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Beshear 'Surprised' By KHSAA Decision To Move Ahead With Fall Sports

Gov. Andy Beshear said he's surprised by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association's (KHSAA) decision Thursday to move forward with their plan to begin most fall sports practices on Aug. 24 and games on Sept. 7.

"With the current level of the virus, if I was somebody wanting to play a ten-game season in a high-contact sport starting now, the odds aren't good," Beshear said.

During his briefing, Beshear announced 726 new cases of coronavirus, 20 of which were cases in children aged 5 and younger.

Fourteen more people have died in Kentucky.

The KHSAA board of control met Thursday to discuss a possible second delay of the season, amid an uptick in cases of coronavirus. But board members voted 16-2 to carry on with the current plan, developed in July.

"Our schools, our athletic directors and our couches have done a phenomenal job,"  Logan County High School Athletic director and KHSAA board of control member Greg Howard said before the vote. "They're professionals, and what's a better place for our kids to be that’s safe and with guidelines set forth by public health? I think they’re in the best hands possible."

Howard described the number of cases linked to summer sports practices as "extremely low." Health guidelines allow teams to practice in "pods" of 10 students or fewer, and students are supposed to stay 6 feet apart. In Perry County, Hazard Independent High School football practices reportedly spread the virus to at least 38 students, staff and family members.

Other board members expressed concern that the season may never begin if teams wait for the governor to recommend a return to in-person classes.

The only 'no' votes came from board members Marion Miller and Jerry Wyman, both of Louisville.

Leaders of Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS), and some school districts in Northern Kentucky, have said they may part ways from the KHSAA decision, and delay practices and competitions for their own student athletes.

The KHSAA plan still has to be approved by state health and education officials.

Beshear said he's "going to take some time to think it through," before he responds to the KHSAA decision.

"I don't know what's going to come out of it, if it's going to be a strong recommendation, if it's going to be advice, if it's going to be something more than that," he said.

JCPS board member James Craig said on Twitter that the board would meet early next week to "discuss the fall sports question."

Louisville Mayor Says He Won't Attend Derby, Beshear Not Sure

Beshear said he hasn't decided whether he will attend the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5.

"I would only go if it is appropriate given all the circumstances that are out there, and it's safe and if it's setting a good example," he said.

Earlier in the day Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said because of rising coronavirus infections,  he does not plan to attend.

"Obviously the numbers are going in the wrong direction," Fischer said. "We've got to be attentive to what these numbers are telling us."

Louisville's positivity rate has climbed to 8.85%, well above the 5% threshold health experts have given for a safe reopening. The state's positivity rate is 5.18%. That means about 5% of COVID-19 tests come back positive for the virus.

Large protests over the police killing of Breonna Taylor are also expected during Derby. The leader of the NFAC, a Black militia, has announced members will be coming to Louisville on Derby Day as well.

White House Report Shows Ky. In The Red

A weekly White House state report provided to the governor's office shows Kentucky is in the "red zone" for coronavirus cases, meaning it has a relatively high number of new cases for its population. The report, obtained by the Center for Public Integrity and provided to WFPL, has not been released in full to the public by the White House. Beshear has spoken of the report and provided some information from it during his briefings, but did his office not initially provide the document when WFPL requested it last week.

On Thursday, after the document was made public by the Center for Public Integrity, Beshear said he thought officials "should be fully transparent" about the report. A spokesperson for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services provided the document when WFPL followed up after Beshear's comments.

The White House document includes recommendations for areas in the red that the state has not taken, such as closing bars. While bars were closed for two weeks at the end of July, Beshear has allowed them to reopen with new restrictions.

Asked why the state is not following the report's recommendations, Beshear said he's in communication with the White House and its COVID coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx.

"I believe that the White House and Dr. Birx would say that we have communicated well and that we are taking aggressive action," he said.

Several counties and metro areas, including Louisville, Bowling Green and Hardin County are in the red zone, meaning the White House believes their test positivity rates are above 10%.

Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.