FRANKFORT, Ky. — On the night before Thanksgiving, Gov. Andy Beshear made a final plea to families across the state to keep gatherings small as Kentucky sees an exponential surge in COVID-19 cases.
“Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and usually we get together with about 15 people,” the governor said in a release Wednesday. “This year, we just can’t do that. I’m really disappointed, like all of us are, but protecting my parents, my kids, our neighbors and all of our healthcare workers has to come first. I’m grateful for all Kentuckians who are sacrificing this year to keep each other safe.”
Health officials have released guidance for celebrating Thanksgiving safely, with an emphasis on protecting people who are most vulnerable to coronavirus and related complications.
On Wednesday, Beshear announced 3,408 new coronavirus cases and 26 virus-related deaths. Kentucky reported its highest daily case count, 3,711, on Saturday.
So far, Kentucky has reported 166,139 total positive COVID-19 cases and 1,835 virus-related deaths reported since the pandemic began in March.
Beshear warned Tuesday that Kentucky's hospital systems may become overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. Hospitalizations again increased Wednesday, with 1,734 Kentuckians currently hospitalized for COVID-19, 409 people in intensive care units and 216 on ventilators.
“All across the state, we are seeing beds fill up, we are seeing nurses and doctors stretched, and if we do not stop the exponential growth of cases, we will exceed our healthcare capacity. We will run out of doctors and nurses that are not sick or are not quarantined, and we will experience more loss and more death than we have to,” the governor said.
Meanwhile, Beshear said the state is seeking to purchase more hard-to-find N95 face masks, but Kentucky's supply of personal protective equipment remains "generally in good shape."
Kentucky also placed Ohio on its travel advisory list this week, which recommends travelers quarantine for 14 days upon their return from states with testing positivity rates of 15% or greater. That travel advisory applies to leisure travel, but it will not affect Kentucky commuters who work in neighboring states. Find the full list of 15 states on Kentucky's travel advisory here.
Extensive pandemic restrictions went into effect across Kentucky last week, including closing restaurants and bars to indoor dining, as well as limiting capacity at indoor venues, gyms and other businesses. The governor said restaurants that remain open for indoor dining will lose their food, beverage and alcohol permits and must reapply to get them back.
All K-12 public and private schools were also required to move classes online this week, and public universities pledged to move instruction online as well, Beshear said. A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Beshear cannot close religious schools to help slow the spread of COVID-19, part of a lawsuit supported by more than one dozen religious schools, over 1,000 Kentucky parents and later joined by Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
Kentuckians are asked to limit home gatherings at eight people from no more than two households, especially with the Thanksgiving holiday fast approaching.
The restrictions are in effect through Dec. 13 at 11:59 p.m., and the governor said the state wants to see "in the very least a slowing of (COVID-19 case) growth" before lifting any restrictions.
More Ky. COVID-19 numbers
Kentucky has administered more than 2.6 million COVID-19 tests since the pandemic began and more than 27,349 people have reportedly recovered from coronavirus. Kentucky's seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate rose slightly to 8.88% on Wednesday.
All but three Kentucky counties have moved into the "red" on the state's COVID-19 incidence rate map on Wednesday, indicating "critical" spread in those areas of 25 or more cases per 100,000 people. All Northern Kentucky counties remain in that "red" zone.
According to NKY Health, 9,826 people across Boone, Kenton, Campbell and Grant counties have tested positive for COVID-19, and 119 people locally have died of the virus. The health department reports 4,231 active cases and 5,476 people who have recovered from coronavirus as of Wednesday.
NKY Health will be switching its data source for its public COVID-19 dashboard and will start using the state contact tracing database Nov. 30. Through the Thanksgiving holiday, NKY Health will not update this dashboard.
On Monday, Nov. 30, NKY Health will change the data source used for its public-facing COVID-19 dashboard to the state contact tracing database system. pic.twitter.com/7p396Cf9p8— NKY Health Dept (@nkyhealth) November 25, 2020
Find free COVID-19 testing in NKY
In Northern Kentucky, St. Elizabeth Healthcare and Covington's Gravity Diagnostics offer free, appointment-only drive-thru testing at 25 Atlantic Ave in Erlanger, the former Toyota HQ building off Mineola Pike.
The site is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. You will be able to collect your own sample without leaving your vehicle and receive results within three to five days.
Additionally, appointment-only drive-up testing is available through St. E at 7200 Alexandria Pike, Alexandria. The free testing site is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.