On the same day the country topped 4,000 daily coronavirus deaths for the first time, Gov. Andy Beshear said Kentucky had reached a “tough point once again in our war against COVID-19,” announcing the third-highest case total he’s ever reported.
“We have successfully stopped three waves of this virus, but we are now seeing a real and significant increase in cases and our positivity rate from people’s gatherings around the holidays,” Beshear said, adding that any Kentuckians who gathered with people outside their household over the holidays must get tested.
Speaking at a news conference Friday, Beshear reported 4,750 new virus cases in the commonwealth. On Thursday, Beshear announced nearly 5,000 new COVID-19 cases in Kentucky’s second-highest daily report – Wednesday’s report was the highest-ever at 5,742 new cases – and the state’s highest positivity rate since May 5, per a governor’s office news release.
On Friday, Beshear also reported 13 additional deaths from the virus, bringing the state’s death toll to 2,856 since the pandemic began. The state’s positivity crept up to 11.91%.
Beshear took the opportunity to review a new White House report, which warned that the current fall/winter surge is “at least twice the rate, the seriousness, of the previous surges that we have seen,” Beshear said.
“This is our most dangerous time,” Beshear said. “Please, please take care of yourself … and do not go out unmasked.”
Citing the White House’s report, Beshear also warned that “the acceleration we are seeing across the country may well be a U.S. variant that has evolved here, somewhat like the one that you are hearing about in the U.K., which may be 50% more transmissible.
“In other words, we are not only in a dangerous time for the amount of virus out there, but the virus may be more dangerous in terms of its spread than ever before,” Beshear said. “While that might not mean that any one case is more serious, if there are that many more cases, and we lose 1% of the people that get infected, we will see more death and more devastation.”
Beshear cited the White House’s recommendations for “aggressive mitigation,” specifically his actions related to a mask mandate and strict social distancing. The state is also setting up “high throughput vaccination sites,” consistent with those recommendations.
“We are working on this right now – I believe Louisville is beta testing one at the moment – where we can get thousands of people through every day,” Beshear said. “(The White House) also is concerned about vaccine hesitancy. It’s real. We’re seeing it in some of the staff members in long-term care …
“It’s safe,” Beshear said, who has publicly received the vaccine. “More than that, I’m willing to have my family vaccinated. My wife, Britainy, has taken it.”
Beshear pointed to several metrics – including that Kentucky ranks just 41st nationally in new virus deaths – as signs that what the state is doing is working.
“In one of the most unhealthy states in the country, we’re 41st in new deaths,” Beshear, “It’s paying off in less death to our people.” That said, Beshear warned that Kentucky’s test positivity rate is significantly up – as of Friday the 19th highest in the country.
“That should set off alarms with all of us,” Beshear said.
Vaccinations in Kentucky sharply increased over the course of last week, climbing to more than 100,000 doses administered, as of Friday, since about 60,000 on Monday.
A map of locations where health care personnel can receive the coronavirus vaccine was live on a state website Friday.