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No New Restrictions From Beshear As COVID-19 Cases Climb

KY State Capitol-05282
A sign on the lawn near the Kentucky Governor's Mansion in response to the coronavirus pandemic

Kentucky has reported its highest COVID-19 case total for a Monday since the beginning of the pandemic.

The 647 new positive cases follow a weeks-long escalation in coronavirus spread across the state and country. Gov. Andy Beshear called the figure “very high,” noting that lower numbers are usually reported on Monday relative to the rest of the week due to some labs not operating over weekends.

Beshear said Kentucky is in the midst of its third escalation in cases, with the first occurring near the start of the pandemic and the second around July 4.

“My concern about this [escalation] is it’s not just regional,” he said. “It is all over the country, and it’s moving into the fall and the winter. Without the backlog of cases that we saw last week, this would’ve been our single largest week, which means basically the line is going up, and it’s going up fairly significantly.”

Despite cases consistently rising to record-breaking levels for more than four weeks, Beshear has been hesitant to implement any new restrictions. On Monday, he again said the state is not currently considering any further action to limit spread.

But Beshear said if numbers do not go down soon, he is “certain” the White House will ask that capacities at bars and restaurants be reduced.

“If we want to keep doing some of the activities that we’re doing now, we need to keep doing better,” he said. “This chart can’t continue to go up. When numbers of cases go up like this, so do hospitalizations, so do people in the ICU, so do deaths.”

There are currently 764 Kentuckians in the hospital, 190 in the ICU and 89 on ventilators. Nearly 66% of the state’s inpatient beds and 71% of ICU beds are occupied, but just under 28% of ventilators are in use.

Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said he is concerned that if the current escalation were to accelerate, it could put hospitals in a difficult position.

“Every hospital is going to have to be prepared to expand the number of people it keeps at its own facility for COVID-19,” Stack said. “The only people who should be transferred to the larger hospitals are the ones who require the advanced medical care only available at those larger hospitals. This means that every hospital could at some point feel the strain related to caring for more COVID patients.”

Beshear said the field hospital previously set up at the fairgrounds in Louisville is currently disassembled, but could be put back up in one to two weeks if necessary.

Last week, Kentucky released its plan for initial distribution of vaccines once one becomes available. Stack said Monday that a vaccine could be expected in small quantities in December, but it will take time for everyone to receive it.

“For the typical American, you’re unlikely to have access to the vaccine really until mid-to-late winter, probably early summer,” Stack said. “Hopefully it will ramp up very quickly from there forward, and everybody who will want to have the vaccine will have it. And let’s hope that [the vaccines] work, and work well, so that we can get back closer to the lives that we used to know.”

Nine new deaths were reported Monday, bringing Kentucky’s total to 1,326. The positivity rate is 4.97%, and there have been a total of 88,247 cases since the outbreak reached Kentucky in March.

John, News Editor for LPM, is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Email John at jboyle@lpm.org.