High numbers keep pressure on state COVID decisions

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Another 611 new coronavirus cases pushed the state’s overall total over the 25,000 mark, keeping the pressure on the state’s coronavirus response.

And Gov. Andy Beshear said he and state health leaders continue to watch the numbers and will have a better idea next week whether steps they’ve taken in the last three weeks will stem the tide or more steps, such as closing bars and scaling back retail capacity, as well as not allowing in-person school, are needed.

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“If we are still at 600 or so cases or seeing things down a little, then we may be OK. But if we are seeing 800 or 900, then we may have to do more,” Beshear said during his Thursday briefing.

“We are in a critical moment” like we were back in March and April, he continued.

The new numbers pushed the state total to 25,147 total cases. The positive test rate edged up a fraction to 4.94 percent, close ti the 5 percent rate where White House health officials recommend stricter action.

The number of young kids continues to increase with 21 under the age of 5 in 13 counties included in the new numbers. The state still has cases in 36 child care centers with 31 staff and 25 children testing positive.

Of the new cases, 116 are i Jefferson, 28 in Fayette, 27 in Boyle, 19 in Harlan, 19 in Laurel, 17 in Bell, and 12 each in Jessamine and Scott, among others, according to the governor.

The state recorded seven additional deaths, bringing the state’s total to 684. The deaths included a 49-year-old woman in Fayette County, a 57-year-old woman in Jefferson County, a 60-year-old woman in Casey County, a 64-year-old woman in Knox County, and a 68-year-old woman in Whitley County.

The number of people in the hospital — 581 — and ICU – 135 — with COVID symptoms are up slightly from Wednesday, but the state still has capacity in those areas.

“The capacity and number of ventilators remain good, but that can get out of control very quickly,” Beshear said.

“The question is can we stop the escalation?” he stated.

Beshear discussed a number of other issues under questions from reporters.

Among them, he said he continues to worry about day care capacity and wouldn’t ask teachers to go into the classroom under current conditions.

“I worry about everything,” he said when asked if he is concerned abut the long-term child care capacity. “The coronavirus has impact so many things, from child care to our overdose rates.”

The state has so far provided $47 million to try to “prop up” the day care industry with supplements and 20 percent of the day care centers still have reopened. And those that have are operating under “greatly reduced capacity” because of the state’s coronavirus restrictions. Commissioner Eric Friedlander said industry leaders and the state are discussing options that could further help the industry and expand capacity but those still are “in flux.”

Asked about in-person teaching, Beshear said he “wouldn’t ask a teacher to do that” under current conditions. He said if the numbers remain high, he would recommend teachers either to delay the opening of school to allow time to get the virus under control or to opt to start school with online instruction and then going to in-person teaching later in the fall.

“I think every one is waiting to see a stabilization or decline,” he said, stressing that next week’s number could hold the key.

As for couples planning weddings, he encouraged all to exercise caution, whether at venues or their own property.

“Just be exceptionally careful,” he advised.

On unemployment claims, the governor said the teams from Ernst & Young accountants are “ahead of schedule,” but the state may still extend the company’s $7.6 million contract, which ends Sunday.

“We may have to extend it to stay caught up. or get more state people involved,” Beshear said. “I still think we will be caught up or close to caught up this week but you can fall behind quickly because of the sheer numbers coming in,” he explained.