A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Governor reports 516 new COVID cases, 8 deaths; extends mask-wearing mandate; news round-up

Gov. Andy Beshear reported 516 new COVID cases and eight deaths as of Thursday afternoon, bringing the state’s totals to 33,254 cases and 760 deaths. Twelve of the news cases were children 5 and younger.

There were 33 new cases in Fayette County.

The deaths reported include a 68-year-old woman from Kenton County; a 68-year-old woman from Bell County; an 86-year-old woman from Fayette County; a 94-year-old woman and a 94-year-old man from Franklin County; an 87-year-old man from Graves County; a 78-year-old woman from Jefferson County; and an 84-year-old woman from Ohio County.

Beshear extended the state’s mandate requiring face coverings in some situations for another 30 days, citing its success and continued importance in flattening the curve of novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) cases in the Commonwealth.

“By now, we all know someone that we care about, that we’re close to who is fighting this virus or has fought this virus. And as things progress, we will all probably know somebody who we have lost to this virus. This is going to be a month where I hope we turn things around, but based on July, we’re still going to see a lot of pain,” said Gov. Beshear. “So let’s make sure that we protect our mental and emotional health, stay as committed as we’ve always been to defeating this virus and step it up.”

The Governor also noted he will have additional guidance for Kentucky’s bars and restaurants on Monday.

“Expectations ought to be that capacity will increase again to 50% but there will be some changes. Especially in restaurants, we need people to still prioritize outdoor seating,” said Gov. Beshear. “Bars and restaurants are both going to be expected to have their last item served at 10 p.m. Then there is going to be an hour to let people eat and drink and ultimately go home.

“We appear to not just be slowing but we hope stopping any escalation that we’ve seen. It’s further evidence that wearing that facial covering is truly helping Kentucky in so many different ways – our people, our economy, our kids. So let’s keep it up. I believe that if we continue to do this, we can see even better numbers than what we have now.”

Illustration from the CDC

As of Thursday, there have been at least 674,490 coronavirus tests performed in Kentucky. The positivity rate currently stands at 5.51%, unchanged from yesterday. At least 8,523 Kentuckians have recovered from the virus.

“We know the deaths follow large numbers of cases and that we’re going to have days when it’s really hard to read that list. But I do feel hopeful. I do feel optimistic that if we do wear that facial covering that we have found a way to stop what was going to be devastating,” said Gov. Beshear.

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. To see all recent daily reports, click here.

State Fair Update

The Governor announced that through consultation with public health officials, the Kentucky State Fair Board determined that limiting the fair to participants only was a necessary step to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The fair will feature wider aisle ways, reduced occupancy, increased hygiene accessibility and facial covering requirements. In an effort to manage crowds and social distancing, Lot A exhibits, Midway, concerts, entertainment and food vendors will not be featured in this year’s fair.

“By hosting a participant-only event, fair officials can more effectively enforce social distancing and facial covering requirements as well as gather the necessary information to perform contact tracing,” said Gov. Beshear. “I appreciate the board’s willingness to be agile, and their efforts to ensure that the health and safety of Kentuckians remain a top priority.”

The Kentucky State Fair will be held Aug. 20-30 at the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville.

The World’s Championship Horse Show will be held without spectators and adhere to the U.S. Equestrian Federation COVID-19 guidelines.

“We believe the decision will allow Kentucky to continue our tradition of highlighting the state’s premiere agriculture and equestrian industry while prioritizing the health and safety of Kentuckians,” said Gov. Beshear.

“We are proud that we are having the fair, but obviously the health and safety of our community is uppermost in our minds and we’re delighted that we will at least be able to have the horse show and livestock contestants, the 4H-ers and the FFA kids,” said Steve Wilson, chair of the State Fair Board.

Agriculture is one of the state’s leading and most vital industries. There are nearly 76,000 farms in Kentucky, contributing about $45.6 billion to Kentucky’s economy each year.

For more information, visit the Kentucky State Fair’s website.

Corrections Update

Secretary of the Executive Cabinet J. Michael Brown provided a Department of Corrections update.
“To date, system-wide, we’ve had 844 positive cases with inmates and 136 with our employees. But we’ve also had 560 inmates recover and 87 employees recover, leaving today 49 active employee cases and 284 active inmate cases,” he said.

Unfortunately, 10 DOC inmates have died from complications due to the coronavirus.

For more information on Department of Corrections cases and facilities, click here.

