With 68 counties in red zone, another Top 3 day for new cases, and record hospitalizations, Beshear calls it a frightening time

State list; red-zone counties had 25 or more new cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

With more than half of Kentucky’s counties in the most dangerous zone for new coronavirus cases and the state having three of its top days for new cases this week, Gov. Andy Beshear called it a “frightening time.”

“This is a type of outbreak where we can’t deny our way out of it,” Beshear said at his daily briefing. “We can’t rationalize our way out of it. We can’t try to find excuses for not following the guidance. It is that present.”

The state reported the second-highest single day of new coronavirus cases on Thursday, 1,821, after reporting 1,864 on Wednesday, the record, and 1,786 on Tuesday, the third-highest. (The state announced 2,398 cases Oct. 7, but 1,472 of them were from a Fayette County backlog.)

The share of Kentuckians who have tested positive for the virus in past seven days is above 6 percent for the second day in a row, at 6.04%. Anything above 5% is a concern to public-health experts.

Hospitalizations for covid-19 in Kentucky set a new record, at 969, including 234 in intensive care and 120 of those on ventilators.

Beshear said 68 Kentucky counties are in the “red zone,” meaning they have at least 25 new cases per 100,000 people in that county. Click here for the list.

Today marks the first day that these red-zone counties are not only asked to follow already-in-place guidelines for schools and nursing homes, but to also follow a set of nine red-zone reduction recommendations, which, among other things, call on businesses and government offices to allow people to work from home if possible and for individuals to cancel all gatherings of any size and to stay home as much as possible.

“If you are in one of those 68 counties, and most Kentuckians are, we need you to reduce your contacts as much as possible. Really starting now, but certainly Monday through Sunday of next week,” Beshear said. “Don’t go out unless you have to, don’t have gatherings, try to do curbside shopping.”

Again, Beshear said if Kentuckians would just follow the mandates and recommendations already in place, fewer counties will find themselves in the red zone.

“We know that compliance is our biggest problem right now,” he said, adding that if individuals and smaller communities will come together to take ownership of this problem, “We know if that happens, that’ll increase compliance.”
Beshear said much of Kentucky’s infection is coming from other states. Thursday, more than 89,900 new cases were reported in the U.S., the highest number yet, and the total number of cases passed 9 million.
Beshear announced 19 new deaths from covid-19 on Thursday, bringing the state’s death toll to 1,461.

He again encouraged Kentuckians to follow the state’s guidance, noting that by doing so they are saving lives.

“Pease help us save lives. Every day you get up and put on a mask, you save lives. Every day you follow the guidance, you save lives. If you are a red county, when you follow what we need you to do in the recommendation, you are going to save lives,” he said.

State Department for Public Health graphic; for a larger version, click on it.

Halloween: Beshear offered a final pitch to get Kentuckians to follow the state’s Halloween guidelines, with several pleas for anyone hosting Halloween parties to cancel them.

“If families follow this guidance, we think that trick or treating can be safe,” he said.. “If you don’t, it is not.”

The guidance calls on people to only provide individually wrapped candy that is placed on the porch, driveway or table instead of a communal bowl; to maintain social distancing, to wear a face mask, that is not a Halloween mask; to only trick or treat with your family, to sanitize hands often and to not travel to other neighborhoods, among other things.

He added, “We cannot be having adult Halloween parties right now. . . . So if you’re a facility that’s out there and you’re advertising for it right now, cancel it,” later asking them to recognize that we’ve had three of our four highest days this week and to please not put their communities at risk. “It is dangerous for individuals to go to large gatherings right now,” he said.

Unemployment insurance update: Amy Cubbage, the governor’s general counsel, said the state will now sort the claims by the date of the filing, instead of the day the claim is back-filed for to better serve those who have been waiting the longest. She added that the state has requested a federal waiver of the obligation to obtain repayment from those who were mistakenly paid benefits that they didn’t qualify for after the federal government changed their eligibility guidance. She also announced several dates that the computer system would be shut down for upgrades. They are: Friday, Nov. 6, and Saturday, Nov. 7; Thursday, Nov. 26, through Saturday, Nov. 28; and briefly after business hours on Dec. 15.

