Official Ky. covid-19 death count passes 1,000; Beshear says one of the best things to do as we wait for a vaccine is to get a flu shot

Kentucky School Boards Association chart; for a larger version, click on it.
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By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Gov. Andy Beshear took the occasion of the state’s official count of covid-19 deaths passing 1,000 to reflect on the importance of protecting those most vulnerable to the coronavirus and to remind Kentuckians that each of the dead was loved by their families and friends.

“Tonight we have the painful news that we have now lost over one thousand Kentuckians, our mothers and fathers, grandmothers and [grandfathers], sisters, brothers, neighbors, to covid-19,” Beshear said at his daily briefing.

Beshear announced 16 new deaths from covid-19, raising the state’s death toll to 1,013. The state’s official total lags behind numbers reported by local health departments, which indicate the state passed 1,000 deaths more than a week ago, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

After reading the list of today’s victims that included one 50-year-old, three in their sixties, five in their seventies, four in their eighties and three in their nineties, Beshear reminded Kentuckians that covid-19 played a part in each of their deaths, regardless of any other health conditions they had: “No matter how old they were, they deserved time. . . . And we owe it to them to work hard to make sure that we limit the future casualties that we have.”

EJ Mike and his twin daughters

The governor highlighted the lost life of EJ Mike, a 58-year-old physician’s assistant at Louisville VA Medical Center, who died Tuesday, Sept. 8.

“But more important, he was a loving father to his twin girls, who are only 13,” said Beshear. “EJ fought hard for six weeks at Norton Brownsboro [Hospital], during which time he was on a ventilator.”

Asked near the end of his briefing what he would say to those who argue that most of those who have died from covid-19 are older and those who don’t believe it is a serious disease, Beshear said “For those who don’t believe this is serious, there’s a thousand families you can go talk to.” Later adding, “”All that does is cause more harm, more loss across the Commonwealth.”

In tribute to all of the Kentuckians who have died from covid-19, the Kentucky State Police honor guard will hold another wreath-laying ceremony in the Capitol rotunda at 10 a.m. Thursday. The governor has also ordered all flags on state buildings to fly at half-staff next week. And instead of his daily news briefing tomorrow, Beshear will make an address to Kentuckians at 5:30 pm.

After noting that one of the things that is being challenged in the Kentucky Supreme Court trial is his mask mandate, Beshear pointed to the latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report that shows more than half of Kentucky’s counties are in covid-19 danger zones and recommends Kentucky should keep the requirement statewide.

“There is no room between what the experts at the federal level or at the state level know we need to do, that there needs to be a mask requirement and it needs to be statewide,” Beshear said.

Of the state’s 120 counties, 64 of them were in the report’s high-risk zones, up from 59 last week. There were 10 more counties, or 24, in the red zone, and five fewer, or 40, in the yellow zone.

Asked again about Warren County, where the county and Bowling Green schools were among the first to start in-person learning, Beshear said, “The very first county the White House brings up to us each and every time that we have, you know, the one-on-one discussions, is Warren County. They are incredibly worried for for numerous reasons about how the spread there is, is going, about the number of kids under 18 with the spread, and of course you have a large county and a university that are all there together.”

Communities in the red zone have a positive-test rate higher than 10% and more than one new case per thousand residents. Yellow-zone places have new cases between 0.1 and 1 per thousand and a positive-test rate of 5% to 10% — or one of those, with the other in the red zone.

Asked why the state wasn’t issuing stronger policies in the red zones, Beshear said that with more than half of the state’s really small counties in one of the zones, the federal report suggests statewide policies.

That said, the report makes stronger recommendations for red and yellow zones when it comes to bars and restaurants, but Beshear said state-specific experts have taken this advice and come up with a plan that allows Kentucky bars to stay open and restaurants to operate at half capacity, along with curfews, to help keep those small businesses afloat.

The governor again voiced concern that Kentuckians are getting tired of social distancing, wearing masks and keeping their group sizes to less than 10, but urged them to keep it up because he said not doing so will lead to a rise in cases, and that leads to a rise in deaths. The state’s death rate from the virus is currently at about 2%.

Beshear announced 667 new cases of the virus Wednesday, a jump that was expected after the holiday weekend when fewer tests were completed. His news release says 88 of them were Kentuckians 18 and younger, of which 16 were children 5 and under. The youngest was 2 months old.

The good news is that the seven-day average of Kentuckians testing positive for the coronavirus remained below 4% for two days in a row. Today’s positive test rate of 3.84% is a drop from yesterday’s rate of 3.91%. It had been eight weeks since the rate was below 4%.

Flu season is coronavirus season: Beshear said getting a flu shot is one of the most important things Kentuckians can do as they wait for a safe vaccine to be distributed. He stressed that getting a flu shot will help your medical provider discern whether you have the flu or covid-19, which have similar symptoms.

“Get your flu shot,” he said. “The last thing we need is a huge flu outbreak on top of this; that will be incredibly difficult.”

Trump revelations: Beshear declined to comment on reports from journalist Bob Woodward’s new book that President Donald Trump downplayed the dangers of the novel coronavirus, even though he clearly knew how deadly the airborne virus could be.

“I haven’t read any of it so at this point, I don’t believe I can comment on it,” he said.

In other covid-19 news Wednesday:

  • The deaths reported Wednesday were of a 62-year-old man from Bell County; two men, 61 and 77, from Bullitt County; a 92-year-old woman from Calloway County; a 94-year-old woman from Fayette County; a 76-year-old man from Garrard County; four men, 50, 66, 79 and 86, and a 70-year-old woman from Jefferson County; a 71-year-old man from Lincoln County; a 90-year-old man from Owen County; an 84-year-old woman from Rowan County; and two men, 81 and 87, from Scott County.
  • Beshear said 558 people are hospitalized with covid-19 in Kentucky, 153 of them in intensive care and 76 of those on ventilators.
  • Counties with 10 or more new cases were Jefferson, 110; Fayette, 43; Warren, 37; Christian, 32; Laurel, 26; Madison, 23; Henderson, 18; Scott, 16; Hardin, 14; Boone and Kenton, 13 each; Hopkins, 12; and Critttenden, Shelby, Trigg and Union, 10 each.
  • The daily long-term care report shows five more residents and 14 more staff have tested positive for the virus, with 480 residents and 319 staff having active cases of it. To date, 587 residents and five staff have died from covid-19.
  • The K-12 school report shows 20 more students and 14 more staff have tested positive for the virus and that 345 students and 149 staff have an active case of it.
  • The college and university report shows 32 more students and four more staff have tested positive for the virus, bringing the number of active cases up to 1,044 for students and 40 for staff.
  • Chicago has added Kentucky to its mandatory quarantine list, Emma Austin reports for the Louisville Courier Journal. That means anyone entering the city after traveling to Kentucky must quarantine for 14 days. Chicago adds states to its list if they see between 15 and 20 daily infections per 100,000 population. Kentucky last week saw its highest total of new cases.