Record numbers of coronavirus cases prompts ‘new requirements that are going to be mandatory,’ Beshear says; could it be masks?

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Kentucky reported 402 new cases of the coronavirus Wednesday. That was the highest number yet identified on a single day, for the second straight day. And it was the fourth consecutive day that the seven-day rolling average of new cases also set a new record.

Tuesday’s record was 371, not including the 625 cases reported May 5, when the total included 309 found over days of testing at a Western Kentucky prison.

“The rising case numbers are cause for concern, so tomorrow we’re going to announce some new requirements that are going to be mandatory,” Gov. Andy Beshear said in his daily news release and a short video. “Given what we are seeing across the country with exploding numbers in certain places, my commitment is to make sure that doesn’t happen here, but I can’t do it alone.”

Beshear will make that announcement at his weekly press briefing at 4 p.m. Thursday. He said he would hold an additional briefing at 4 p.m. Friday. The briefings can be viewed on his official Facebook page or Youtube channel.

One measure Beshear could mandate is the wearing of face masks, a step that is highly controversial despite proof that it curbs the spread of the virus. Such orders have been issued by governors in at least 19 other states, including West Virginia, the Louisville Courier Journal reported in a front-page editorial that urged Beshear to do likewise.

Wednesday’s 402 cases brought the state’s total number to at least 17,919. The state’s daily report shows that a near-record 453 Kentuckians are currently hospitalized with covid-19, with 111 of them in intensive care. After 451,451 tests, the state’s positive rate is 3.88 percent.

The counties with double-figure numbers of new cases Wednesday were Jefferson, 79; Fayette, 50; Warren, 21; Laurel, 15; Bell, 14; Graves, 13; Boone, 12; and Pulaski, 10.

Hardin County, which reported nine new cases, has the highest estimated virus-transmission rate on CovidActNow, a site that uses official data to make such estimates. The rate of 1.46 means that every 100 infected people will infect 146 others. Officials like the rate to be below 1.1.

The site estimates Kentucky’s overall rate to be 1.08, up from 1.04 on Tuesday. Rt.live, a similar site, estimates the state’s rate to be 1.18, down from 1.21 on Tuesday.

Beshear announced six new deaths from the virus, bringing the state’s death toll to 608, 65 percent of which have been patients from long-term-care facilities.

The latest fatalities are 72-year-old man from Casey County; a 67-year-old man from Fulton County; a 74-year-old woman from Perry County, and from Jefferson County, a 61-year-old man and two women, 73 and 77.

“That is far too many Kentuckians to lose, and we’ve got to do everything we can to minimize our loss moving forward,” Beshear said.

In other covid-19 news Wednesday:

  • The University of Kentucky‘s Center for Clinical and Translational Science has joined the National Covid Cohort Collaborative to leverage big data in the fight against covid-19, UK reports. The collaborative is working to turn data from hundreds of thousands of medical records from coronavirus patients into treatments and predictive analytical tools that can help address the evolving pandemic.
  • The World Health Organization acknowledged “emerging evidence” exists of airborne spread of the coronavirus, Becker’s Hospital Review reports. This comes after 239 scientists urged the WHO to update its recommendations about how the virus is spread, citing evidence that it lingers in indoor air. WHO’s previous position was that evidence of airborne transmission was inconclusive and it is possible only after medical procedures that produce aerosols.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease doctor, took issue Tuesday with President Trump’s suggestion that the dropping death rate among U.S. covid-19 patients is evidence of a successful response to the virus, CNN reports: “It’s a false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death,” Fauci said during a livestream press conference with Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala. “There’s so many other things that are very dangerous and bad about this virus, don’t get yourself into false complacency.” Kaiser Health News provides a round-up of stories on this topic.