By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News
After reporting by far the most coronavirus cases found in Kentucky on one day, Gov. Andy Beshear said “It tells you this virus isn’t playing, and neither are we.”
“It’s time to stop the silliness and the games” about the covid-19 pandemic, the Democratic governor said, pointing a finger at Republican politicians who aren’t obeying his order to wear masks.
Beshear reported 576 cases, almost as many as the 625 that the state reported on May 5, when it included 309 cases from a prison, which were found over several days of testing.
“If 400 made you gulp, 576 ought to create a knot in your stomach, because what we face is very, very real,” Beshear said. “What we do now is gonna determine whether we can push that back down, or whether we suffer more cases and more deaths.” He reported six more Tuesday.
The new-case report continued a strong upward trend that began July 5 and saw the state set four records in five days before a weekend lull likely caused by less reporting from testing laboratories. Beshear suggested that some of Tuesday’s cases might actually have been found on Monday: “A lot of tests came in today.”
A better measure of trends is the seven-day rolling average, which stands at 391. That’s 85 percent higher than the 211 average on July 4.
“Covid-19 is attacking us, and we are at war with this virus,” Beshear said. “It threatens our lives, our livelihoods and our very way of life. In the midst of this great challenge it’s time to stop the silliness and the games, to put aside personal ambitions or grievances; it’s time to live up to our morals and to our faith. It’s time to understand the time that we are living in. We either come together or we fall apart.”
As he did early in the pandemic, Beshear cast the struggle as historic. “Every few generations have been called upon and truly tested, to protect our national security, to fight for the lives of our citizens, and to protect the very soul of this country,” he said. “We are in one of those struggles and we are in one of those times.”
|L to R: Rep. Chris Fugate, Rep. Stan Lee, Sen. Paul Hornback|
Beshear waited until the question-and-answer part of his briefing to unload on Republican legislators, displaying a GOP-posted photo of Reps. Chris Fugate of Hazard and Stan Lee of Lexington with Sen. Paul Hornback of Shelbyville, none of them wearing masks in a committee meeting room.
“Today we had almost every member of one political party, representatives and senators, not wearing masks, not being six feet apart, after having been potentially exposed, after having a mask mandate out there,” Beshear said, referring to an unnamed lawmaker who had tested positive.
“I’m not trying to publicly shame people, but we need leadership,” Beshear continued. “With even the president wearing one, this isn’t right. And let me remind you, this is a group that wants me to discuss the mask requirement with them.” Leaders of the GOP majorities in both chambers, and Attorney General Daniel Cameron, told Beshear last week that he should have consulted with them about his mask order.
“I expect to see everybody in the [Capitol] Annex wearing one starting tomorrow,” to avoid putting employees and others at risk by spreading virus around the state, Beshear said. “It’s almost like going on vacation somewhere where you shouldn’t. And I didn’t take this picture, they posted it themselves. … We’re in a life-and-death battle and you can’t be doing that.”
Beshear referred, but not by name, to state Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, who announced that he has the coronavirus. He said that since testing positive Friday “I have felt fine and am no longer experiencing any symptoms,” which were “very mild.” He said he is self-quarantining until being released by the Lake Cumberland District Health Department.
Beshear’s other special message about masks came from David Turner Jr., a Louisville fourth grader fighting brain cancer, whose parents David and Elizabeth, “reached out to us,” the governor said. Sitting in a wheelchair, the younger Turner said, “I wear a mask to protect other people and so should you.” Beshear added, “If you don’t want to wear a mask for me, that’s fine. Surely you’ll want to wear one for so many children around this commonwealth.”
|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention illustration; for a larger version, click on it.|
Health Commissioner Steven Stack offered another reason, research reported Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Two Springfield, Mo., hair stylists who tested positive worked on 139 clients who followed a local ordinance and wore masks, and “After multiple weeks of follow-up, not a single person who got their hair cut by one of these stylists got it,” Stack said. “That’s a lot of people, folks, all because they wore a cloth face covering. It helps keep people safer, it allows people to return to work, it allows us to go back to the activities we need to do.”
Beshear announced that the hotline for reporting violations of his emergency orders has been reactivated. He said Kentuckians should call 1-833-KYSAFER (833-597-2337) “to report concerns about rules and regulations not being followed . . . We just need to ensure we have all the positive pressures out there to stop this thing.” The line will be answered from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET. Reports can also be made at kysafer.ky.gov.
