FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman announced Tuesday that the state will offer unlimited COVID-19-related “emergency days” for faculty and staff who may need to quarantine during the school year if they come in contact with the virus.
At a press briefing with Gov. Andy Beshear, Coleman said school staff typically are only given a few emergency days per year.
“The issue we came up against was, what happens if teachers or bus drivers or cafeteria workers are exposed to someone and not necessarily contract the virus but has to be quarantined until they get a test back? That would allow them to use these emergency days in that way, so they’re not using sick days unless they are actually sick," she said.
Previously, the state announced it would also allow unlimited non-traditional instruction (NTI) days and removed average daily attendance requirement for 2021 school funding.
Coleman also asked parents for their understanding as school districts and superintendents draft plans for students to potentially return to classrooms this fall.
“The heart of every reopening plan should be the health and safety of every child and every adult in the building as well as every family they go home to at night,” Coleman said Tuesday.
Coleman invited educators and school staff to a Kentucky Department of Education virtual town hall from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday featuring health and education officials to answer questions about reopening plans. Find more information about the online town hall here.
Ky. case numbers
On Tuesday, Beshear reported 674 new cases and three new virus-related deaths, leading to a total of 24,060 cases and 674 deaths. It's now the second-highest daily case count Kentucky has seen, with the highest count coming on Sunday (979 new cases). Since the pandemic began, Kentucky has administered 549,208 coronavirus tests, and roughly 6,800 people have recovered from the virus.
Beshear also noted that Kentucky's coronavirus positivity rate, a seven-day average of positive cases out of total tests, sits now at 4.37%, a figure which has roughly doubled since mid-March.
NKY Health reports that 2,179 people in Boone, Campbell, Kenton and Grant counties have tested positive for coronavirus since March, and 79 people have died of the virus as of Tuesday.
In 233 of Kentucky's long-term care facilities, 2,245 residents and 1,221 staff have tested positive for the virus, and 446 residents and three staff members have reportedly died of the virus as of Tuesday.
Kroger Health COVID-19 testing will continue at Summit View Academy, 5006 Madison Pike, Independence on July 22 and 23. Click here to schedule an appointment.
Travel advisory, limiting informal gatherings to 10
With a new "travel advisory" Monday, Beshear asked Kentuckians who travel to states with high rates of coronavirus to quarantine for two weeks. Those states, which have seen or are approaching a 15% COVID-19 positivity rate or greater, include Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina and Texas. Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, was also included in the advisory.
"I need you to cancel your plans if you're going to a beach ... it is just not safe," Beshear said Tuesday. "Time and time and time again, we've now seen people come back from these vacations and spread it in their work, in their church and in other places."
The governor also asked Kentuckians to once again limit social gatherings like backyard barbeques and block parties to 10 people or fewer after the state had previously relaxed restrictions on home gatherings. The rollback does not apply to events like weddings held at professional venues, nor does it apply to religious services.
Beshear said that wearing masks in public, now mandated by an executive order, will work to stop the spread of coronavirus and keep new cases low if 90 to 95% of people cover their face.
“That requirement will only work to stop this increase in cases if people do it,” Beshear said.
Kentucky’s Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack warned Tuesday that researchers have yet to see what long-term effects COVID-19 can have on people, even if they have recovered from the initial virus.
"When we take the steps we take to try to protect Kentuckians from this illness, it's because there's much we don't know. What we do know is terrifying for the people most vulnerable to it, but we don't really know the true extent of our vulnerability and who will ultimately be impacted and who may have chronic long-term consequences," Stack said.
He warned that the state could see a “vertical climb” in numbers similar to situations in Texas and Florida without new action, saying that case spikes there are due to loosening coronavirus restrictions too soon and relaxing requirements for masks, gatherings and social distancing.
“When we get to our informal gatherings, which are typically with our friends and family, those are the very places where we’re most likely to let our guard down,” Stack said.
Beshear presented three White House recommendations for "surge response" in states seeing spikes of COVID-19. These include closing bars, reducing restaurant capacity back to 25% and mandating face masks in public. Beshear said Monday that Kentucky isn't seeing a surge just yet, but the state is taking action with the travel advisory and limit on social gatherings so these recommendations don't become reality in the state.
Watch a replay of the briefing in the player below: