A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Kentucky; Beshear talks testing, politics, schools, health


By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

The number of new, daily coronavirus cases in Kentucky continues to creep up, hitting a seven-day high of 295 on Thursday.

Gov. Andy Beshear called the number “pretty high… elevated from where we were going for more than a week,” but said it is “a little too early” to say the trend has reversed and is on an upward trajectory.

“Again, it’s not enough data to say that I am concerned or to raise a high level of concern,” Beshear said, pointing to other metrics: “We have a lot of tests that are out there. We are testing more asymptomatic people than ever. Our ICU current beds are really low.”

Kentucky briefly celebrated a two-week downward trajectory in new cases just last week, but starting May 28 the number jumped to 283, and for five of the last seven days the case numbers have been over 213.

Beshear reported an adjusted total of 10,705 cases in the state, with at least 3,303 of them having recovered. He said 518 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, including 67 in intensive care. So far, the state has had 262,714 tests.

Beshear said Kentuckians should expect to see more positive tests as the state continues to ramp up its testing and as people’s contacts begin to increase with the economy reopening.

“Now, I hope that they are lower than this, but we’re going to have more,” he said. “We’re going to watch the numbers as we continue.”

Dr. Steven Stack noted that the state’s testing capacity is well above the federal guidance to test 2 percent of the population each month.

He said another way to reach this guideline is to test until the number of people testing positive for the virus is less than 3 percent, which indicates that enough people are being tested to find the positive cases. Kentucky is currently at 4.07 percent, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.

While the state has more than enough testing capacity, Beshear said he remains worried about “testing fatigue,” noting that the sign-ups in the free Kroger-sponsored sites have been slowing. He called on employers to get their employees tested regularly.

“If you are running a business, you ought to want your employees to continue to go to get tested so that someone who is asymptomatic doesn’t spread it throughout the office or the factory or the environment that they work in,” he said. An estimated one-fourth to one-half of the people with the virus have no symptoms but still spread it without knowing.

Deaths and classifications: Beshear announced that eight more Kentuckians have died of COVID-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 458.

The new dead were an 87-year-old woman from Boone County, a 72-year-old man from Franklin County, an 82-year-old man from Grayson County, a 92-year-old man from Kenton County, a 71-year old woman and 91- and 92-year-old men from Jefferson County and an 86-year-old woman from Metcalfe County.

Asked it he would consider doing a separate count of people who have died from multiple issues, he said that could be counterproductive.

“Almost everyone that has died from the coronavirus has underlying health conditions and many of them are serious and significant health conditions,” he said. “I don’t want to over-complicate in our numbers what this virus does. Yes, there are other causes, but without this virus in most cases, we do not believe that the death would be there.

“And there may be some that say, ‘Oh, well, that’s conflating it.’ No, this is killing people and if we don’t take it seriously, again if we pull out our numbers in different ways that let us rationalize that it is not a problem, then we don’t do what is necessary to defeat it.”

Politics: Asked about Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s suggestion to a legislative panel that the governor’s executive authority during such emergencies should be limited, Beshear referred to his presentation the day before defending his orders and noting three studies showing they “saved thousands of lives.”

Gov. Andy Beshear

“It’s after we’ve blunted the curve and crushed the curve that politics comes back into it,” he said. “But, if a future governor did not have the power to take urgent action when it is needed, it would have resulted in significant additional death. . . . Every action that I’ve taken is for the life and the safety of our Kentuckians.”

Schools: Asked about schools reopening, Beshear said he hopes there will be a regular reopening, but cautioned that school will look much different than it currently does.

He pointed to recent testimony at a legislative hearing that objected to public-health suggestions for social distancing, wearing masks and keeping one group of students together all day, while teachers move from class to class.

“If schools don’t do things differently, they have an outbreak, you shut down that school,” Beshear said. “I think we’ve seen that in France and in some other places. My hope is that we can start school normally in the fall, but those schools that are willing to embrace the things you need to do to prevent the spread are likely going to be able to continue and not have interruption.”

He said state officials are still working on guidance for schools and this will be influenced by what happens with the virus over the next few months.

Disparities: Beshear said he would announce actions that his administration will take to address disparities in health care and other areas among “communities of color.” on Monday. North Carolina Gov. Ray Cooper signed an executive order Friday establishing a task force to address the issue, ensure that relief funds have been fairly distributed and giving minority-owned businesses access to more opportunities and resources. Beshear said he wants to change the situation, not just come up with recommendations.

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.


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3 Comments

  1. Peggy says:

    As long as there are still positive cases of Covid 19 I just don’t want my grand children in school. They could get sick, very sick. Every child’s immune system isn’t the same. How would you feel if school reopened while there are positive cases and children started to get sick? Or even worse! Consider schooling by way of the internet maybe? Kids get sick in the fall and winter anyway so let’s not make it worse. They are safer at home.

  2. Kelly says:

    I COMPLETELY AGREE w Peggy!! Furthermore, they were at school buses and it definitely puts them at risk to asymptomatic people. every parent is different in their approach some let their kids go anywhere then they come to school asymptomatic, they’re around my child who then comes home asymptomatic…. I’m high risk I get it and I die and there’s no one to take care of my children. NOT WORTH TAKING ANY CHANCES – as long as that could happen to one person, THAT IS ONE PERSON TOO MANY. Stop devaluing lives because it puts children behind in education and causes parents to not be able to work…. that’s not fair and it’s not acceptable I can promise you that my children and grandchildren will not be going to school or day care until we all are vaccinated. NOT A MINUTE BEFORE- I will do whatever I have to do, file lawsuits if I have to. the government is not going to force me to put myself or my children at risk under any circumstances.

  3. James E. says:

    Sadly, I fear that the reporting is focusing on COUNTS of positive COVID in the presence of increased counts of testing. It makes it almost impossible to gauge the TREND. How about presenting the incidence in terms of percentage of those tested, counts of hospitalizations and counts of deaths, and doing so as a trend in order to measure the changes taking place? It’s important to know if the changes reflect a good or bad tendency for our communities.
    Thanks

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