As state COVID cases top 20,000, mask push grows

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Almost 600 new coronavirus cases pushed the state’s total above the 20,000 mark, putting more emphasis on the state’s push to get residents to wear masks in public.

During his briefing Tuesday, Gov. Andy Beshear got help from David Turner Jr., a special needs child, and his parents who made an emotional plea for residents to wear masks.

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Beshear announced 576 new cases Tuesday, a number that is the second-highest one-day total, topped only by a day in early May when some 300 Green River Prison inmates were included. The number pushed the state’s overall total to 20,223 since March 6.

The governor also reported six deaths, which brought the state total to 635. One of those was a 44-year-old woman in Carter County.

“It’s time for leadership, time for every leader, executive, legislative, judicial, it is time to wear a mask, thankfully even the president is wearing one,” Beshear said.

“If you are too proud or for whatever reason, we won’t be able to keep our economy open and get our kids back in school if we don’t wear masks,” Beshear continued.

The governor also chided Republican lawmakers who met Tuesday without wearing masks or practiving other safety measures.

Gov. Beshear said Tuesday that Kentucky lawmakers of all stripes need to show leadership during this pandemic.

He noted that a state senator tested positive for COVID-19, and despite this several of his colleagues met today in a legislative session without wearing masks or maintaining a safe distance apart.

“Yesterday evening a state senator tested positive for COVID-19 and had been in various hearings. But today, we had almost every member of one political party’s representatives and senators not wearing masks and not being six-feet apart, after having been potentially exposed, after having a mask mandate, with record numbers of cases out there,” the governor said. “I’m not trying to publically shame people, but we need leadership. With even the President wearing one, this isn’t right. I hope and expect to see everybody in the annex wearing one, starting tomorrow, otherwise their very own employees are being put at risk. It also spreads their contacts from each other and takes them back into their different communities across the state.”

Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack used a CDC study from Springfield, Missouri to illustrate the value of wearing masks. Two hairstylists who went on to test positive for the coronavirus took care of 139 clients before knowing they were positive.

The hairstylists and all 139 customers wore masks properly and none of the customers tested positive.

“The evidence is growing day-by-day that wearing masks keeps people safe. Wearing them will determine whether we continue to be a leader, continue to be one of the best states in the country,” Beshear added.

While the numbers continue to climb and Tuesday may have been influenced by a delay in reporting from the weekend, the state did have some hints of good news.

The positive test rate dropped to 3.95 percent from 4.5 percent last week, but Beshear said he fears that number will go back up. The number of people in the hospital and in ICU remain relatively low.

Those are among the critical numbers watched by health experts when gauging the extent of a surge.

Of the new cases, some of the biggest numbers were in area counties, including 74 in Jefferson, 29 in Fayette, 17 in Madison, 11 in Knox, 11 in Montgomery and 10 in Carter.

In addition to the Carter County woman, the deaths included residents in Fayette, Floyd, Casey and Shelby counties.

Three more kids in day care centers also have tested positive. They were among nine kids under the age of 5 included in the new cases.

In the state’s prison system, Green River is cleared up, but the Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women has 207 inmates positive and 19 staff with four inmates in the hospital. That has exploded since the first case was diagnosed on June 11.

And the Kentucky State Reformatory has gone from one case July 5 to 49 inmates and five staff Tuesday.

Executive Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown announced the death of an inmate at the Kentucky State Reformatory in Oldham County.

Brown said a 55-year-old man from Jefferson County suffered a heart attack on July 12. He was taken to Baptist Hospital, La Grange, where he was pronounced dead.

The man had been housed in the assisted-living unit where the first COVID-19-positive inmate was housed. The man was tested, along with all the residents of that unit, on July 9 and the positive result was received July 11. He along with all other inmates who tested positive were moved to quarantine and isolated from the rest of the inmate population. His care was being managed by medical staff at the prison.

To view all Department of Corrections COVID-19 updates, click here.

On other issues, the governor said:

— the state is going forward with its plans to allow in-person visitation at nursing homes starting July 15, but noted thankfully some nursing homes are exercising their own caution and delaying those visits or implementing additional rules;

— Is working with court mediation on a lawsuit challenging the state’s orders preventing evictions. The negotiations will be designed to protect people “who truly can’t pay” and allow some flexibility and room for compromise for other tenants and landlords. “If you can pay, you need to be paying your rent,” Beshear advised.

—  noted the COVID-19 reporting hotline is available to help keep Kentuckians safe.

“As we require masks and encourage social distancing and good hygiene to protect fellow Kentuckians, I want to remind people they can still go to kysafer.ky.gov to report concerns about businesses who are not following the requirements,” the Governor said.

People who witness dangerous non-compliance with coronavirus mandates, including requirements for mask wearing, social distancing and sanitation, are encouraged to call the COVID-19 reporting hotline at 833-KY SAFER (833-597-2337). Labor Cabinet personnel will monitor the hotline from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. EDT. To file a complaint online, click here.