On another record day for virus and hospital cases, Beshear says people should wear masks to protect themselves, not just others

Kentucky Health News graph; case numbers are based on initial, unadjusted reports

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
After announcing yet another record for the highest number of new coronavirus cases in a single day, Gov. Andy Beshear’s messaging shifted to put more of the onus on community members to protect each other from the virus — and for individuals to protect themselves.
When counties have at least 25 cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days, which puts them in the “red zone,” Beshear said “a coordinated effort” is needed from long-term care facilities, schools and communities to follow the guidelines to thwart the spread of the virus.
“If we can do that, if we can come together, we can make a difference in our local communities, not just protecting nameless, faceless people somewhere in Kentucky, but protecting the people you see every day,” Beshear said at his daily briefing.
The state reported 1,864 new cases Wednesday. The previous high was yesterday, 1,786. It announced 2,398 cases on Oct. 7, but 1,472 of them were from a backlog in Fayette County.
The day’s total pushed Kentucky above 100,000 cases, and even above 101,000 cases, Beshear noted, adding that many of those cases were added recently.
Hospitalizations for covid-19 continue to increase, with 927 people hospitalized for it in Kentucky, another record, including 235 in intensive care and 110 of those on ventilators.
The share of people testing positive for the virus in Kentucky in the last seven days is 6.07%.
Beshear noted that the state’s guidance to schools is for when the positive-test rate is below 6%, but he said schools should continue to follow the current guidelines next week, largely because the figure is barely over 6% and there will be a widespread call next week for all red-zone counties to follow his new recommendations, which includes things like not hosting gatherings of any size and allowing employees to work at home when possible.

Beshear has asked nursing homes, schools and communities to look at the state’s color-coded case incidence map on Thursdays to make decisions around what guidelines they need to follow in the week to come. The map is updated daily. Today, it showed 64 red counties, 47 orange, nine yellow and none in green.

“We need our communities again, everybody doing their part in each of these areas, to bring those levels down,” he said.
With all metrics headed in the wrong direction, Beshear stressed that it’s time for people who may not be concerned about wearing a mask to protect others, to consider wearing one to protect themselves.
“If you’re not wearing a mask, you’re putting yourself at risk.. . . People now need to not just do what it takes to protect each other, but to protect themselves,” said Beshear.” If you’re not wearing a mask now, when we passed 101,000 cases, when we have a positivity rate of 6%, when we have 64 red counties — you’re putting yourself at risk. So if you don’t want to care for other people, you want to look out for number one, wear a mask.”
The White House Coronavirus Task Force report was not posted on the state’s website, but Beshear said it came with several suggestions, including: keep mask requirements in place, ensure physical distancing, avoid public crowds and private social gatherings and to ensure retail establishments are complying with the guidelines. It also said, “Current transmissions are linked to home gatherings.”
Beshear said, “If you’re having a Halloween party, the state believes you are spreading the virus; the federal government believes you’re spreading the virus; don’t spread the virus. We need your help.”
Health Commissioner Steven Stack said the incidence-rate map looks the worst ever and by all indications will get worse before it gets better.
“But we know what works. We know that the tools we have now, as frustrating as they are, are the ones that help keep us safe,” he said, noting that those things include wearing masks, social distancing, washing your hands, staying home when sick and getting tested if you have been exposed or have symptoms.
He also encouraged counties to follow the new guidelines “by aligning what we do in schools, what we do in nursing homes and what we do for all of the communities. If we were to do these things, I have absolute confidence that I could stand here two or three weeks later, and show you a map with green counties and yellow counties and orange counties and a fraction of the red counties we currently have,” he said. “But if we ignore it, that whole map’s gonna turn largely red and then unfortunately, we’ll reach the same conclusion but at a much higher cost.”
Eric Friedlander

Earlier in the briefing, Health Secretary Eric Friedlander commended the efforts of those working in long-term care facilities, saying it is due to their efforts that Kentucky is ranked 26th among states for cases and 22nd for deaths.

