Hospitalizations up 5% in one day; health-department workers are afraid to enforce orders because of threats, abuse, Beshear says

Beshear showed a video of nurse practitioner Katie Rogers asking Kentuckians to take care at Thanksgiving in order to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
Gov. Andy Beshear announced a 5.4 percent jump in Kentucky’s covid-19 hospitalizations Tuesday, making for another record high, while making a final plea for Kentuckians to keep their Thanksgiving gatherings small – and saying health-department workers are afraid to enforce his emergency orders because of abuse and threats.
Beshear said covid-19 hospitalizations totaled 1,658, 85 more than Monday; 390 of them are in intensive care, and 207 of those are on a ventilator.
The governor warns almost daily that a main reason Kentuckians need to stop spreading the novel coronavirus and bring case numbers down is to keep the state’s health-care system from being overwhelmed – and there are already signs that that is beginning to happen.
Beshear pointed to newspaper headlines across the state reporting that local hospitals were either at capacity or near capacity.
The Albert B. Chandler Hospital at the University of Kentucky announced that it will close five of its 32 operating rooms to make room for an influx of covid-19 patients, whose number has jumped from about 30 in late October to 81 early Tuesday, notes Alex Acquisto of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Beshear said the disease is beginning to overwhelm the health-care capacity of the state and the region. “If we do not stop the exponential growth of cases, we will exceed our health-care capacity,” he warned. “We will experience more loss and more death than we have to.”
In the question session of his daily briefing, Beshear was quick to confirm that Kentucky’s health-department workers are being targeted by death threats and doxxing – malicious posting of personal information online – over the enforcement of coronavirus orders, similar to episodes in other states.
“It’s going on every day, in every local health department, to every single worker,” Beshear said. “It is awful and it is disgusting. Our local health department workers are scared. They’re scared to release their local numbers, they’re scared to do basic enforcement. They’re people’s neighbors, fighting for the lives of neighbors, and people treating them this way is unacceptable. It is not in accordance to our values. It’s not in accordance to my faith. It is not Christian.”

Health departments have been tasked with enforcing Beshear’s mask mandate since July, and now they are being asked to enforce his new orders that include, among other things, banning indoor service in bars and restaurants.
Some restaurants have refused to follow that mandate, forcing health departments to become involved, and in some cases suspending their food service permits.
One such restaurant is Bean’s Cafe and Bakery in Dry Ridge. Rachel Cheatham reports for the Grant County News that the bakery has decided to keep its dining room open, despite the order to close all indoor dining by 5 p.m. Nov. 20. Outdoor dining is allowed, under certain requirements.
Bean’s owner Richard Hayhoe told Cheatham, “It is our understanding that to defy an order like we have will bring out the situation to a head and make the governor’s office prove that they have the legal authority to strip business owners of their constitutionally protected ability to earn a living. These regulations are the political overreach of an office that is bent on controlling every aspect of life and taking away your ability to make your own decisions.”
A Bean’s Facebook post said the restaurant had received a notice from the Northern Kentucky District Health Department that its food-service permit had been suspended. “We will remain open until it can be proven that this is unlawful for them to do in a court of law.” The office of Grant County Attorney Stephen Bates II declined to comment other than to say the case will be a matter of public record.
In London, Bill Estep of the Herald-Leader reports that the Laurel County Health Department planned to shut down Wingz 2.0, a restaurant that had not shut down its dining room. Janet Patton of the Herald-Leader reports that the Lexington health department has ordered closure of a coffee shop, Brewed, and suspended its permit, but its dining room remains open.
Asked what level of enforcement defiant restaurants can expect, Beshear noted that the state Supreme Court recently ruled – in a case involving Bean’s and other Northern Kentucky businesses – that he has legal authority to issue such orders, and offering indoor dining is a violation of the rule of law.
“Our society can’t move forward with people who openly violate the law if they don’t like it,” Beshear said. “Once the Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled, that’s supposed to be it.”
Beshear noted that there has been a rush on testing in the last few days. He said that is a good thing, but cautioned that it is not safe to think that a negative covid-19 test means you can safely gather for Thanksgiving, because it can take time for an infection to show up on a test. The incubation period for the virus is 14 days.
“A single [negative] test can’t guarantee a safe Thanksgiving,” pointing to a Time article that expands on this topic.
The state Department for Public Health has asked Kentuckians to avoid travel and only have dinner with people who live in their household, or at a maximum, people from two households (no more than eight people total).
