Covid-19 cases up and hospitalizations at record high, but Beshear says virus leveling off in Ky.; calls for more federal aid

Chart by Daniel Desrochers of Lexington Herald-Leader shows past month’s covid-19 hospitalizations.
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By Melissa Patrick and Al Cross
Kentucky Health News
After reporting 700 new cases of the coronavirus and a record-high number of hospitalizations for covid-19, Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday that he was still hopeful the state was on a better trajectory.
“While today we have a higher number than we had at this time last week, if you compare Monday and Tuesday of last week, it’s just barely higher than Monday and Tuesday of this week,” Beshear said at his daily briefing. “What we believe we see is a general leveling off, though today there are more cases than I would like to report.”
Including today’s numbers, the seven-day average of daily new cases is 588; the three-day average is 495. Today’s positive test rate of 5.24% is slightly up from yesterday’s rate of 5.18%. Beshear has said that anything over 5% is considered a danger zone.

Beshear reported that 638 Kentuckians are hospitalized for covid-19, but he did not note that the figure was the highest daily hospital census yet attributed to the disease in Kentucky. It was a 4 percent jump from the 612 reported Monday; covid-19 patients in intensive care numbered 135, down by one.

The state reported seven more deaths from covid-19, raising its toll to 751. Beshear said, “This is probably gonna be a really tough month in Kentucky,” with deaths resulting from the surge of cases in July.

Beshear reported 18 more coronavirus cases in children under five today, with the youngest of them two- months-old. “Britainy and I know as parents how scary it must be,” he said, referring to his wife, who preceded him to the lectern to announce a “Coverings for Kids” campaign that will allow Kentuckians to donate facual coverings directly to local schools starting Aug. 11.

Against the backdrop of still-worrisome numbers, Beshear said Kentucky is on a better trajectory than it was just weeks ago when cases increased by 48% one week and 52%, the next, but only 4% and 5% the last two weeks.

He again attributed that to the mask mandate he issued July 9. “We showed in that graph yesterday where we were heading but for our willingness to wear a mask or a facial covering,” he said. “The curve that we were on was troubling, but now thankfully we are now headed in a better direction.”

Beshear said Kentuckians can expect to see him continue the mandate, and cautioned that facial coverings will be needed even after the mandate ends — at least until a vaccine is readily available and the virus has abated.
And he made his daily pitch for masking: “When you wear a facial covering when you are in public you’re passing the test of humanity . . . you’re putting other people’s lives above your basic comfort.”
Restaurants, bars and Derby: Asked why restaurant capacity is restricted if the mask mandate is working, Beshear said it will take at least two weeks to see the impact of his week-old order closing bars and decreasing indoor restaurant capacity to 25%, from 50%, and the state must not only stop the escalation of cases, but decrease them and get the positive-test rate below 5%.

He said that to feel more comfortable with relaxing restaurant restrictions, “I would like to see a break in the data this week,” and reiterated that if bars are reopened, “It’s going to have to look different.”

He said of restaurants, “It’s not fair that they have to bear a lot of the brunt of this, but what the White House is saying is that this can make the biggest impact on getting our cases back under control and we hope we don’t have to do it again.” He said state data shows “a significant number of clusters that have occurred in restaurants,” 18% of all clusters at one point.
Asked if there had been talk about limiting fans at the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby, since the Indianapolis 500 has decided to run without fans Aug. 23, Beshear said Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen had called him hours earlier.
“We are both carefully watching the numbers,” he said. “He assured me that he wants Churchill and the Derby to be safe. We are going to talk early next week after we see the trends going on this week.”
He later added that if the case numbers were the same as today, he would want to see tighter capacity limits than the 60% now planned, and significant enforcement. “Do I believe that if done right, there can be some fans? . . . I do think that there can be some, and the level will really depend on where we are with the virus.”
A plea for federal aid: As negotiations on the latest coronavirus relief bill dragged on, Beshear stressed the need for Congress to help states and localities make up big pandemic-caused losses in their budgets.
“It shouldn’t be this hard,” he said. “I get that things are really hard in D.C.; everything seems hard in D.C., but we are in the middle of an international health pandemic where people are dying, where it is out of control in so many states, where we are much higher than I want us to be, where we are in the midst of a significant recession because of it, and . . . what they pass may be the difference in us being in the midst of this recession for a long time or us being able to bounce back.”

