Fewer than 4% of Kentuckians tested positive for virus in last seven days; Beshear allows bars to open until midnight

Department for Public Health map, adapted by Kentucky Health News; click on it for a larger version.
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By Mary Meehan
Kentucky Health News

Kentucky’s positive-test rate for the novel coronavirus dropped to the lowest level in two months Tuesday, but Gov. Andy Beshear said wearing a mask continues to be crucial to thwarting the virus as more schools move to in-person instruction.

“Today we are now under a 4 percent positivity rate that is moving in the right direction at a time when we are giving guidance, especially to school systems, about how to at least get back to a hybrid model starting on Sept. 28,” Beshear said at his daily briefing. The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the last seven days was 3.97%.

Beshear and Health Commissioner Steven Stack rolled out a new plan Monday designed to help schools decide whether to open to in-person learning. The guidance asks schools to consider two things: the statewide percentage of people testing positive for the virus, which needs to be under 6%, and the prevalence of the virus in their community, based on cases per population.

On Tuesday, Beshear announced 745 new coronavirus cases and reported nine more deaths from covid-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 1,074.

There was a spike of cases in another vulnerable population – the elderly living in long-term care facilities. Beshear said one had 18 new cases on Saturday that were verified Tuesday, for a total of 59 new residents and 33 new employees testing positive for the virus. Two of the nine deaths announced Tuesday were in long-term care facilities.

Beshear announced that bars and restaurants will be allowed to stay open an extra hour, moving last call to 11 p.m. The establishments must be closed by midnight, he said.

“That was a specific request from those in the restaurant industry,” he said. “We thought it was reasonable. But again, let’s make sure that whether you’re in that industry or any other that has some rules and regulations that you’re trying to do it right, that we’re not trying to find a way to get around it.”

Bars and restaurants continue to operate at 50% capacity and patrons must remain seated unless going to the bathroom.

The governor noted that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, stressing that wearing a mask is especially important to children getting cancer treatment.

“Cancer is the number one cause of death by disease for kids in our state, in our country, and around the world,” he said. Kentucky has the fourth highest rate of pediatric brain tumors in the country.

Beshear showed a video of David Turner, Jr., 9, who has a rare form of brain cancer with no known cure. In the video, Turner and his cousin reminded Kentuckians that “Kids get cancer too” and asked them to spread awareness about the disease. Beshear said Turner has spoken at the Capitol rotunda several times to encourage Kentuckians to wear a mask.

“His family never knows exactly how many days they might have with the person they love most in the world,” said Beshear. “So, it is not a lot to ask for each of you out there to wear a mask to ensure that these parents and this child get as much time together as possible.”

In other covid-19 news Tuesday: 

  • There were 533 people hospitalized in Kentucky with covid-19 and 125 in intensive care.
  • The deaths announced Tuesday were a 90-year-old man from Bullitt County; an 83-year-old woman from Hopkins County; two women, 65 and 94, and two men, 48 and 73, from Jefferson County; a 93-year-old woman from Kenton County; and two men, ages 84 and 88, from Warren County.
  • Counties with more than 10 new cases are Jefferson, 131; Fayette, 57; Logan, 50; Warren, 49; Madison, 32; Hardin, 29; Kenton, 18; Daviess, 17; Oldham, 17; McCracken, 16; Boone, 14; Shelby and Taylor, 11 each; and Barren and Bullitt, 10 each.
  • There were 313 active cases in children in grades K-12 and 159 active cases in employees. There were 1,124 active cases at Kentucky colleges or universities and 49 active cases in employees.
  • Louisville’s top health official questioned the accuracy of President Trump’s timeline for a coronavirus vaccine. Dr. Sarah Moyer said a vaccine may be approved by late October or November, but doses will be reserved for health-care professionals and vulnerable populations, and most Americans won’t likely be in line for a shot for another year, the Courier Journal reports. Moyer, speaking at a morning briefing with Mayor Greg Fischer, said there are Phase III clinical trials underway, including one starting up in Louisville soon, but she doesn’t expect that study to be completed by November.
  • WKYT reports that a normal blood donation could help save three lives, but now one at any Kentucky Blood Center could help save even more. “We’re antibody testing all the blood donations, platelet donation, and double red blood cell donations at our donor centers,” the center’s Mandy Brajuha said. That could be a boost for critically ill covid-19 patients. “The hope is that we’re able to identify folks [who] have the antibodies for covid-19 so we can recruit them to donate plasma to help treat critically ill patients,” Brajuha said.
  • Minority children represent the majority of U.S. kids’ deaths from coronavirus, according to The Washington Post.  The coronavirus is killing Hispanic, Black and American Indian children at much higher numbers than their white peers, according to federal statistics released Tuesday. William Wan writes that the numbers — the most comprehensive U.S. accounting to date of pediatric infections and fatalities — show there have been 391,814 confirmed cases and 121 deaths among people under the age of 21 from February to July. Of those killed by covid-19, more than 75% have been Hispanic, Black and American Indian children, even though they represent 41% of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The federal agency collected data from health departments throughout the country.