As COVID cases surge in ‘Red’ zones, communities must step up: Governor

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Communities were handed a list of recommendations to helping curb the spread of the coronavirus in their midst but Gov. Andy Beshear stressed the individual and community responsibility over more mandates.

“It’s not just what you put in place, it’s the fact most people followed them,” Beshear said when asked why he is taking a different approach now than in the spring when mandates helped dramatically slow the spread of the virus.

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The state now is in the middle of its worst increase in the seven months since the outbreak began.

“Then everyone wanted to beat this virus…call it fatigue or whatever but that’s changed,” the governor continued.

“The solution now is not more rules, it’s more people following them and doing the right thing,” he said, again stressing the value and importance of wearing masks, controlling gatherings and practicing social distancing.

The discussion came as he reported 953 new cases, by far the highest Monday on record in the state. That brings the state total to 97,895 and puts it on the verge of topping 100,000 in matter of days.

Other numbers also are troublesome, including a 5.84 percent positivity rate, 858 people in the hospital, 253 in ICU and 112 on ventilators.

Even with the growing hospital numbers, the state is using only about 70 percent of its hospital bed and ICU capacity. But as those numbers tick upward, the state is making plans for options, including setting up the 2,000 bed field hospital at the state fairgrounds, if necessary.

The governor noted the numbers are alarming on one point because hospitals have “set the bar higher” now than in the spring for who they admit with coronavirus symptoms.

“If they admit you now, you are really sick,” he stated.

Beshear also reported three more deaths, bringing that number to 1,410.

Those reported lost to the virus include a 75-year-old man from Garrard County; a 73-year-old woman from Graves County; and a 54-year-old man from Lewis County.

As for recommendations for communities where the surge is worst — counties who rate in the “red” on Thursday afternoons — the governor recommended individuals and communities take it upon themselves during the next week to curb the virus.

That includes letting as many employees as possible work from home where possible, shutting government offices so they work virtually, rescheduling and postponing events, use businesses that do abide by the rules, reduce shopping by buying online or curbside, and cut out non-essential activity.

“Red is used for a reason,” he said of communities that score 25 or higher on the state’s incidence map. “It’s an alarm.”

“These are not mandates, they are recommendations for how each community can make themselves safer. It puts ownership in each community…it’s about all of us taking ownership,” he stated. “If we will do these things for a week, we can reduce the spread of the virus and get the numbers under control, but it takes all of us.

“We are in a dark, difficult time that is about to get darker…we have to take responsibility for what is right,” he continued, quoting another governor who called the lack of adherence to rules a “striking disregard for the health of our neighbors.”

A list of the red counties can be found here.

The Governor said unfortunately there have been eight total COVID-19 deaths from the Thomas-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore. Ten patients from the facility are currently in the hospital, 51 still have symptoms and four have recovered. There have been 49 total staff cases at the facility, and 26 of those staffers have recovered.

To view the full daily report, incidence rate map, testing locations, long term-care and other congregate facilities update, school reports, the White House Coronavirus Task Force reports for Kentucky and other key guidance visit, kycovid19.ky.gov.

While he praised the steps most school districts are taking to abide by the current recommendations to control the spread of the disease in schools and then into the community, he admitted that if the state’s positivity rate gets and stays above 6 percent, state health leaders may have to look at stricter rules for schools.”

Scott County is one of the counties in the red this week. It’s home to popular restaurant Red State BBQ.

Owner David Carroll says since this is a state “recommendation” and not a mandate, he’ll have to see how customers react.

His biggest fear is for Thanksgiving, if gatherings aren’t allowed he wonders if people will still buy Red State’s signature deep fried turkeys.

This while Dr. Stack warns counties of all color codes.

“I’m going to tell you it is not a good time to be out in public. This is the most dangerous it has been in 8 months,” Dr. Stack said.