Nevertheless, he said we can and should do better, and that includes individuals in a community doing what they can to decrease community spread.
“All of you can help,” Friedlander said. “All of you need to wear a mask. All of you need to practice social distancing. What is important now, in terms of what’s happening in our long-term care facilities, has to do with our community spread. If you are in a red county, please . . . follow our guidelines.”
Friedlander gave an update on the outbreak at Thomson-Hood Center in Wilmore, the largest nursing home operated by the state Department of Veterans Affairs, with 285 beds. He said there 54 active virus cases among veterans, and 23 active staff cases; and 11 veterans there have died of covid-19.
“We have to follow the guidelines. That’s the best way we can give back to our veterans and protect them,” said Friedlander.
One more speaker at the briefing asked for compliance.
Virginia Moore, one of the state’s American Sign Language interpreters, said in a video post that she is now cancer-free after treatment for uterine cancer. She reminded Kentuckians to not put off cancer screenings, and asked them to be as kind to those suffering from covid-19 as they have been to her.
“Please use your mask,” she said. “Let’s show kindness and understanding. Let’s do that one thing that we can do, and that’s wearing the mask, social distance. Let’s pull together as a community. Let’s show everyone else the support that you showed me.”
Beshear announced 14 new deaths Wednesday from covid-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 1,442. The fatalities were an 83-year-old man from Boyd County; an 80-year-old man from Breathitt County; a 61-year-old woman from Christian County; a 95-year-old woman from Fayette County; a 93-year-old woman and a 91-year-old man from Henderson County; an 87-year-old woman and three men, 70, 80 and 81 from Jefferson County; two women, 80 and 82, from Kenton County; a 64-year-old woman from Knox County; and an 85-year-old woman from Lee County.

In other covid-19 news Wednesday:

  • Counties with 10 or more new cases were Jefferson, 352; Fayette, 102; Hardin, 78; Nelson, 67; Pike, 60; Kenton, 59; Warren, 49; Christian, 37; Bullitt, 35; Barren, 33; Boone and Daviess, 32 each; Madison,  Montgomery and Scott, 28 each; Campbell and Knox, 26 each; Jessamine and Marion, 24 each;  Hart, 23; Henderson, Laurel  and McCracken, 21 each; Clay and Lee, 20 each; Franklin and Taylor, 19 each; Boyd and Oldham, 18 each; Rockcastle and Shelby, 15 each; Bell and Calloway, 14 each; Caldwell, Marshall and Rowan, 13 each; Hopkins, Larue, Lincoln and Magoffin, 12 each; Martin, Monroe and Whitley, 11 each; Floyd, Greenup and Logan, 10 each.
  • Fayette County saw its third-highest day of new cases Tuesday, 135, with Sept. 10 and 11 having more new infections, according to its health department. Spokesman Kevin Hall told the Lexington Herald-Leader that the jump in cases is not tied to any one location. He said hospitalizations are also increasing in the county; in the summer, they were seeing upwards of 40 a day, but now that is moving closer to 60. “With colder weather coming, the concern is more people will stay indoors and have gatherings inside, which could lead to more cases,” said Hall. “We also need to remind people to stay home if they’re symptomatic.”
  • Beshear announced that the state, in partnership with the federal government, is offering some new testing sites to address the surge in cases. The new sites will be in Louisville and Lexington. Each person who gets a test will get a pack of five cloth masks.  Click here to check for dates, locations and to register.
  • In long-term care, the daily report shows 105 new resident cases and 60 new staff cases, with 928 active resident cases and 511 active staff cases. There have been 861 resident deaths and six staff deaths attributed to covid-19.
  • The K-12 dashboard says during the current week, 292 students and 149 staff have tested positive for the virus and 2,379 students and 354 staff are quarantined.
  • The college and university report says 463 students and eight staff have tested positive for the virus in the past 14 days.
  • Kroger Co. said it will offer rapid antibody testing for the virus, with most results coming in 15 minutes, at all its pharmacies by the end of November. It said the $25 tests would be conducted by a health professional using a finger stick, and are already being offered in California and Michigan. Antibody testing determines whether someone has had the virus and might have developed some immunity.
  • The national seven-day rolling average of new cases topped 70,000 for the first time, “a disturbing record that comes as the number of hospitalizations climbs toward its midsummer peak, and the death rate creeps upward,” The Washington Post reports.
  • President Trump is saying in campaign speeches that the national surge of cases is caused by increased testing, and has suggested that the numbers are part of a conspiracy against him. The White House’s testing czar, Admiral Brett Giroir, said otherwise Wednesday. “It’s not just a function of testing,” he said on NBC’s “Today” show. “The cases are actually going up. And we know that, too, because hospitalizations are going up.”
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, gave a 30-minute coronavirus update on JAMA Network‘s YouTube channel. “We’re going into a precarious situation,” he said, because cold weather has arrived and the holiday season is approaching. Asked for recommendations about the holidays, he said “You have to take a look at what the risk is to your particular situation,” depending on ages, underlying conditions and other factors and ask: “Is it worth it for this year to being these people together when you don’t know . . . the status of everybody?” He noted that a person can have the virus without symptoms and still pass it on.
  • Fauci said a national mask mandate is needed to get mask wearing to 90-95% of the population. “It makes a difference,” he said. “It really, really does.” Failing that, he said, “We have to sort of shake each other by the collar and say, ‘Look at what’s going on’.”
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent a letter to governors this week pushing the deadline for states to be ready to receive and distribute a coronavirus vaccine between Nov. 1 to Nov. 15, the Herald-Leader reports. Such early delivery appears unlikely.
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