Elevated numbers, governor reminds of ‘fragile progress’

Gov. Andy Beshear released his final COVID-19 report of the year on Wednesday and urged Kentuckians to use caution when celebrating the New Year and saying goodbye to 2020.

“Our report for today is higher than it has been for a number of days,” he said.  “The progress we have made is fragile. We have to keep working and making good decisions every day.”

The governor said the state’s elevated positivity rate of 9.09% may be the result of some labs and public testing sites closing for the holidays this week, increasing the percentage of tests conducted in medical settings where patients are already experiencing symptoms and suspect they may have the virus.

There were 3,784 new cases of the coronavirus reported to state public health officials on Wednesday, believed to be the sixth-highest day on record, and compares to last Wednesday’s 2,953.  The new numbers bring the pandemic total to 265,262.

Six counties had more than 100 new cases: Jefferson with 527, Fayette 259, Kenton 141, Hardin 125, Pulaski 104, and Christian 101.  The rest of the top 10 were Laurel 99, Boone 97, Warren 96, and Daviess 91.

There were also 29 more deaths on Wednesday, making it 2,623 since Kentucky had its first one in March.

The latest victims ranged in age from 54 to 100.  The state’s two largest counties, Jefferson and Fayette, each had five; Floyd County had four; Bath County three; Boone County two; and one apiece in Bell, Campbell, Hopkins, Johnson, Kenton, Lawrence, Lewis, Mason, Monroe and Perry counties.

A total of 1,673 Kentuckians were reported hospitalized on Wednesday.  Of them, 433 are in the ICU while 234 are currently on a ventilator.

The governor reminded everyone to be safe this New Year’s Eve.

“I ask every single Kentuckian to keep any New Year’s celebration small, preferably your own household or one more,” he said. “Remember, going to a big party, hosting a big party, or going to any gathering where you’re going to take your masks off will spread this virus at a time where Kentucky is doing better than most. But the virus is rampaging through the United States and we’re seeing record deaths just about everywhere.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions echoed the governor’s advice about keeping it small this year due to the coronavirus, adding, if you’re celebrating New Year’s with people outside your household, make sure you take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

–Wear a mask.

–Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arm lengths) apart.

–Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.

–Wash your hands.

–Stay home if you’re sick.

–Get a flu shot as soon as possible.

The CDC also suggests alternate ways to celebrate New Year’s:

–Have virtual celebrations with loved ones.

–Plan a New Year’s party for the people who live with you.

–Plan a neighborhood outdoor countdown to midnight, weather permitting.

–Watch a live-streamed firework display, concert, First Night event, or other New Year’s programming from your home.

The governor has also issued three new executive orders which are extensions of previous ones, and will take effect Jan. 1 or later:

–The CDC extended its moratorium on evictions through Jan. 31, 2021, so he renewed a previous executive order, mandating that the CDC moratorium applies in Kentucky.  The order would have expired Thursday.

–He renewed the state’s face coverings mandate for an additional 30 days.  The current executive order will expire at 4:59 p.m. on Jan. 2, and the new order will be effective on Jan. 2 at 5 p.m.

–The governor also extended previous orders allowing pharmacists to dispense 30-day refills without a new prescription for many medications.  The current executive order would expire at the end of Jan. 3, so the new order will be effective for 30 days beginning Jan. 4.

To view the full daily COVID-19 report for Kentucky, which includes such information as the red zone counties and red zone recommendations, testing locations, the weekly White House Coronavirus Task Force reports for Kentucky, details on holiday gathering guidance, school reopening, and more, go to kycovid19.ky.gov.

The governor will observe the New Year’s holiday until Saturday when the next report is expected to be generated.  His next live press briefing will be Monday afternoon at 4 and can be viewed on YouTube and Facebook.