FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear reported 776 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, including 91 cases in children under age 18. Beshear also announced eight virus-related deaths.
At his press briefing Wednesday, the governor reported Kentucky's coronavirus positivity rate dropped to 3.89% on Wednesday, due in part to an increase in coronavirus testing. Kentucky has now administered close to 1.1 million coronavirus tests since the pandemic began.
Kentucky has seen at least 58,64 total cases of COVID-19 and 1,082 total deaths as of Wednesday. So far, more than 11,043 people who had the virus have reportedly recovered.
NKY Health reported that 4,156 people across Boone, Kenton, Campbell and Grant counties have tested positive for COVID-19, and 92 people have reportedly died of the virus. The health department reports 717 active cases and 3,347 people who have recovered from coronavirus as of Wednesday.
Executive adviser Mark Carter, who oversees Kentucky's contact tracing efforts, reported a “considerable” addition of health staff members since the pandemic began. That includes 767 contact tracers, up from 431 at the before the pandemic. The state also employs 394 disease investigators, 56 regional team members and 23 social support connectors.
Contact tracing involves local health departments getting in touch with people who test positive for COVID-19. They gather information and give instructions if that person has been in contact with someone who has COVID-19. That sometimes involves giving instructions to self-quarantine for a number of days or to advise people to monitor their symptoms.
Carter said beyond contact tracing, every Kentuckian can take simple steps, like wearing masks and limiting social gatherings, to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
“If we do those things, it will help limit the spread, and if we do all that, we do have sufficient capacity to do effective contact tracing in the commonwealth, and in fact, are doing that right now,” Carter said.
Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack expressed some frustration that a "small number" of people in Kentucky still refuse to wear masks and are "making excuses to avoid what needs to be done.”
“I have a real difficult time understanding when grown adults are saying they can’t breathe through a mask. I think they have misunderstood ‘inconvenience' with ‘inability.’ It’s just sort of like when you talk to your child and say, ‘I think you have your needs and your wants confused.’ We have got to get over this inconvenience somehow being an infringement that is offensive to us," Stack said.
With CDC Director Robert Redfield testifying Wednesday that a COVID-19 vaccine may not be widely available until mid-to-late 2021, Stack said that masks are currently the most effective tool Kentuckians have to prevent spreading the virus to vulnerable people.
“This is a lot less intrusive than having to stay all healthy at home in the spring. We can now get healthy at work and healthy at school but we’ve gotta wear these things to do it safely and effectively,” Stack said.
NKY counties remain in White House's 'yellow zone'
Several Northern Kentucky counties, including Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties, continue to show positivity rates between 5% and 10%, according to the latest White House report on Wednesday.
That keeps them in the White House's "yellow" zone, a step below a "red" zone denoting a 10% or greater positivity rate.
Now, 13 of Kentucky's 120 counties are currently in the red zone, down from 24 on Sept. 9.
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.
Last call pushed back for bars, restaurants
Starting Tuesday, Kentucky allowed bars and restaurants an extra hour to serve patrons, with last call moving from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Beshear said the request for an extra hour came from those in the restaurant industry with the return of some sports games which may last beyond the current curfew times. Facilities will be required to close by midnight.
"We thought it was reasonable, but again let’s make sure that whether you’re in that industry or in any other that has some rules and regulations that you’re trying to do it right and not trying to find a way to get around it. That not only hurts you and your facility and the people that come to it, but it hurts everybody around you as well,” the governor said at his Tuesday press briefing.
COVID-19 cases in schools
In Northern Kentucky schools on Wednesday, Beechwood Elementary School (Beechwood Independent Schools) reported a new active case of COVID-19. Campbell Ridge Elementary School (Campbell Co. Schools) reported one staffer tested positive for COVID-19, and Ft. Wright Elementary School (Kenton Co. Schools) also reported one staff case.
There are now four total active cases out of Diocese of Covington schools, including two students at Covington Catholic, one case at St. Paul Catholic School and one at St. Mary Catholic School.
Lindeman Elementary School, part of the Erlanger-Elsmere Independent School District, reported one COVID-19 case in a staff member. Bracken County High School reported a staff member who tested positive has recovered.
Northern Kentucky University reports five active COVID-19 cases in students as of the most recent report on Wednesday. The university has not reported any staff cases of COVID-19. Thomas More University also reported two active student cases and zero staff cases. Gateway Community & Technical College reports one active staff case.
Where to find free COVID-19 tests
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.
Schedule an appointment at those sites online at www.stelizabeth.com/covid-testing.
To find all coronavirus testing locations near you, click here.
Watch a replay of the briefing in the player below.