With two days of moderate numbers, state sounds hopeful tone

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The state reported a second day of moderate new coronavirus case numbers Tuesday, prompting a hopeful tone that mask mandates and other steps may be making a small difference.

Gov. Andy Beshear reported 532 new cases Tuesday, which followed 522 cases Monday. Since the first case was reported March 6, the state now has recorded 28,126 cases.

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“This at least gives us hope that we may be approaching another plateau, a stabilization…we’ll be watching Wednesday’s numbers closely,” Beshear said, stopping short of saying he was “excited” or “certain.”

Another good sign was the state’s positivity test rate fell to 5.08 percent. It was the first time in four days the rate has fallen. Likewise, the number of people in the hospital fell slightly to 584 and the number of people in ICU fell to 115.

Those all are numbers health experts watch closely.

Area counties continued to see big numbers. Jefferson County reported 130, Fayette County 27, Madison County 19, Harlan County 12 and Laurel County 10.

The state confirmed 21 cases in children under 5, the youngest being a 2 month old in Madison County.

The state unfortunately had 10 deaths, bringing to 719 since March.

The deaths reported Tuesday include a 74-year-old woman from Butler County; an 84-year-old man from Fayette County; two women, ages 86 and 87, and an 82-year-old man from Jefferson County; two women, ages 89 and 101, and an 83-year-old man from Logan County; a 37-year-old man from Lyon County; and a 73-year-old woman from Oldham County.

“We are seeing better news because people are out there have been working really hard,” Beshear said.

Beshear said if the numbers continue at what would be a “new normal” plateau, he is confident some restrictions could be eased. That includes the closing of bars and reduction of indoor capacity to 25 percent for restaurants that began Tuesday.

“My expectation is we can increase the capacity for restaurants in two weeks…but first we’ve got to get to the point where we are not seeing an increase,” Beshear said, noting the state likely will have to extend the current mask mandate.

“It’s the way to get back to our old normal,” he stressed.

When asked why limit restaurants and not other retailers, Beshear pointed to two issues. One is 17 percent of the state’s known coronavirus clusters are linked to restaurants. Second, state and federal health officials say restaurants and bars are the centers of the spread of the disease, while other retailers don’t see the same kinds of gatherings.

The governor said state leaders have had discussions with local health departments about stepping up enforcement on restaurants and bars, which can have their licenses suspended or pulled for violating coronavirus mandates.

“Our local health departments are doing a great job…they’ve been asked to do so much more than anyone ever imagined….but now is crunch time, we have to make sure we have enforcement,” he explained, noting the state already has used $46 million in federal coronavirus response funds to help health departments.

That kind of funding will have to continue even after the pandemic is over, the governor added.