State animation shows infection-rate growth from green to red zones.
By Lisa Gillespie
Kentucky Health News
Gov. Andy Beshear said he will impose new pandemic restrictions Wednesday, including limits on restaurants and bars. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases are running so high that health departments are asking Kentuckians who have tested positive for it to do their own contact tracing: notify people they may have exposed to the virus.
Beshear said at his daily briefing, "We will be announcing new steps that we're going to take in this commonwealth. It is time to get control of this beast. I refuse to stand by and watch avoidable loss around us. And we're at war, and there are some right now who want to surrender and accept the fatalities. I'm not that type of governor."
Beshear announced 2,931 new cases of the virus on Tuesday, the third highest day yet, bringing the seven-day rolling average to 2,487, based on initial, unadjusted daily reports. The highest days were Friday and Saturday, with 3,173 and 3,303, respectively.
The governor also announced 33 more deaths from covid-19, ranging in age from 36 to 99, which he noted was "the deadliest day that we’ve had in our fight against this virus."
The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days also continues to rise. It was 9.1% today, the highest its been since testing became widely available in May. Beshear called this range "dangerous territory," noting that anything above 5% is cause for worry.
He announced that 1,521 people are hospitalized in Kentucky with covid-19, an increase of 79 from yesterday; 354 of them in intensive care and 178 of those are on a ventilator.
Beshear reiterated that his new restrictions will be more focused than they were in the spring, partly because testing and personal protective equipment are more available.
“It is not going to look like March, when we had to do 'Healthy at Home’,” he said. when all non-life sustaining businesses closed to in-person services. “So this will be more targeted. But, we've got to stop this. So we’re going to do enough to stop it.”
The Democratic governor said he would talk Wednesday with leaders of the Republican-controlled legislature and industries that will be affected by the new restrictions, before announcing them at his 4 p.m. briefing. It will be his first such briefing for legislators, who have complained about his lack of consultation.
“When these steps come out, we want them to work, and so we'll need leadership on all levels to help us to make that happen,” Beshear said. “And we think taking this extra time to get additional buy-in, can hopefully get us more effective results, and also to communicate especially to those that that may feel the brunt of some new steps.”
Beshear again offered few details on what he said would be mandates and not restrictions, but when asked, he said a statewide 10 p.m. curfew like Ohio's would not be among them. He added that the state would provide assistance for those who would be affected most by the new rules, such as restaurants and bars.
He added that the latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report supports more restrictions, commended his "active measures" and called the spread of the virus "aggressive" and "unrelenting."
“The house is on fire at this point,” Beshear said. “And we need everybody not to close their eyes, close their ears and sit in the house while it burns down on them. We need everybody to join the bucket brigade and to do what it takes to address the crisis.”
|State Department for Public Health chart|
“At this point, it is becoming impossible for our local health departments to call each and every one of these contacts in a timely fashion, which is necessary for contact tracing to be effective,” Franklin County Health Department Director Judy Mattingly said in a short video.
The state is asking people who test positive to reach out to their own contacts if they were within six feet of them for at least 15 minutes in the 48 hours before the test or before their symptoms began.
Health Commissioner Steven Stack said health departments will now focus on identifying new positive cases and enlisting their support to notify their contacts, because the case numbers are so high that the more than 900 people hired by the state to trace contacts can't keep up with the demand.
“I think that should be no small sign of the situation we find ourselves in,” said Stack, who is a physician.
Stack showed several graphs and charts that showed the number of deaths and cases in Kentucky since March. He showed how the first surge was shut down by the state's Healthy at Home program and the second by the mask mandate. Then he pointed to the current escalation, noting it has a significantly steeper rate of increase than the first two.
“This is where we find ourselves now. This is terrifying. This is now growth from a much higher starting place. The numbers show no signs of relenting,” he said. “There has to be a third intervention.”
Pikeville Medical Center CEO Donovan Blackburn also spoke in a video in the briefing, and said his hospital, like others in the state and region, is nearly full.
“It is becoming increasingly difficult to accept additional covid patients, especially in our ICU,” Blackburn said. “Transferring patients outside of the region would be our next option; we also are at risk of shutting down other vital services. . . . I urge all Kentuckians to please take this seriously. ”
Blackburn urged Kentuckians to get a flu shot, wear a mask and social distance.
Beshear also made his first public hint that he may seek re-election in 2023, as he said Kentuckians need to wear a mask not for him, but for other Kentuckians.
Holding a hand to his chest, he said, “I hope something touches your heart in a way that it says, ‘Okay, even with all the questions I have or concerns or anger over other things, I'm going to do this, I'm going to put on a mask, I'm going to do what it takes,’ Stay angry with me, vote against me the next time around. At the moment, all I care about is that we get through this, we get through it together and we save as many lives along the line.”
