Governor finalizes school reopening rules, makes them only advisory for private schools; all pandemic metrics down for day

State Dept. for Public Health map, relabeled by Ky. Health News; to enlarge, click on it.

By Al Cross

Kentucky Health News

As the novel coronavirus ebbed slightly in Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear finalized rules for reopening schools, and made them only advisory for private schools, precluding a renewed battle in federal courts.

In a press release, Beshear announced 3,179 new cases of the virus, 14 percent less than the previous Friday. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases is 2,884, which is 2.5% below Thursday’s figure. Hospitalization figures, which are steadier, were lower on all fronts: 1,712 Covid-19 patients in Kentucky hospitals, 410 of them in intensive care and 227 of those on ventilators.
The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days also remained steady, at 8.59%.
Beshear announced 28 additional deaths, well over the average of 21 for the last month but well below the record 54 he announced Thursday.
The governor issued an executive order finalizing his plan for school reopenings in the new year, which he outlined Monday. The order begins by saying it applies to all K-12 public schools but “It is also recommended that all private schools follow these provisions.”
Beshear’s Nov. 18 order banning in-person instruction until Jan. 4 applied to all schools, prompting a lawsuit that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sat on the case long enough to say Thursday that it was largely moot because the holiday break was arriving.
The latest order allows schools in red zones — counties averaging at least 25 new cases of the virus per 100,000 population — to open Jan. 4 if they follow new safety guidelines and have “meaningful virtual options for all students” but recommends that they not open until Jan. 11.
Beshear said Monday that he recommends waiting another week because the virus has a 14-day incubation period, and public-health officials fear increased spread of the virus during Christmas holidays.
The plan adjusts the recommendations for counties in red and orange zones, primarily by asking schools in those counties to implement “more aggressive” hybrid learning to reduce the number of people in school buildings. Schools must accommodate employees who fall into a high-risk category with a virtual option.

Friday, Beshear reminded Kentuckians to follow new holiday guidance that the health department issued Thursday.

“Christmas is probably my favorite day of the year, and I know we all want to celebrate the way we usually do, but this year we need to do things differently,” he said. “With vaccines arriving this week, we can see the bright light at the end of the tunnel. Now we just need everyone to keep doing their part to protect one another.”

In other coronavirus news Friday:

  • The 28 latest Covid-19 fatalities were a 64-year-old woman from Boyd County; two Christian County men, 67 and 71; a Clark County man, 75; a woman, 92, and a man, 84, from Fayette County; a Graves County woman, 93; a Greenup County woman, 71; a Hardin County man, 70; two Hopkins County men, 54 and 86; a woman, 95, and five men, 58, 74, 77, 77 and 79, from Jefferson County; a Johnson County woman, 57;  a Kenton County woman, 84; a LaRue County woman, 93; a Lee County woman, 75; a Marshall County man, 90; a Mason County man, 66; a woman, 83, and a man, 59, from McCracken County; a Pike County man, 74; a Taylor County woman, 95; and a Union County woman, 62.
  • Counties with more than 10 new cases were: Jefferson, 434; Fayette, 189; Pulaski, 150; Kenton, 149; Warren, 104; Boone, 85; Daviess, 78; Oldham, 77; Wayne, 73; Pike, 66; Whitley, 61; Laurel, 49; Hardin, 47; Henderson, 46; Campbell, 45; Greenup, 44; Taylor, 43; Bullitt, 41; Bath, Hopkins McCreary and Russell, 37; Franklin, 34; Bourbon and Madison, 33; Clark and Clay, 32; Boyd and Grant, 30; Boyle and Lincoln, 29; Christian, McCracken and Marshall, 28; Knox, 27; Carter, Clinton, Floyd and Letcher, 26; Mercer, 25; Hart and Jessamine, 23; Nelson and Scott, 22; Mason, 21; Bell, Carroll and Green, 20; Logan, 19; Adair, Marion, Montgomery and Simpson, 18; Muhlenberg, 17; Shelby, 16; Perry, 15; Graves, Grayson, Henry and Ohio, 14; Casey and Lewis, 13; Anderson, Barren, Butler, Powell and Union, 12; Garrard, Meade and Robertson, 11.
  • Beshear issued a reminder that Friday is the deadline to apply for the $40 million Team Kentucky Food and Beverage Relief Fund. Check eligibility and apply here.
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