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Beshear sounds alarm that virus is spreading; issues travel advisory, reinstitutes guidance on crowd sizes

Gov. Andy Beshear warned the COVID virus is spreading as the Commonwealth faces a significant uptick in new cases and must be ready to respond. He reported just 258 new cases as of Monday afternoon — and just one death. He also said eight of the cases were children 5 and younger.

“The virus is spreading out there. It’s spreading significantly. We must make sure that we take the steps to keep ourselves safe, our families safe and each other safe. Any concept that there’s just more testing out there and the virus is still in the same place is absolutely and categorically false,” the Governor said. “A fact’s a fact. Twitter can’t change that. Make sure that you know where we are right now so we can adopt what we need to get through.”

He noted that the daily number of positive cases as well as the rolling seven-day average shows Kentucky is seeing its positivity rate on COVID-19 tests jumping from around 2% in mid-March to about 4% in recent weeks.

Dr. Steven Stack, the commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, said the growth in cases and the positivity rate was somewhat difficult for many to understand.

“People aren’t used to exponential growth. Sunday was our highest total by far. When you start this climb, it’s like going up Mount Everest. But we know we can control this, we’ve proven that. We know that the things we’ve recommended work,” said Dr. Stack, noting nearly a thousand new cases were reported yesterday. “Sunday was a wake-up call. Sunday was a warning. It’s a shot across the bow. Our fate is collectively in Team Kentucky’s hands, whether we can adopt a simple measure like wearing a mask. If we don’t take some strong action, people will see how bad things can get in Kentucky, and believe me, we don’t want to get there.”

In an effort to blunt the growth in cases, Gov. Beshear today announced a new travel advisory and a pullback on the guidance for mass gatherings.

The new travel advisory (see below) recommends a 14-day self-quarantine for travelers who went to any of eight states – Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Nevada, South Carolina and Texas – that are reporting a positive coronavirus testing rate equal to or greater than 15%. The advisory also includes Mississippi, which is quickly approaching a positive testing rate of 15%, and the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico.

The states and territory were identified from data reported to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center.

“The No. 1 COVID-19 cluster cause that we’re seeing right now is travel. We know how much this is being brought back. We are asking anyone who goes to a state that has over a 15% positivity rate to quarantine for 14 days when they come back,” said Gov. Beshear. “Fifteen percent is really dangerous. We need people to change their plans because it’s a life or death matter for this Commonwealth.”

Dr. Stack encouraged Kentuckians to avoid travel to these areas. Those who do visit the places listed and return to Kentucky are being asked to self-quarantine for two weeks. Officials ask those affected to avoid public places and personal contacts; to remain isolated from family members as much as possible; to follow all other Healthy at Home guidelines; and to check their temperature twice a day, among other recommendations.

“This is a recommendation. This is an advisory. I’m telling you what you need to do to stay safe,” said Dr. Stack. “The economic difficulties are real. The isolation this has caused for a lot of folks. Problems with deferred medical care. We’re aware of these things. They pain us. The pandemic has worsened all of them. The way we avoid many of those things is taking the steps to control our destiny, wearing those masks and socially distancing.”

Beshear also announced that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services has issued a new order that pulls back on guidance covering social, non-commercial mass gatherings. On June 29, the original guidance was eased to allow for gatherings of 50 or fewer people. Today’s order returns the guidance to allow only for such gatherings of 10 or fewer people. The guidance, which does not apply to weddings, restaurants, retail or other public venues, went into effect today at 5 p.m.

Much of the other guidance on mass gatherings remains intact, including mandates on barring sick people, requiring face coverings and social distance, and a ban on sharing food and drinks. People hosting such gatherings also are encouraged to host the events outdoors when possible, sanitize high-touch surfaces and follow other Healthy at Home suggestions.

“We’re seeing clusters created by our backyard barbeques, our block parties, and it’s because we let our guard down. We have a lot of friends over and we know them. We figure they’re probably doing everything right,” said Beshear. “We take off our masks, we relax, we get too close, we stand around while people are grilling and we’re seeing some very difficult outcomes because of it. So much depends on us trying to stop this thing before it gets out of control.”

Beshear also spoke about a call he took part in early Monday with Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials. He said the message was that places around the country seeing major surges in cases would be required to mandate some restrictions that would negatively affect businesses.

“(Vice President Pence) talked about the steps they believe are necessary for areas that are hit really hard. Those include reducing restaurant capacity to 25% and closing bars. I remember how many of our restaurants can’t operate even at 33%,” the Governor said. “I want to make sure we don’t hit that surge that we have seen in other places so we don’t have to adopt those White House suggestions. One facility doing the wrong thing can hurt everyone else.”

As of Monday, there have been at least 533,143 coronavirus tests performed in Kentucky. The positivity rate currently stands at 4.52 %. At least 6,876 Kentuckians have recovered from the virus.

For additional information, including up-to-date lists of positive cases and deaths, as well as breakdowns of coronavirus infections by county, race and ethnicity, click here.

Travel advisory/Home Quarantine

The Kentucky Department for Public Health has issued an advisory for Kentuckians who have traveled to states reporting high numbers of COVID-19.

The advisory recommends a 14-day self-quarantine for travelers who went to any of eight states reporting positive testing rate equal to or greater than 15 percent for COVID-19 testing. The advisory also includes one state quickly approaching a positive testing rate of 15 percent and one U.S. territory.

States were identified from data reported to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center. They include Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Nevada, South Carolina and Texas. The rate of positive patient tests in Mississippi is nearing 15 percent, so travelers to Mississippi are also asked to voluntarily self-isolate for 14 days. Puerto Rico is the U.S. territory that has been added.

Dr. Steven Stack

Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky’s Public Health Commissioner, stressed that this is a recommendation and not a mandate. “I am appealing to Kentuckians who have traveled to these states or to Puerto Rico to consider the interest of your health and the health of others,” Stack said. “Please, if you have been to any of these places, stay home for 14 days, starting from the date you left that location.”

He added that people planning to visit these destinations in the near future would be wise to reconsider their travel plans.

“Avoid going to these areas, if you are able,” Stack said. “If plans can’t be changed, self-quarantine after getting back to Kentucky.”

He cautioned that this list could change, and he asks the public to remain aware.

Briefly, home quarantine includes these steps:

• Remain at home and avoid all in-person activities. This includes work, grocery stores and pharmacies, public events and public places.

• Do not have visitors in your home.

• If you live in a home with other people, stay in a separate room. If this is not possible, wear a face mask when you are in the same room and stay at least six feet away from others.

• Wash your hands and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer often. Do not share personal items such as dishes, cups, forks, spoons and towels.

• Do not leave home except to seek medical care. If you need to see a provider for reasons other than a medical emergency, please call in advance and discuss the care you need.

• In the event of a medical emergency, call 911. Indicate that you are in home quarantine for novel coronavirus exposure. Keep a face mask on until you are asked by a health care provider to remove it.

• Do not use public transportation or ride-share services.

• Check yourself for fever twice a day and record it in a log or piece of paper.

• Contact your local health department for additional help, including arranging for food and other essential deliveries if you are in need.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever of greater than 100.4 degrees; respiratory symptoms, such as shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, and loss of smell or taste. If any of these symptoms are present, the person experiencing them should get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible. A list of testing sites is posted at kycovid19.ky.gov.

From Office of the Governor and Cabinet for Health and Family Services

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