In other coronavirus news Tuesday:
- The 33 fatalities were an 85-year-old man from Barren County; a 69-year-old man from Breathitt County; a 60-year-old man from Calloway County; a 36-year-old woman from Christian County; four women, 83, 90, 91 and 91, from Daviess County; an 89-year-old man from Floyd County; a 51-year-old man from Grayson County; a 78-year-old woman from Green County; an 85-year-old man from Hancock County; a 93-year-old woman from Henderson County; three women, ages 75, 78 and 93, and five men, 49, 79, 87, 88 and 94, from Jefferson County; two men, ages 68 and 72, from Jessamine County; a 94-year-old woman and an 89-year-old man from Madison County; two women, 92 and 94, from McLean County; an 86-year-old woman from Monroe County; a 68-year-old woman and a 74-year-old man from Ohio County; a 65-year-old man from Oldham County; a 99-year-old woman from Rockcastle County; and a 58-year-old woman from Trigg County.
- Counties with 10 or more cases were Jefferson, 330; Fayette, 233; Madison, 156; Daviess, 93; Boone and Hardin, 84 each ; Kenton, 83; Warren, 63; Bullitt, 61; Pike, 58; Laurel, 55; Graves, 52; Campbell and McCracken, 51 each; Barren, 48; Christian, 47; Lee and Nelson, 44 each; Floyd, 43; Calloway, 38; Jessamine, 36; Greenup, 35; Pulaski and Scott, 33 each; Breckinridge, Hopkins and Rowan, 32 each; Henderson, 22; Lincoln, Logan and Muhlenberg, 21 each; Adair, Bell, Boyd, Edmonson and Johnson, 20 each; Marion and Whitley, 19 each; Elliott, Garrard, Grayson, Magoffin, Ohio, Perry, Powell and Wayne, 18 each; Anderson, Boyle, Monroe and Oldham, 17 each; Franklin, Marshall, Mercer and Webster, 16 each; Grant, Hancock and Martin, 15 each; Knox, 14; Green, Lawrence, Shelby and Taylor, 13 each; Casey, Estill, McLean, Meade, Pendleton and Woodford, 12 each; Breathitt, Morgan and Union, 11 each; Clark, Clay, Clinton, Jackson and Mason, 10 each.
- Of today's new cases, Beshear said 325 were age 18 or younger.
- The state's long-term care facilities have 1,667 active resident cases and 1,015 active staff cases, with 58 new resident and 78 new staff cases reported today. There have been 1,089 resident deaths and six staff deaths attributed to covid-19, with 40 confirmed today.
- The K-12 dashboard shows that last week, 1,063 more students and 567 more staff tested positive for the virus, and 6,557 students and 1,148 staff were in quarantine.
- The college and university report shows 733 students and 10 staff tested positive in the past 14 days, with 66 of the students reported today.
- Other states are imposing restrictions as the virus surges. California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he was pulling an “emergency brake” and putting almost all counties in the state's most restrictive level. Newsom is a Democrat. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa announced, after months of resisting the idea, that everyone age 2 and older must wear a face covering in indoor spaces open to the public. In Oklahoma, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt said bars and restaurants must close by 11 p.m., except for to-go and drive-thru orders, and required state employees to wear masks at work.
- Governors of Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin sent out a message of unity in the hopes of thwarting the spread of the surging virus, with a shared concern about the stress this surge is placing on their hospitals and staff, Travis Ragsdale reports for WDRB.
- Friendship Health and Rehab in Pewee Valley asked for help from the state's nursing strike team after 63 residents and 20 staff tested positive for the virus, WDRB reports. Six residents of the 142-bed facility have died from covid-19 since the pandemic began.
- At a weekly news conference, three of the largest hospital systems in Louisville said they are able to handle the increase in covid-19 patients right now," Lexie Ratterman reports for WDRB. But Dr. Jason Smith with U of L Health warned, "There will always be a breaking point. I think we are doing a good job across the three healthcare systems in managing this right now, but sooner or later if the numbers continue to rise, it's a simple matter of numbers, in that you will eventually overwhelm the healthcare system no matter how well prepared and how much they're working."
- A father-son team of infectious-disease doctors add their voices to others who are asking Kentuckians to scale back or to cancel their Thanksgiving plans, Jeremy Chisenhall reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Dr. Mark Dougherty and his son, Dr. David Dougherty, told Chisenhall that "it’s vital that older and at-risk populations remain aware of covid dangers and stay safe – even if it means declining an invitation to the family dinner this year." Mark Dougherty said, "If younger people are not going to protect the vulnerable and elderly, then the vulnerable and elderly need to protect themselves."
- Health departments across Eastern Kentucky released new coronavirus numbers, including one new death, on Tuesday and WYMT reports on them.
- WYMT reports about the outbreak of coronavirus cases at the Lee Adjustment Center in Beattyville, which has seen more than 430 inmates and nearly 30 staff test positive in the 866-bed facility.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has removed from its website a statement that stressed "the importance of reopening America's schools" in the pandemic. "The now-withdrawn statement, which took a stronger tone in favor of reopening than the agency's other guidance documents, was reportedly influenced by White House discussions over the subject," Education Week reports. "It appears to have been removed on Oct. 28, according to cached versions of the website kept by the Internet Archive.