He added, “We are looking at the largest single-year budget cuts in the history of Kentucky in the midst of coronavirus. Congress can’t let that happen. That is malpractice. That is refusing to step up and do your duty. And again, I guess horsetrading occurs all the time in D.C., but I wish we were at a place where at least something like this could shake us out of that and just get us to do the right thing.”

Earlier, asked what the state is doing for school districts, he said, “What we are also working on for our school districts is pushing Congress for budget stabilization, without which schools might have money to buy PPE, but they won’t have the amount of funding in the next budget they need just to keep the doors open.”
He also endorsed continuation of the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits, which expired last week and “is of significant help to our economy right now and will make the difference in how long we want this recession to last.” The two sides are “miles apart” on the issue, a House Democratic leader said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he’d support whatever agreement the Trump administration and Democrats reach, even if he has “some problems with certain parts of it,” Roll Call reports. Trump said Tuesday that poorly run states shouldn’t get a bailout.
In other covid-19 news Tuesday: 
  • The seven fatalities were a 53-year-old man from Calloway County; a 70-year-old man from Daviess County; a 50-year-old man from Kenton County; a 95-year-old woman from Ohio County; and three from Jefferson County: two women 45 and 69, and an 81-year-old man. Beshear said the 45-year-old victim had some other medical conditions, but “This is one of the youngest groups that I’ve had to read.”
  • Jefferson County accounted for 30 percent of the day’s new cases, 212, on the state’s daily report. Other counties with more than five new cases were Fayette, 47; Warren, 35; Kenton, 29; Boone, 27; Laurel, 18; Campbell, 17; Scott, 16; Knox and Madison, 15 each; Graves and Hardin, 11 each; McCracken, 10; Hopkins and Shelby, 9 each; Barren, Daviess and Jessamine, 8 each; Grant, Magoffin, Nelson and Oldham, 7 each; and Clark, Henry, Meade and Muhlenberg, 6 each.
  • Daily reports going back to June 1 are now archived at https://chfs.ky.gov/Pages/cvdaily.aspx.
  • In long-term-care facilities, 13 more residents and 25 more employees tested positive for the virus, five more facilities had at least one case, and three more deaths were attributed to covid-19. The state is now reporting active cases: 444 among residents, 123 among employees.
  • In child care. six more facilities were associated with a case, for a total of 110. The cases involve 84 employees and 75 children.
  • Jessamine County School Supt. Matt Moore overruled the 3-2 vote of the school-board decision to allow both in-person and online “non-traditional instruction.” Moore said schools would only start virtually, WKYT reports. In a letter to parents, he said in part, “Covid-19 cases have recently spiked in our community, as a result, and to safeguard our students and staff, I have made the decision to exercise my authority to utilize our extended NTI plan.”
  • The president now supports the use of face coverings to thwart the virus, even asking his base to wear them. The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that an e-mail his re-election campaign sent to supporters Monday said “We have nothing to lose, and possibly everything to gain” by wearing masks. He added, “We are all in this together, and while I know there has been some confusion surrounding the usage of face masks, I think it’s something we should all try to do when we are not able to be socially distanced from others,” the president said. “I don’t love wearing them either. Masks may be good, they may just be OK, or they may be great.”
  • Covid-19 at the Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange is now linked to deaths in six inmates, the highest number of such fatalities at any of the state’s 13 prisons, Deborah Yetter reports for the Louisville Courier Journal. The state has reported that nine inmates from the reformatory were hospitalized as of last Thursday.
  • Kentucky Youth Advocates hosted a forum to discuss challenges that youth and families connected to the child welfare system are facing because of the covid-19 pandemic, along with solutions moving forward. Click here for a full report titled: “Covid-19 Impacts on the Kentucky Child Welfare Community: A Public Health Crisis Meets a Vulnerable System,” click here for the presentations of the findings and click here for a recording of the forum.