He also revived his call for businesses to give paid leave to employees who test positive so they can quarantine at home, in response to a report from Louisville’s WFPL that some employers aren’t doing that. “It is incredibly short-sighted for a business not to offer paid leave to someone who has this virus” because its encourages infected employees to keep working and spreading the virus.
Daily data: The six covid-19 fatalities Tuesday were a 44-year-old woman from Carter County; an 89-year-old woman from Casey County; a 65-year-old man from Fayette County; a 77-year-old man from Floyd County; an 82-year-old man from Ohio County; and 72-year-old woman from Shelby County. They raised the state’s death toll to 635. “There are multiple counties here that have never had a loss and they do now,” Beshear said.
Beshear said the 576 new cases of the coronavirus on the state’s daily report included 11 children under 5 years old, one 11 months old.
Counties with more than five new cases Tuesday included Jefferson, 74; Warren, 66; Boone, 22; Kenton, 19; Graves, 18; Madison, 17; Christian, Hardin and Hopkins, 12 each; Knox and Montgomery, 11 each; Carter, 10; Bell and Campbell, 9 each; Boyd, Casey, Harlan and Pike, 8 each; Adair, Daviess and Perry, 7 each; and Barren, Bullitt, Calloway and Russell, 6 each.
Fayette County, which follows a different reporting schedule, reported 58 new cases and five deaths, its highest one-day fatality count. The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department “said case investigations continue to show residents going out to public businesses while infected,” and noted that “people are contagious before symptoms begin to show,” Jeremy Chisenhall reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. “As of Monday, the health department had received 34 complaints of mask-mandate violations, according to spokesman Kevin Hall.”
Three of the five Fayette County school board members, including the chair, said they are unsure that schools can safely reopen to in-person learning Aug. 24. “Until we see decreased cases and increased rapid testing, I do not believe we can safely reopen our schools,” Stephanie Spires told the Herald-Leader.
In other covid-19 news Tuesday:
- Executive Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown said the Corrections Cabinet is managing an outbreak at the Kentucky State Reformatory in the same way it managed one at the Green River Correctional Complex and is managing one at the state women’s prison, with separation and increased sanitation and prevention. He said 49 reformatory inmates and six employees have tested positive, three are hospitalized and a 55-year-old inmate with “a lot of underlying health problems” died over the weekend. That was the fourth inmate death from covid-19.
- In the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women near Pewee Valley, 207 of the 643 inmates tested positive, plus 19 staff, and all inmates have been retested, Brown said. Overall, he said, 624 inmates and 83 staff have tested positive and four inmates have died.
- Beshear said he believes the state can stabilize the situation. Asked if he might release more inmates for their safety, he said he would watch as cases spread, and may look to see if inmates who didn’t qualify for release earlier do now.
- The CovidActNow site says Kentucky’s seven-day trailing average of positive coronavirus tests is 6.5%, well above the 3.9% to 4.5% the state has reported in the last few days. The site says the rate has gone up almost every day since July 3. It says it gets its data from the Covid Tracking Project, which uses official data. Asked about that, Stack said through a spokesperson, “Dr. Stack’s view is that data is best used as part of a multi-source assessment of the landscape coupled with professional judgment. He uses information sourced from CAN in his own materials. For transparency, he’s said several times that none of this data is perfect.”
- Beshear said he hopes to give a full report on unemployment claims processing Thursday, when he will have his next briefing. He said temporary field offices are getting 1,000 visits a day, and claimants either get their issue resolved or “a full explanation of why” it hasn’t been.
- Beshear’s senior adviser and runner-up in last year’s Democratic primary, former state Rep. Rocky Adkins, responded to Republican legislators’ criticism of the administration’s handling of the avalanche of claims for unemployment benefits as a result of the pandemic. He reiterated Beshear’s line that Republican Gov. Matt Bevin “dismantled the unemployment office,” closing most field offices, and failed to “overhaul its antiquated system” as it had promised. He recounted what Beshear is doing to resolve a claims backlog.
- One in three people aged 18 to 25 are “medically vulnerable to severe covid-19” largely because they smoke, says a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Kentucky is among the national leaders in adult and youth smoking.
- A skywriting airplane placed the word “OBEY” in the sky over Lexington.