you get home.”

New CDC guidance: Health Commissioner Steven Stack said the CDC’s new guidance, that the virus can be spread by frequent, brief exposures, “doesn’t represent a meaningful change in Kentucky” because his agency said Sept. 18 that exposure does not necessarily need to be a consecutive 15 minutes, as the CDC said then.

“I’ve very proud of our team,” said Stack, an emergency-room physician by trade. “I think we have had multiple instances now where our guidance has been ahead of the curve.”

He added, “In order for all of this to work, people have got to follow the guidance … If you have a high-risk exposure, we’re gonna expect you to quarantine . . . Follow the great example set by the first family.” He said Beshear and his family would soon end the quarantine that they entered when a member of their security detail tested positive for the virus.

Beshear said the state trooper still has symptoms but “He’s gonna be OK.”

Treasurer’s report: State Treasurer Allison Ball delivered an 87-page report to a legislative committee criticizing Beshear’s use of state funds to have police place quarantine notices on the vehicles of people attending church services held on April 12, Easter, despite Beshear’s order against mass gatherings.

Ball told the Interim Judiciary Committee that five churches were involved: Maryville Baptist Church in Hillview in Bullitt County, which was widely covered; two in Louisville, one in Falmouth and one in Morgantown. The notices said people not self-quarantining could be charged with misdemeanors.

“Kentuckians should never be faced with a misdemeanor when they want to go to church, to a synagogue or any house of worship,” Ball said..

The report gave no details about the taxpayers’ money spent. Such investigations are typically conducted by the state auditor. Kentucky Health News asked Auditor Mike Harmon, also a Republican, if any GOP elected or party official asked him to do such an investigation. His office said he had received no such “formal” request.

Committee Chair Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, called the report important and said it would be “one of the factors that will be taken into consideration of what changes might happen come January 2021,” when the legislature is expected to trim the governor’s emergency powers.

Democrats on the committee said the report was politically motivated, and questioned its timing, 12 days before a general election. Ball said she had planned to release the report in the summer, “`but needed more time to get her information ready,” WKYT reports.

Beshear spokeswoman Crystal Staley said, “As a deacon in his church, the governor believes the treasurer is wrong to use faith to create fear and stoke division between Kentuckians. As Governor, he has regularly featured religious leaders in his press conferences and often speaks about his strong faith.” She said Beshear “took the same steps as other governors by prohibiting mass gatherings.”

In other coronavirus news Thursday:

  • The day’s 17 deaths include one worker at a long-term-care facility, raising to six the number of LTC employees killed by covid-19. Another six resident deaths were attributed to the disease, bringing that total to 824, or 59.7 percent of the state’s death toll of 1,380.
  • The 17 fatalities were two women, 69 and 74, from Allen County; a 73-year-old man from Fayette County; two women, 60 and 78, from Greenup County; a 65-year-old woman from Hancock County; a 64-year-old woman from Hardin County; a 52-year-old man from Henderson County; a 95-year-old woman and an 84-year-old man from Jefferson County; an 87-year-old man from Jessamine County; a 93-year-old woman from Knott County; a 77-year-old woman from Lee County; a 76-year-old man from McCracken County; a 63-year-old man from Nicholas County; an 87-year-old man from Rockcastle County; and a 96-year-old man from Scott County.
  • The state’s K-12 dashboard showed 73 more students and 31 more employees testing positive for the virus, and 585 more students and 85 employees quarantined, for a total of 2,455 students and 409 employees.
  • Counties with more than 10 new cases were Jefferson, 272; Fayette, 115; Nelson, 37; Hardin, 36; Warren, 35; Barren, 33; Shelby, 29; Daviess, 27; Laurel, 27; Madison, 27; Marion, 24; Boone, 20; Henderson, 20; Scott, 20; Christian, 19; Hart, 19; Bell, 17; Meade, 16; Calloway; 15; Jessamine, 15; McCracken, 15; Kenton, 14; Bullitt, 13; Allen, 12; Campbell, 12; Clay, 11; Grayson, 11; Perry, 11; Pike, 11; and Rockcastle, 11.
  • Fayette County health officials, who report on a different schedule than the state, recorded 118 new cases Thursday, “the third-most in a single day in October,” the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. “The city’s rolling seven-day average of new cases has increased to 86.4. It swelled to over 100 in September before falling as low as 70 earlier this month. After hitting a plateau’ earlier in October, the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department said the city is trending upward at this time,’ according to spokesman Kevin Hall,” who said, “We are likely exiting that plateau.”
  • First lady Britainy Beshear said Humana Inc. donated 100,000 reusable masks to the Coverings For Kids campaign, making the overall total more than 150,000. The deadline for donations is Oct. 30 at
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