• 70°

Beshear watching surging virus numbers closely over weekend

Another high number of new cases of the coronavirus on Friday is leading Gov. Andy Beshear to consider issuing new restrictions, if the trend continues into next week.

Kentucky had 797 new cases reported to state health officials to finish out the work week, the second-highest day of the pandemic, according to the governor.  That means there have now been 25,931 cases, since the first one was reported on March 6.

“What this means is we are continuing to see an increase and a growth that we absolutely have to stop,” he said.  “We will be watching this very carefully through the weekend, and if we do not see the numbers come down, we’re going to have both a series of recommendations and steps that we’ll need to take, sometime early next week.”

That could include recommendations from the White House regarding the closing of bars and reducing the capacity of restaurants.  He may also recommend that schools postpone resuming classes, or that they hold them virtually, if the situation does not change.

Beshear said during a Capitol press briefing that he and members of his administration had been in contact this week with the Kentucky Council of Churches and the Kentucky Baptist Convention, of which Kentucky Today is a part, about the rising number of cases.

“We’re concerned that we’re seeing almost a trend where somebody goes on vacation, brings it back from the beach, then goes to church and we see it spread through that church,” he said.  “There is no mandate, there is no executive order, there is no regulation, there is nothing like that.  But I recommended for the next two Sundays, that with the escalating number of cases that we have, that it’s a very dangerous time, and recommended that people do virtual or drive-up services.”

For those churches continuing with in-person worship, he said, “I just ask people to double down on making sure that everybody is wearing a mask, that they do even extra cleaning, and that people are spread out.”

Beshear emphasized, “Nobody is trying to close any church.  We were just talking to our various houses of worship about where we are right now, making recommendations for their consideration about the dangers we face, and we hope to get turned around in the next couple weeks.”

The governor also announced seven new deaths on Friday, raising the total to 691.  They include an 81-year-old man from Boone County; a 59-year-old woman from Hardin County; an 85-year-old woman and an 82-year-old man from Jefferson County; a 66-year-old man from Oldham County; and two women, ages 54 and 74, from Wgarren County.

“Again, how we manage this crisis, whether we can bring down cases is going to determine how many lives we lose,” said Gov. Beshear. “It’s going to determine what economic impact we have going forward because our reopening and our economy are now tied to how well we deal with this virus. And it’s going to be directly related to when we can get our kids back in school for in-person classes.”

As of Friday, there have been at least 574,233 coronavirus tests performed in Kentucky. The positivity rate currently stands at 5.28%, the highest ever reported in Kentucky.  At least 7,396 Kentuckians have recovered from the virus.

The governor also announced on Friday that he is extending Ernst & Young’s contract for another five weeks, to help process unemployment claims, after the firm met and exceeded expectations in July.  The state will pay $4.4 million for the extension, much less than the $7.4 million in the original contract, because the firm will have fewer employees involved.  Funding for the contract is coming through the federal CARES Act, with no General Fund money involved.

The governor says his next press briefing will be Monday at 4 p.m., EDT.  Other key updates, actions and information from his administration on the coronavirus pandemic, can be found at kycovid19.ky.gov.