Driver’s Licensing Update

Today, the Governor’s chief of staff and general counsel, La Tasha Buckner, reminded Kentuckians that Secretary of Transportation Jim Gray issued an order for two emergency actions that help limit in-person traffic at driver’s licensing offices:

1 There is a 90-day rolling extension of expiration dates for driver’s licenses whose printed expiration date was March 16 to July 6.

2 Kentuckians must use mail or a clerk’s drop box for renewal or replacement of standard operator’s licenses, permits and ID cards that expire(d) between March 1 to Sept. 30 and do not require testing for renewal.

For more information, go to drive.ky.gov.

Pharmacy Refills Update

Buckner also announced that Gov. Beshear signed an executive order extending previous orders allowing pharmacists to dispense 30-day refills. This order will be in effect until Sept. 5 and is subject to renewal.

“Pharmacists in any Kentucky county can dispense emergency refills for up to 30 days on medicines that are not controlled substances to residents of any Kentucky county,” said Buckner. “You can get multiple 30-day refills. The order allows people to be healthy at home and still get the medicine they need.”

Price-Gouging Update

In addition, Buckner announced that Gov. Beshear signed an executive order prohibiting price gouging, extending a previous order. This order will remain in effect for the duration of the state of emergency.

“The order protects Kentuckians from those who would take advantage of the pandemic by charging inflated prices for goods – goods like hand sanitizer, soap, cleaners and disinfectants,” Buckner said.

Kentucky Health News provides this COVID news round-up

▪ Beshear said he would consult with the White House Coronavirus Task Force before allowing bars to reopen or increasing indoor capacity at restaurants, and if bars open, seating rules will have to be strictly enforced. He said a curfew for bars would also apply to restaurants and would probably be at 10 p.m.

▪ The state Fair Board appears likely to announce soon tighter restrictions for the state fair, scheduled Aug. 20-30 in Louisville, a hotbed of the virus. Beshear said Health Commissioner Steven Stack met recently with board Chair Steve Wilson and CEO David Beck after health officials made recommendations and Beck replied.

▪ Asked about college football, Beshear said he waiting to see what conferences decide, suggesting they might further delay the season. As for limiting fans, he said, “If you really think it out and you do enforcement, then you can do it, [but] we see similar venues across Kentucky not doing enforcement at all, and the result can be really concerning.”

▪ And the Kentucky Derby, set to run Sept. 5 with Churchill Downs at 60% capacity? “There’s a lot of different ways that event could happen,” said the governor, who would present the trophy on national television. 

▪ Beshear said more cases are being reported in county jails, but said he didn’t have current information on state prisons.

▪ Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told his constituents in a monthly COVID-19 update that they needed to resist anti-mask peer pressure, which he hopes is not intentional, and find ways to confront it: “Nobody wants to be, so to speak, the wet blanket. . . . I think we need to work on being that person; I think that’s what leadership really is.”
Carl Hulse, chief congressional correspondent of The New York Times, writes: “Senator Mitch McConnell has put himself in one of the toughest spots of a political life that has seen plenty of them.

“Up for re-election in the middle of an unforgiving pandemic, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader is caught in a family feud between a group of endangered incumbents in his party who are desperate for pandemic relief legislation that is tied up in slogging negotiations, and a significant portion of Senate Republicans who would rather do nothing at all. 

“He is also up against Democratic leaders who do not see the need to give an inch on their own sweeping coronavirus relief priorities, administration negotiators who badly want a deal that boosts President Trump — even if it ends up being one that most Senate Republicans oppose — and the president himself, who has played his usual role of undercutting the talks at every turn.

“All that is at stake is the health and economic state of the nation, control of the Senate and Mr. McConnell’s own reputation and future.”

• Asked about reopening of the University of Kentucky, which began testing as many as 30,000 students this week, Beshear said the challenge is how to monitor and trace the contacts of infected students and discourage them from “activity we wouldn’t consider reckless on a college campus anytime other than now.” Asked how much faith he had in students to make good decisions, Beshear replied:

“That’s a heck of a question . . . I can’t claim I made all the best decisions at 18, 19 and 20, but I also wasn’t in the middle of a worldwide health pandemic . . . We’re asking so much of our young Kentuckians at a time when they’ve been separated from their friends in a way that they never have before, at a time when their emotional and social health is so connected to those interactions, and I hurt for ‘em. . . . We need to reduce the number of places they could go to make bad decisions, and then we need to be consistently talking to them as adults, ’cause we’re asking them to be really responsible adults at a time in their lives where we probably shouldn’t have to ask that.

“Do I have faith in them? Yes; the challenge is, there’s so many of them . . . We need our young adults . . . if they want to be in their university settings, to know it’s probably contingent on the vast majority of them making good decisions.”

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