FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Kentucky’s coronavirus numbers continue to suggest a new plateau but a plateau nonetheless, state leaders said Monday, pointing to other states to illustrate what can happen if state residents don’t keep practicing safety.
The key to that is wearing masks, state Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said, using South Carolina, Florida and Arizona as examples.
All three states have seen spikes in cases as reopening started a month ago. And all three are states with hot and humid temperatures, dispelling some of the hope the virus would not sustain itself during the summer.
“Our job is to make sure that doesn’t happen here…wear a mask, it’s the key to keeping our reopening going,” Stack said.
“It’s a small inconvenience that gives us a big benefit,” he continued, making note of the “cultural conflict” that is arising among people who wear them and those who don’t.
“When people don’t fear the disease, you see an increase,” he added, referring to other states and to what can happen in Kentucky.
He also noted Arizona and Texas, among other states, already are beginning to express concern about hospital capacity and intensive care units. Houston, Texas has begun discussions about open a field hospital, as have some Arizona communities because of a surge in cases.
“Today, I wear the mask sent to me by David Turner Jr. David is an 8-year-old boy fighting brain cancer. I met with David before COVID hit, on Jan. 23. He had come in for a rally at the Capitol that day. He came into my office. He sat in a chair, pulled up to my desk. I said, Come on, you’re governor for at least 15 seconds what are you going to do with it? He declared that day National Ice Cream Day in Kentucky,” Gov. Andy Beshear said. “This is something I’ll never forget. It’s one of the best moments I’ve had as governor, said the Governor. I am willing to wear this mask for my kids. I most certainly am willing to wear it for David. I think we can all do the same.”
In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear reported 205 new cases Sunday and Monday, bringing to 12,647 cases in the state since early March. A total of 3,416 have reported recovering, a number that is low because it depends on people reporting in.
A total of 383 people are hospitalized with 63 in ICU, both of which are down. That’s good new when it comes to monitoring the disease and health care capacity, Stack said.
The governor reported six deaths between Sunday and Monday, bringing to 505 the number who have died in the last three months. The deaths included two people in Warren County and one each in Fayette, Jefferson, Logan, Warren and Henry counties.
Of the new cases, 41 were in Jefferson, 38 were in Fayette, and a few in other area counties including Shelby, Clay, Clark, Fleming, Pike, Rowan, Woodford, Jessamine, Scott, Leitcher, and Madison.
The state now has 610 people working as contact tracers. That includes 180 hired and trained in the last three weeks.
Almost all are working in local health departments across the state. The key for the system to work is people to answer their phone when they receive a call from a tracer to let them know they may have been in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.
The state is working on software that will identify the caller as being a tracer or being with the local health department.
Mark Carter, named by the Governor to lead the state’s contact tracing efforts, also highlighted the importance of tracing in keeping the virus under control in the commonwealth.
“Contact tracing isn’t a new approach. It’s been used by health departments for decades,” Carter said. “All we’re trying to do here when we identify someone who’s tested positive for COVID is just to identify the folks that that person has been in contact with recently, and then get in touch with those folks and let them know what they can do to protect their own health and to protect their family and friends and loved ones.”
Carter also warned about scams connected to the tracing efforts.
“A couple words of caution with all the fraud and spam calls that you get these days: This is a private process, no one will ever ask you for bank account information or credit cards or anything like that,” said Carter. “If it happens, you need to call the hotline in the Attorney General’s office and report that call. You may be asked about your address and who lives with you, but that’s just to identify your contacts. The fraudulent stuff with social security numbers and bank accounts, call the Attorney General.”
People can call to report scams to the Attorney General at 888-432-9257.
Contact tracers will call people who may have been exposed from 1-844-KYTRACE (1-844-598-7223) to offer information and resources to keep them and others safe.
Getting through the most difficult unemployment insurance cases continues to be a problem for the state.
Beshear said the state now is considering bringing in outside companies to assist, event though the state is well above processing of 90 percent of cases from March, April and May.
“We’ve got to move faster…many people have waited for too long,” Beshear said.
Of the 167,400 claims filed in March, all but 7,566 have been processed, he said. Of the 429,056 cases filed in April, 27,507 remain un-processed which is less than 7 percent.
Of the 295,879 claims filed in May, 94.04 percent have been processed, leaving 17,619 to be worked.
J. Michael Brown, secretary for the Governor’s Executive Cabinet, spoke about current conditions and efforts to keep staff and inmates healthy and safe at the states correctional facilities.
Kentucky currently is performing mass testing of all inmates and staff members at the Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women (KCIW) in Shelby County. The move comes after three staffers and 11 inmates tested positive for COVID-19. More than 270 of the facilitys 639 inmates have been tested thus far.
“First, good news, no one is hospitalized from the facility. At the end of May three employees tested positive and 11 inmates, so we used what we learned from Green River and we immediately stepped up mitigation efforts and started mass testing,” Brown said. “We will complete testing at KCIW by the end of this week. We are confident using the methods we’ve learned that we will bring case numbers at KCIW under control.”
At Green River Correctional Complex where a previous outbreak sickened dozens, an initial retesting found 10 new positive coronavirus cases among the 876 retested.
Supreme Court Ruling
Beshear hailed a ruling handed down Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court that extended protections from Title VII of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 to gay, lesbian and transsexual people. The ruling means it is illegal to fire or refuse housing based on someones sexual orientation.
“The Supreme Court has ruled, I think rightfully so, that you cant fire someone or deny them housing simply because they are gay or transgender,” said Beshear. “I believe discrimination in all of its forms is wrong. We should all be judged by our merit. They did the right thing.”
Major PPE Donation
Beshear praised a company with a warehouse in Louisville that made a significant donation of personal protective equipment (PPE) to help the commonwealth.
Solutions 2 Go is based in Ontario, Canada, but has operations in Louisville. Company officials have donated 52,800 KN95 masks that will be distributed to Kentucky health care providers.