Beshear calls new daily record of coronavirus cases ‘staggeringly high’ as he defends new rules and asks churches to go remote

Dept. for Public Health map, relabeled by Ky. Health News; for a larger version, click on it.
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By Melissa Patrick

Kentucky Health News

Gov. Andy Beshear reported what he called a “staggeringly high” number of coronavirus cases on Thursday, 3,649, setting the record for a single day. Five of the top five days for new cases have been in the last week.
“This is exponential growth,” Beshear said. “It’s continuing to grow and it will continue to grow. Our job is to stop it and that’s why we have put these new steps into place.”
Those new steps include, among other things, shutting down in-person schooling on Monday, stopping indoor service in bars and restaurants at 5 p.m. Friday, and placing further limits on at-home social gatherings — which Beshear acknowledged can’t be easily enforced but said should be followed.
In defending his actions, Beshear said the numbers will get worse before they get better.
“If you’re upset that schools [have] got to be virtual, you can be upset with me, but it’s the virus. If you’re upset about what we’re having to do with restaurants and bars, the virus has chosen that area, because people take their masks off and congregate,” he said.
“Upset about group classes at gyms or the pause on winter sports? Again, that’s what this virus does. And so really, you’ve got two choices: You can just do nothing but be upset at me or those that are making these choices. Or we can do our part and put on the mask, tamp down the numbers. And then we can all do these things. It’s really that simple.”
Beshear also announced 30 more deaths from covid-19, the second-highest daily toll from the disease, bringing the state’s total to 1,742.
The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days hit another new high since widespread testing began in May, 9.18 percent. The news release says the state has experienced a 400% increase in positive cases over the past nine weeks.
Beshear confirmed that he had asked religious leaders across the state to immediately suspend all in-person services for the next three to four weeks, at his bi-weekly call with the Kentucky Council of Churches.
“This is a request from the governor, not a mandate, and it seems perfectly reasonable given the situation we are in with covid-19,” Kent Gilbert, the president of the council and the pastor of the historic Union Church in downtown Berea, told Jack Brammer of the Lexington Herald-Leader. The state’s largest religious group, the Kentucky Baptist Convention, is not part of the council.
John K. Carter

Beshear received fresh pushback from Republicans, including Oldham County Attorney John K. Carter, who said on Facebook that his office would not prosecute anyone charged with violating the home-gathering order and added, “Have a happy Thanksgiving with as many of your family members as you want to celebrate this national holiday, as you desire.”

“My God,” Beshear exclaimed after reading Carter’s words in response to a question about them. “That is horrible advice that could mean that families that follow it don’t have the same people for Christmas that they do for Thanksgiving.”
Beshear also said, “I wasn’t asking him to prosecute anything. . . . This is advice that could be absolutely deadly. You’re a public servant, don’t be irresponsible. . . . You are putting yourself at risk if you follow his advice.” Later, he called it “crazy.”
Asked how he expects new rules to be successful without the support of state and local leaders, Beshear said he does because they are based on science, have worked in other states and are enforceable.
He added, “Nobody else has given a plan of action, right? They just criticize the action we’re taking. Our two choices are action, which is difficult, or inaction, which is deadly.”
Asked to address the concerns that these new rules are being applied inconsistently, he said they all were made on the advice of public-health officials.

“It is different going into a restaurant, taking off your mask and eating while congregating around other people than going to Walmart to buy toilet paper and wearing your mask,” he said. “It’s entirely different. It’s different to have 10 people over to your house, where people are going to relax and take their masks off, than if you are at a venue that has people working there that are constantly reminding you to keep your mask on.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said public-health officials around the country are telling him they are seeing increasing numbers of infections from small gatherings. “Each family unit should do a risk-benefit determination about the holidays,” he said on CNN. “Maybe the prudent thing to do now is just pull it back and do it with the family unit you live in.”

Beshear, asked more than once whether the state’s contact tracers had data on infection hotspots, said they were gathering that from local health departments. Case numbers are so high that contact tracers are only being asked to contact individuals who have tested positive for the virus and instructing them to be the one to contact their close contacts and to ask them to quarantine.
Beshear said 1,550 people were hospitalized with covid-19 in Kentucky on Thursday, with 358 of them in intensive care and 199 of those on a ventilator. The number of ventilators in use was the highest yet, he said.
The number of counties in the state’s “red zone,” indicating they have 25 or more new cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days, is up to 112 out of 120. It was 107 yesterday, and 94 a week ago.
Alexa Rose Veit

The governor highlighted the lost life of Alexa Rose Veit, a 15-year-old from Ballard Memorial High School, who died of covid-19 complications. He noted that while Alexa was born with Down syndrome, she never let that stop her from accomplishing whatever she set her mind to. He said Alexa was in remission from leukemia, but tested positive for the virus the week after Halloween.

