With state nearing ‘critical’ level of virus spread, and some places much higher, Beshear requires all in state buildings to mask up

Dept. for Public Health map, adapted by Ky. Health News; click to enlarge

Gov. Andy Beshear is requiring all state employees and visitors to state buildings to wear face coverings, even if they are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, which continues to surge in Kentucky.

Beshear said in a two-minute video that he took the action to protect state workers “and those they interact with.” It takes effect Thursday, July 29.

State Auditor Mike Harmon, a Republican who says he is running for governor in 2023, said the Democratic governor’s move disappointed him. “This policy removes one of the most significant incentives for individuals to get the Covid-19 vaccine,” he said. “I continue to encourage all unvaccinated Kentuckians to have a discussion with their health-care provider about whether the vaccine is the best option for them.”

The rule “came on the heels of a shift in guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which on Tuesday said everyone in the United States, including fully-vaccinated people, should resume wearing masks in public indoor settings in parts of the country where spread of the Covid-19 Delta variant is considered dangerously ‘high’ or ‘substantial‘,” the Lexington Herald-Leader notes.

That could apply to 36 of Kentucky’s 120 counties, which appear in red on the state’s infection map because virus transmission there is considered “critical.” That applies to counties with 25 daily cases per 100,000 residents over the last seven days; the latest statewide rate is not far from that: 21.58.

Counties with rates more than double the statewide rate are Clay, 82.6; Jackson, 76.1; Floyd, 59.4; Laurel, 52.4; Muhlenberg, 49.5; Webster, 48.6; Letcher, 47.7; Hopkins, 45.7; Simpson, 44.6; and Whitley, 44.5. All but Simpson are in the state’s eastern or western coalfields.

The state reported 1,693 new cases of the virus Wednesday, raising the daily average for the last seven days by 104, to 1,022. That’s the highest it has been since March 2, and more than double what it was just nine days go.

Hospitalizations for Covid-19 also jumped, rising to 571, almost 10% more than Tuesday. Intensive-care units has 185 of those patients, and 83 of them were on mechanical ventilation. Hospitalizations have more than doubled in 13 days.

The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus rose for the 32nd day in a row, to 8.29%. The state reported two more Covid-19 deaths, raising the total to 7,325.

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