Beshear: Targeted restrictions likely Wednesday, National Guard to help nursing homes

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – New or renewed restrictions on some activities likely will be announced Wednesday as the state steps up efforts to contain the surge in coronavirus cases and avoid becoming the horrific scenarios occurring in other parts of the country.

But in hinting Monday at the new restrictions during his daily briefing, Gov. Andy Beshear said they would be different from the virtual lockdowns imposed in March, April and early May during the early days of the pandemic which now seem tame by the current case numbers.

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The new restrictions will come on tightened limits announced Monday or nursing homes and long-term care facilities to try to get a grip on a renewed explosion in cases in those locations.

“Whatever we do, we won’t have to go to those length, but yes, we’ll have to look at additional restrictions…actions by lots of different groups acting all at the same time,” Beshear said, comparing the possible announcements to what happened in the spring.

At another point, he said,” The steps won’t look like they did in April or May…if we take them, they will be a more targeted to make sure we are getting the best possible results, we have to be committed.”

But he continued to stress the state is left with little choice, given what is happening in states as diverse as South Dakota and Texas.

“We can’t continue seeing the growth we are seeing now,” he stated more than once, noting last week’s record number of cases was more than 30 percent above the record set the week before last and that record was more than 20 percent above the record set three weeks ago.

The number of weekly cases has doubled in a month, he pointed out.

“All these other states could be us,” he noted, referring to the return of overruns health care systems, freezers being brought in to house the dead and fatigued health care workers.

With news of another vaccine likely on the horizon, Beshear said the state and nation are on the verge of turning the corner on the virus. But with the vaccines not likely to be available for widespread distribution until early spring, state residents must do more now than ever.

If not, it could lose more people between now and the first of March than it already has lost to the virus and if the surge gets even worse, the numbers could be more than double, he said, citing models that will be released Tuesday.

“Our families and individuals are in danger,” he said simply.

The state’s positivity rate reached 8.98 percent as Beshear reported 1,514 new cases. That brought the state total to 139,097. Of the increases, 190 were in Fayette County, 45 in Madison, 39 in Powell, 24 in Mercer, 23 in Jessamine and 20 in Pulaski.

A total of 1,442 people are in the hospital, up more than 300 in one week alone, 360 are in ICU, double from a month ago and 128 are on ventilators.

The governor reported three new deaths, bringing to 1,664 the number who have died since March from coronavirus-related causes. Those reported lost to the virus today include a 66-year-old woman from Graves County; a 63-year-old woman from Henderson County; and an 83-year-old woman from Jefferson County.

With the death of another veteran at the Thomson-Hood Veterans Home in Jessamine County, the state announced new limits of long-term care facilities. The death at Thomson-Hood brought to 25 the number of veterans who have died there in just over a month since the first case was diagnosed there.

No cases currently are active in the state’s other three veterans homes, including the one in Hazard, Beshear said.

According to Eric Friedlander, secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the state is imposing limits on communal dining in long-term care facilities, restricting off-site visits, and curbing group activities.

“We have to get through this time period,” Friedlander said of the limits. “Our first responsibility is to protect our seniors.”

The state has had more than 13,000 cases among residents and staff at nursing home with 1,598 current active cases among residents and 970 among staff.

Among 382 long-term care facilities with active cases, 38 have at least 15 active cases, a dramatic rise from the 15 facilities with at least 15 active cases as of Oct. 30. “There’s a continued need to balance the emotional and mental well-being of residents and their family members and the harsh reality of this pandemic,” Friedlander noted

By the end of this week, the state will have 10 National Guard teams mobilized to help nursing homes most in need with things like cleaning, transportation, and other non-medical duties. The goal is to help nursing homes who are suffering staffing shortages because of severe outbreaks or staff quarantines.

“We are trying to provide additional support for the hard work these centers are doing,” Friedlander said.

Finally, Secretary of the Executive Cabinet J. Michael Brown updated Kentuckians on COVID-19 in the states correctional facilities. Unfortunately, there has been a sizable outbreak at Lee Adjustment Center, where there are 29 active staff cases and 434 active inmate cases.

“The news from the corrections front is not good. We’ve seen an increase week over week of 514 inmate cases and 52 staff cases. That brings our total for the year to over 2,000 inmate cases and over 280 staff cases,” said Brown. “Our fear, frankly, is that we haven’t completely finished testing the facility and we already know that half of the inmates have tested positive for COVID-19. Its alarming. We wanted to bring this to everyone’s attention to show that sometimes in spite of our best efforts, this virus continues to strike us.”

The Lee Adjustment Center is an 866-bed medium security institution housing adult males under contract with the Kentucky Department of Corrections. It is located in Beattyville in Lee County.

The continued surge is raising concerns about the ability of the state’s health care staffing to handle the increased cases.

“Administrators at Kings Daughter in Ashland, Pikeville Medical Center, Louisville and Bowling Green, among others, all have raised concerns about staffing levels and increased cases during the last week.

“The problem is not the number of beds, it’s the number of staffed beds…that is an absolute concern,” Beshear said, noting it is something “we are monitoring very closely.”

While new restrictions likely are coming Wednesday, the solutions are even simpler, the governor said, repeating calls he made for weeks.

“Our level of compassion has to exceed our level of denial and rationalization,” he said, of people who continue to decline to wear masks and practice other safety rules.

“What we are seeing is heartbreaking because it is avoidable.”

The red zone counties for this week can be found here.

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,