“Those who knew Alexa asked we help raise awareness of how deadly this virus is and how important it is to follow the guidelines put in place,” said Beshear.

In other covid-19 news Thursday:
  • Today’s deaths include a 93-year-old man from Boone County; a 75-year-old Breckinridge County man; a 73-year-old Calloway County woman; a 79-year-old Campbell County man; a 94-year-old woman and a 79-year-old man from Daviess County; two men, 67 and 77, from Fayette County; a 67-year-old man from Gallatin County; a 70-year-old Graves County woman; an 80-year-old Hopkins County woman; three women, 53, 69 and 96, and two men, 70 and 95, from Jefferson County; five women, 75, 86, 90, 95 and 96, and three men, 64, 77 and 96, from Kenton County; a 73-year-old woman and a 58-year-old man from Lee County; a 69-year-old McCracken County woman; two women, 92 and 96, from Monroe County; and an 89-year-old Rockcastle County woman.
  • Counties with 10 or more cases were Jefferson, 724; Kenton, 179; Fayette, 178; Boone, 165; Warren, 115; Hardin, 108; Campbell, 104; McCracken, 90; Lee, 69; Bullitt, 64; Graves, 63; Madison, 62; Nelson, 59; Daviess, 56; Calloway, 51; Pulaski, 43; Pike, 41; Hopkins and Shelby, 39 each; Oldham, 38; Clay and Laurel, 37 each; Marion, 34; Woodford, 33; Barren, Christian, Montgomery and Muhlenberg, 31 each; Floyd, 30; Scott and Taylor, 29 each; Boyd, 28; Greenup, 27; Boyle, Henderson, Jessamine and Whitley, 26 each; Logan, Mercer and  Rowan, 24 each; Meade, 22; Adair, 21; Washington, 20; Marshall, 19; Clark, Johnson, Lincoln, Mason and Perry, 18 each; Anderson, Casey, Grant, Grayson, Harrison and Webster, 17 each; Bell, Carter and Harlan, 16 each; Bourbon, Edmonson, Franklin, Hart and LaRue, 15 each; Lawrence and Russell, 14 each; Knox, Pendleton and Spencer, 13 each; Garrard, Morgan and Ohio, 12 each; Livingston, Owsley and Powell, 11 each; and Martin, Monroe and Wayne, 10 each.
  • Beshear said 437 of today’s new cases were 18 and younger.
  • In long-term care, 1,656 residents and 1,077 staff have active cases, with 130 new resident and 104 new staff cases reported today. There have been 1,119 covid-related resident deaths and six covid-related staff deaths, with 17 new resident deaths confirmed today.
  • The college and university report shows 716 students and eight staff have tested positive for the virus in the past 14 days, with 78 students reported today.
  • Beshear said another veteran from the Thomson-Hood Veteran Center in Wilmore died of covid-19, bringing its total covid-related deaths to 26. He said the center has gone six days without any new cases and that the state’s other three veteran centers had no positive cases.
  • The governor said that over the last two weeks, about 1,359 health care workers have tested positive for the virus and that 8,300 have since the first Kentucky case was found in March.
  • Beshear encouraged Kentuckians to donate blood, noting that it is safe to do so. For more information visit RedCross.org/giveblood or KYBloodCenter.org. On Nov. 10, the Kentucky Blood Center told the Herald-Leader that for several weeks, it has had less than a half-day’s supply available. Bill Reed, president and CEO of the center, said in a news release, “The ongoing effects of the pandemic have our blood supply at a critical level and our partner blood centers across the country are experiencing the same issues.”
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends Americans avoid Thanksgiving travel altogether. The guidance says, “Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading covid-19. Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.”
  • The Herald-Leader explores why experts say getting a test before Thanksgiving with family isn’t enough. Health professionals continue to suggest only celebrating the holiday with members of your immediate household.
  • Dr. Sarah Moyer, the head of the Louisville health department, pointed out places where infected people were reported visiting the two days before they noticed symptoms: “They were traveling, attending parties or gatherings, going to the grocery store, restaurants, schools, churches, workplaces, healthcare settings,” she said. “If we want to stop the spread of the virus, we really need to stop moving.”
Slide from Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s Nov. 17 coronavirus briefing