Cases and positive-test rate continue to surge; Beshear says if cases keep increasing, Kentucky hospitals “will end up overrun”

State Department for Public Health chart shows 94 counties in highest danger zone.

By Melissa Patrick

Kentucky Health News
Gov. Andy Beshear announced 2,342 new cases of the novel coronavirus in Kentucky on Thursday, the second highest day yet, and warned that Kentucky hospitals are having difficulty dealing with it.
“This virus continues to spread at such an alarming rate,” Beshear said at his daily news conference, reminding Kentuckians that each of those cases represents a new person who has been infected with the virus.
He also announced that the share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days has gone up again, to 8.29%, another record for the period since testing became widely available.

“This is a high positivity rate with an abundance of testing, which means that the virus is at an all-time high in its spread,” the governor said.

Hospitalizations for covid-19 also hit another all-time high, 1,311, up 37 from yesterday, and patients in the intensive care and on ventilators have also inched up since yesterday, by two in the ICU, to 299, with 163 if those patients on a ventilator, up by 12.
Beshear said the state is seeing “a strain on a number of our hospital systems,” which are monitoring it very closely. And while the state is likely to run out of nurses and doctors before it runs out of hospital beds, he said, “We are seeing some signs that our hospital system could be overrun . . . If cases keep increasing at the rate they are now, we will end up overrun. You’re seeing that in other states.”
Beshear’s daily news release offered examples of what other states are dealing with as cases surge across the nation. It says, “Texas alone has surpassed 1 million cases; El Paso, Texas, is doubling its supply of mobile morgues; the Mayo Clinic Health System is reporting that 100% of its hospital beds are full in northwestern Wisconsin; and North Dakota is allowing covid-19-positive health care workers to continue working in covid-19 wings because of a significant health care worker shortage.”
Today, Beshear announced 94 of the state’s 120 counties are in the “red zone,” which means a county has had at least 25 new cases per 100,000 residents in the last seven days. That’s up from 80 counties last week.
Each Thursday, the governor is asking counties in the red zone to follow a set of community and school recommendations to slow the spread of the virus.

Among other things, the red-zone reduction recommendations ask people to not eat in restaurants, to allow employees to work from home when possible, and to not host gatherings of any size. School recommendations call on schools in these hard-hit counties to move to virtual learning only. Long-term care facilities also have a set of recommendations to follow if they are located in a red zone.

“Remember, what this is supposed to do is to provide a way for these communities, 94 of them, to come together, with government,  business, school system, everybody, long-term care, working together in a unified effort to stop the spread of this virus,” Beshear said.

Frankfort and Franklin County are in the red zone, so Beshear said state government will follow the recommendations next week. “We are going to live up to what we’re asking other people to do,” he said.
Asked if he plans on turning these recommendations into mandates, or if he is willing to shut down non-essential businesses again for a couple of weeks to stop this surge of cases, especially after the Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously upheld his authority to do so, Beshear again said he was not looking to add new mandates, though “We are committed to taking actions as we need to,” and called for better compliance with the existing ones.
“Right now, we’ve got to get more buy-in from people for current mandates, for later ones to work,” he said.
Asked if rural Kentucky counties would have access to the new Pfizer Inc. vaccine when it becomes available, because it requires ultra-cold storage units, which are reported to cost up to $15,000 and aren’t readily available in many rural hospitals, Beshear said vaccine distribution plans are a “work in progress” but “We need to get them to those that need them the most, that are the most vulnerable. And we’re gonna make sure that happens in rural populations just as soon as it happens in urban populations.” Other vaccines are under development.
Beshear announced 18 more people had died from covid-19, bringing the number of Kentuckians who have died from the disease to 1,622.
John Vereb
He honored John Vereb, 52, of Mount Washington, an Army veteran, an emergency nurse and a nursing instructor, who died from covid-19 on Oct. 23, just 13 days after his diagnosis.
He leaves behind his wife, Angela, and their three children, Harrison, Conner and Alayna. Beshear said Vereb was detailed to the emergency department at the Robley Rex Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Louisville in March, where he often treated covid-19 patients.
“To honor John, his family asks that Kentuckians do their patriotic duty to protect themselves and others by wearing a mask and social distancing,” said Beshear. “It is a small sacrifice to make for those on the front lines who serve you.”
In other covid-19 news Thursday: 
  • Counties with more than 10 cases were Jefferson. 507; Fayette. 285; Christian. 86; Kenton. 64; Warren. 58; Boone. 56; Daviess. 47; Jessamine. 43; Campbell. 41; Hardin. 41; Carter, Laurel and Shelby, 33 each; Pulaski, 31; Barren, 30; Monroe, 29; Nelson and Oldham, 27 each; Bullitt and Madison, 25 each; Floyd, Franklin and Greenup, 24 each; Henderson, 23; Ohio, Rowan and Taylor, 22 each; Johnson, 21; Calloway, Marshall and McCracken, 18 each; Lewis, 16; Logan, Marion and Woodford, 15 each; Hopkins, 14; Bath, Boyle and Scott, 13 each; Casey, Graves, Mason, Mercer, Pike and Whitley, 12 each; Adair, Boyd, Lincoln, Montgomery and Wayne, 11 each; Hancock, Hart, McCreary, McLean and Morgan, 10 each.
  • Today’s fatalities were a 77-year-old man from Allen County; an 86-year-old woman from Christian County; a 66-year-old man from Clay County; a 75-year-old woman from Clinton County; two 75-year-old men from Henderson County; two women, 89 and 96, from Jefferson County; a 76-year-old man from Lee County; an 80-year-old man from Lincoln County; two men, 57 and 90, from McLean County; a 78-year-old man from Oldham County; two women, 68 and 86, and an 82-year-old man from Pike County; and a 93-year-old woman and a 70-year-old man from Rockcastle County.
  • In long-term care, there are 150 new resident cases and 133 new staff cases, with 1,360 active resident cases and 839 active staff cases. There have been 997 resident deaths and six staff deaths attributed to covid-19.
  • The K-12 student dashboard shows 613 students and 321 employees have tested positive for the virus this week, with 3,941 students and 738 staff quarantined.
  • The college and university report shows 620 students and 13 employees have tested positive for the virus in the past 14 days, with 242 students and three staff reported today.
  • Three partner agencies of Cabinet for Health and Family Services have been awarded $1.4 million from the Coronavirus Relief Fund to assist with services that support prevention of abuse and domestic violence. For the news release, click here.
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