“Please keep your Thanksgiving celebration as small as you can,” he said.
Beshear reported 2,690 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing the state’s seven-day rolling average down to 2,994, 1 percent below yesterday’s average. He also reported 17 more covid-related deaths, bringing the state’s death toll to 1,809.
The deaths were a 90-year-old woman from Calloway County; two women, 64 and 81, and a 52-year-old man from Daviess County; an 81-year-old Hardin County man; a 67-year-old Henry County man; an 86-year-old woman and five men, ages 64, 67, 75, 76 and 88, from Jefferson County; a 78-year-old Kenton County woman; a 60-year-old Martin County man; a 90-year-old McLean County woman; an 88-year-old Metcalfe County woman; and an 81-year-old Shelby County woman.
The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days remained under 9% for the second day in a row, after being above that threshold since Tuesday, Nov. 17. Today, it was 8.82%.
In other coronavirus news Tuesday:
  • Counties with 10 or more new cases were Jefferson, 394; Fayette, 201; Hardin, 118; Madison, 80; Daviess, 73; McCracken, 72; Boone, 71; Warren, 70; Boyd, 65; Nelson, 54; Pike, 49; Kenton, 45; Graves, 43; Oldham, 39; Hopkins, 38; Bullitt, Jessamine, Laurel and Pulaski, 34 each; Montgomery, 33; Henderson and Shelby, 32 each; Marion, 31; Carter, Greenup and Mercer, 29 each; Scott, 27; Barren and Lincoln, 26 each ; Campbell, 25; Larue and Simpson, 23 each; Clark, Franklin and Johnson, 22 each; Christian, 21; Magoffin, Muhlenberg, Ohio and Pendleton, 20 each; Washington, 19; Calloway, 18; Lee, 17; Floyd, Marshall, Meade and Whitley, 16 each; Martin, 15; Clay, Harlan, Logan and Webster, 14 each ; Grant, 13; Boyle, Garrard, Harrison, Leslie, Monroe and Spencer, 12 each; Bell, Knox, Powell and Wayne, 11 each; and Metcalfe, Rowan and Woodford, 10 each.
  • In long-term care facilities, there are 1,572 active cases among residents and 1,044 among staff cases, with 92 resident cases and 115 staff cases reported Tuesday. There are 1,173 resident deaths and seven staff deaths attributed to covid-19, with 18 resident deaths reported today.
  • Beshear announced another covid-19 death at the Thomson-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore, bringing the total there to 28. He said the facility has gone 10 days without a new case and that none of the other three veteran facilities in the state have reported any cases.
  • Fifteen states are in Kentucky’s travel advisory because they have a positive-test rate of 15% or higher. From highest to lowest, they are: Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Missouri, Alabama, Utah, Montana, Arizona, Mississippi, Oregon and Ohio. Kentuckians who travel to these states are asked to isolate for two weeks upon return. The state also recommends a 14-day self-quarantine for anyone returning from any international travel.
  • The U.S. Department of Labor has abruptly ended extended unemployment benefits for 4,723 Kentuckians, according to a state news release. Claimants who continue to be off work due to the pandemic may be eligible for another form of benefit through the end of the year. This also does not affect the ability of Kentuckians losing their jobs to qualify for traditional unemployment benefits, the release says.
  • “Some Americans downplaying the novel coronavirus insist improved treatments have made the virus far less deadly than last spring, but that’s a far too rosy take,” writes Paige Winfield Cunningham of The Washington Post. “Better treatments are now available, but their impact isn’t nearly big enough to avoid an impending surge of deaths” as hospitals reach or exceed capacity. “While the case-fatality rate declined early in the pandemic, it hasn’t budged since the summer” from 1.7 percent.
  • Essential workers are likely to move ahead of adults 65 and older and people with high-risk medical conditions on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s priority list, coming after health care workers and those living in long-term care facilities, members of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices said on Monday, Stat reports. No formal vote has been taken. Stat writes that the intention is to bring “many people of color closer to the front of the vaccine priority line — should they want to be vaccinated — in recognition of the fact that the pandemic has disproportionately hit Black and Latino communities.” Further, one expert notes that essential workers have less opportunity to social distance, compared to seniors and those with high-risk medical conditions.
  • Matthew Glowicki of the Louisville Courier Journal tells the stories of grieving families who have lost a loved one to covid-19 as they prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday.
  • Local health departments in Eastern Kentucky release a report with their covid-19 numbers on Monday’s; this week’s report includes three deaths, WYMT reports.
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