FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear reported 1,018 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the second-highest daily case count Kentucky has seen since March.
Beshear said 157 of those new cases are in children under 18. The governor also reported eight new virus-related deaths, including two women from Kenton County both over 85 years old.
The governor called Tuesday's report a "wake-up call" that Kentuckians may have become too relaxed in following coronavirus precautions. With the latest numbers, Beshear expressed concern that the state could see another record-high week for coronavirus cases.
"Let's also know that when we have 1,018 cases, means we're going to lose more people going forward. 1,018 cases is far too many," the governor said.
He implored Kentuckians to continue wearing masks around others and observe social distancing precautions until a vaccine can be widely deployed.
"Are we willing to do what it takes to protect one another until that point in time? I think that answer is 'yes,' but we gotta prove it," Beshear said.
Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack reported that Kentucky is seeing between 150 and 160 new cases per million people per day, a high rate that is getting worse as K-12 schools and colleges return to in-person classes and bars and restaurants host more patrons.
"The good news is we're not exponentially growing; the bad news is, if you were to draw a line against this, we have a general upward slope, which means that actually over the last four to six weeks, we're losing ground," Stack said.
Kentucky has seen at least 67,856 total cases of COVID-19 and 1,170 total deaths, and Kentucky's coronavirus positivity rate now sits at 4.42%, mainly due to a ramp-up of testing.
So far, more than 11,792 people who had the virus have reportedly recovered from COVID-19, and the state has now administered more than 1.4 million coronavirus tests since the pandemic began.
NKY Health reported that 4,596 people across Boone, Kenton, Campbell and Grant counties have tested positive for COVID-19, and 96 people have reportedly died of the virus. The health department reports 887 active cases and 3,613 people who have recovered from coronavirus as of Tuesday.
As fall and the traditional flu season arrives, Stack encouraged Kentuckians to get their flu shot, get tested for COVID-19 and stay home if they feel sick to limit the spread of any infection.
“If you have a cough, a cold, a runny nose, a fever, chills -- do not leave your house, do not go to work, do not go to school. This of all years is not the year to be casual and spread any kind of infection,” Stack said.
New guidance for schools in effect
Monday marked the first day Beshear recommended students could safely return to in-person classes. The state's new color-coded guidance for holding in-person and/or online classes went into effect on Monday.
Per that guidance, in effect when Kentucky's positivity rate is less than 6%, the state assigns a color to counties each week based on the number of people per 100,000 who are infected with coronavirus there.
In "green" and "yellow" counties, Kentucky recommends schools follow the Department of Education's Healthy At School protocol while holding in-person instruction. For "orange" counties, the state recommends schools consider switching to virtual or blended learning models.
In "red" counties, where the spread of coronavirus is most severe, Kentucky recommends suspending all in-person learning and school sports competition for at least two weeks. Schools in red counties must see their county drop back down to yellow before resuming in-person activities.
Beshear said he's confident that Kentucky schools can reopen safely as long as districts can follow the new guidance based on the severity of coronavirus spread in their areas.
“If the approach is, ‘We’re gonna do what we’re gonna do no matter what,’ then we can’t manage the virus,” the governor said. “But for all the other school districts that are, that are looking at it and are willing to be flexible … then yes, I think we can do this and we can do it as safely as we can.”
Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman unveiled a new online dashboard for COVID-19 cases in Kentucky's schools that launched Monday. There, schools will self-report student and staff cases in their districts Monday through Friday.
According to Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack, 1,300 of Kentucky's roughly 2,000 school districts have already begun to self-report through the portal as of Tuesday.
You can find that dashboard here.
NKY counties in White House's 'yellow,' 'orange' zones
Several Northern Kentucky counties, including Boone and Kenton counties, continue to show positivity rates between 5% and 10%, according to the latest White House report on Monday.
Those counties in the White House's "yellow" zone, a step below a "red" zone denoting a 10% or greater positivity rate. Campbell County now sits between those ranges in the "orange zone," indicating an increase in cases there. Currently, 14 of Kentucky's 120 counties are currently in the red zone.
Beshear has said the Trump administration's rating system may determine future actions in different counties, possibly including another recommended delay for in-person schooling in red counties. The White House report also advised that Kentucky keep its mask mandate, which was renewed for another 30 days on Sept. 4.
Find free COVID-19 testing in NKY
In Northern Kentucky, St. Elizabeth Healthcare and Covington's Gravity Diagnostics offers 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.
Watch a replay of the briefing in the player below.