In light of low numbers of signups for coronavirus tests this week in Warren County, Gov. Andy Beshear urged people Tuesday to get tested.
“We have a major outbreak in Warren County that our testing can help us identify and control, but you’ve got to go in and you’ve got to get tested,” he said during a briefing in Frankfort.
Confirmed Warren cases have more than doubled over the last three weeks, rising to at least 950 as of Tuesday, according to health officials.
Beshear said “only” 206 people were tested at the Kroger-operated test site in Bowling Green on Tuesday, while 84 were signed up for Wednesday, 39 on Thursday and 22 on Friday.
A permanent test site opened Friday at Walmart on Morgantown Road in Bowling Green.
Warren County-Judge Executive Mike Buchanon said that as of Monday, about 7.1 percent of the county’s roughly 130,000 residents had been tested, close to double the statewide rate.
Meanwhile, Beshear confirmed 387 new coronavirus cases statewide since his last case update Saturday, 151 of which are probable. He said 141 were reported Sunday, 122 on Monday and 117 on Tuesday, bringing the statewide total to 8,951. The virus-related death toll rose to 394, with three newly confirmed and one probable.
At least 193,576 people statewide have been tested, which is about 4.3 percent of the total population of 4.4 million. Of the 8,951 total cases, at least 3,115 have recovered, 489 are currently hospitalized and 78 are in intensive care.
The Barren River Area Development District’s COVID-19 Dashboard, which uses data from the state Department of Public Health, showed 1,542 cases Tuesday in its 10-county region. Those include 949 in Warren, 224 in Butler, 125 in Logan, 56 in both Edmonson and Allen, 49 in Simpson, 43 in Barren, 21 in Hart, 15 in Monroe and four in Metcalfe.
According to a news release from the Barren River District Health Department, confirmed cases in its eight-county region have risen to 1,464. Those include 950 in Warren, 216 in Butler, 126 in Logan, 59 in Edmonson, 47 in Simpson, 36 in Barren, 24 in Hart, and six in Metcalfe. There are 27 total virus-related deaths in the district, including nine confirmed deaths in Edmonson County, six in Butler, five in Warren, three in both Simpson and Logan and one in Barren.
There are at least 59 cases in Allen County, according to an update Tuesday from the Allen County Health Department, which is not part of the Barren River district.
Beshear also condemned Tuesday a protest rally that occurred over the weekend, during which he was hung in effigy. Beshear called it “an action intended to use fear to get their way.”
The effigy was hung in a tree near the state Capitol on Sunday during what was billed as a protest rally in defense of constitutional rights, including the right to bear arms.
Beshear said elected officials that “embraced these individuals” at previous rallies, and claimed “people including (Beshear) aren’t Christian and even told them that people wanted babies to be murdered,” are responsible in part.
“You cannot fan the flames, and then condemn the fire,” he said. “I will not be afraid. I will not be bullied. And I will not back down.”
Beshear said he is looking into extra security at the Governor’s Mansion because rallygoers crossed barriers and were “just a windowpane away from where my kids (play), the mob chanted and heckled.” He added that “thankfully” he and his family were not home at the time.
Meanwhile, state public health commissioner Dr. Steven Stack played a video during the briefing showing a Louisville restaurant over the weekend with “people all together … clearly not all (from) the same household.”
If one infected person talks loud and sprays spit while doing so, “that’s how you spread this infection. And before you know it, that fun evening out turns into” 40 to 50 people sick two weeks later, he said.
Under the state’s Healthy at Work guidelines for restaurants, people living in different households “should not be permitted to sit at the same table,” and six feet of distance between people should be demarcated “to the greatest extent practicable.”
Stack added that over the weekend, the state had to “mass evacuate 37 people from a nursing home over four hours into six different hospitals” due to an outbreak. He said that if guidelines aren’t followed, “we’re all gonna pay a price.”
Beshear also was asked about U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s comments Tuesday in Lexington regarding the potential for another CARES Act bill. McConnell is insisting that the next bill include federal liability protections for reopening businesses. Beshear said, “I’d need to know what they are.”
“What we can’t do is let a business come back online, and ignore all of the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) rules, and say, ‘Hey, we’re immune,’ because sadly there are some out there that would do or allow terrible things to happen to people.”
Kentucky is facing a budget deficit of about $457 million in the current fiscal year ending June 30, which Beshear said is “directly” related to the virus.
“Right now, the way this CARES Act is written, in state government we can only use it for very limited purposes, which means it can help us a little, but not a lot in the budget situation we’re facing … and we need direct financial assistance from the federal government just like in The Great Recession,” he said.