Cubbage also warned Kentuckians to be on the lookout for email scammers using this fake account: PUA@unemployment.usdol.gov. She said scammers are trying to obtain personal information and shared tips to avoid the scam: Never respond to an email unless it is from a ky.gov domain and is clearly marked as coming from a Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance employee; you will never be asked to click on a link in an email from  the OUI; unless you initiate contact with U.S. DOL you should not receive any emails from them about your claim.

In other covid-19 news Thursday:

  • Today’s fatalities from covid-19 were a 68-year-old man from Adair County; a 75-year-old man from Calloway County; a 93-year-old man from Casey County; an 81-year-old man from Daviess County; a 65-year-old man from Fayette County; two women, 83 and 88, and two men, 88 and 90, from Jefferson County; a 73-year-old man from Jessamine County; a 72-year-old man from Lee County; a 61-year-old woman from McLean County; an 80-year-old woman from Meade County; a 71-year-old man from Muhlenberg County; a 68-year-old woman from Rowan County; a 58-year-old man from Russell County; a 68-year-old woman from Shelby County; an 87-year-old woman from Warren County; and an 89-year-old woman from Whitley County.
  • Beshear said  227 of today’s new cases are children and that in the last seven days, 1,322 of them have been children under 18.
  • In long-term care, Beshear announced there 71 more residents and 42 more staff have tested positive for the virus, with 993 active resident cases and 578 active staff cases.
  • The K-12 dashboard shows another 89 students and 32 staff have tested positive for the virus, with a total of  3,136 students and 451 staff in quarantine this week.
  • The college and university report shows 212 new students have tested positive for the virus, with 503 testing positive in the past 14 days.
  • Counties with 10 or more new cases are: Jefferson, 331; Fayette, 127;  Hardin, 65;  Kenton, 52;  Warren, 47;  Christian, 44;  Nelson, 42;  Campbell, 41;  Barren, 40;  Clay, 38;  McCracken, 37;  Pike, 36;  Boone, 33;  Hopkins, 33;  Calloway and  Montgomery, 26 each; Madison, 25; Marion, 24;  Floyd and Whitley, 23 each;  Bullitt and Daviess, 22 each;  Bell, Lee and Marshall, 21 each;  Scott, 19; Caldwell, 18;  Henderson, Knox, Laurel and Oldham, 17 each; Garrard and Hart, 16 each; Boyd, Carter  and Jackson, 15 each;  Harlan and Monroe, 14 each; Logan, 13; Shelby, 12;  Anderson, Franklin, Graves, McLean, Perry and Taylor, 11 each; and Jessamine and Webster, 10 each.
  • The Lake Cumberland District Health Department said it would no longer review plans for controlling the virus at public events because people who hold the events don’t follow the plans. “Without fail, these groups share with us plans that align with the governor’s guidance. Almost equally without fail these events fail to unfold as planned, and consistent social distancing and masking does not take place,” said the department, which serves 10 counties. “It will be the health department’s standing policy that we advise against any such social gathering. While we do not have the authority to prevent these types of events, we can no longer spend our time reviewing plans that consistently fail during execution. We will simply direct such ‘event planners’ to the state’s guidance.”
  • When coronavirus vaccines arrive, they will be free to all Medicare beneficiaries. Medicare will cover the entire cost of paying doctors to administer the vaccines, and doctors will bill traditional Medicare for all beneficiaries so private Medicare Advantage plans do not need to cover the cost, Medicare Administrator Seema Verma said Wednesday. Medicare “will also make antibodies and other covid-19 treatments free to seniors by paying hospitals extra for using newly approved or authorized covid-19 treatments and by paying outpatient providers for those products separately from bundled payments,” Inside Health Policy reports.
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