FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced a "staggeringly high" 3,649 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, again breaking the record for the highest number of cases reported statewide in a single day set on Nov. 11 and Nov. 5.
The governor also reported 30 coronavirus-related deaths, the second-highest daily death toll since the pandemic began. That list includes a 93-year-old man from Boone County, a 79-year-old man from Campbell County and a 67-year-old man from Gallatin County. Eight people from Kenton County also died of COVID-19, including three men, ages 64, 77 and 96, and five women, ages 75, 86, 90, 95 and 96.
The state's COVID-19 seven-day positivity rate also rose to a record-high 9.18% Thursday.
After announcing a bevy of new pandemic restrictions on Wednesday, Beshear called on Kentuckians yet again to work together while staying apart to stop the spread of COVID-19.
"This is a tough day, but it shows why we had to take these steps, because next week is gonna be worse. The week after that is gonna be worse, unless we ultimately slow down this virus," the governor said.
Kentuckians living in one of 112 "red zone" counties, up from 94 this time last week, are asked to follow these recommendations to curb the spread of COVID-19. In Northern Kentucky, that includes Boone, Kenton, Campbell, Grant, Bracken, Gallatin and Pendleton counties.
So far, Kentucky has seen 148,390 total cases of COVID-19 and 1,742 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began. More than 25,437 people who had the virus have reportedly recovered from COVID-19, and the state has now administered more than 2.5 million coronavirus tests since the pandemic began.
Hospitalizations remain high; 1,550 Kentuckians are currently in the hospital for coronavirus, with 358 in intensive care units and a record-high 199 on ventilators. Beshear said the state's main concern now is adequately staffing hospitals, not just bed capacity.
NKY Health reports 8,991 people across Boone, Kenton, Campbell and Grant counties have tested positive for COVID-19, and 116 people locally have died of the virus. The health department reports 4,131 active cases and 4,744 people who have recovered from coronavirus as of Thursday.
New restrictions for schools, restaurants and more
Beshear announced sweeping new restrictions for Kentuckians Wednesday as COVID-19 cases surge in the state. Those restrictions go into effect from Nov. 20 at 5 p.m. through Sunday, Dec. 13.
The restrictions include further limiting private gatherings to eight people from no more than two households.
All Kentucky public and private K-12 schools also must halt in-person instruction and start online learning on Monday. This restriction does not apply to early childcare and daycare centers in Kentucky, Beshear said.
Indoor venues must limit capacity to 25 people per room, including for funerals and weddings. Beshear said Thursday he has recommended houses of worship hold virtual services or outdoor drive-up services during the Nov. 20 - Dec. 13 period.
Kentucky will close restaurants and bars to indoor dining Friday at 5 p.m. while announcing a $40 million relief program for those establishments. Beshear also called on the federal government for more pandemic aid and to include bars and restaurants in any future relief funds.
Beshear added that Kentucky is prepared to "do its best" as it faces a potential, impending uptick in unemployment claims due to pandemic closures. He cautioned that the sheer amount of claims could lead to delays.
"The challenge is just the total volume of claims," Beshear said. "We have a higher percentage of people being approved for unemployment than we did before the pandemic -- and the wait time before the pandemic was far too long, too."
Gyms, fitness centers and pool centers will be limited to 33% capacity and group classes will be prohibited. Masks will be required while exercising inside those centers. Office-based businesses must also limit themselves to 33% capacity.
At this time, Beshear said, there is no state relief fund set up for those businesses.
"This virus is not fair to them. It doesn't impact every business equally. It impacts businesses where people get together, in gyms where you breathe heavily and other places where you take your mask off to eat or congregate," Beshear said.
Kentucky legislative leaders decried Beshear's action on Wednesday, calling on the governor to work with the House and Senate on pandemic restrictions.
"While we take this virus seriously, we will not be cover for his unilateral decision-making," read a statement from House Speaker David Osborne. "Working with the legislature means more than calling us an hour before making his pre-determined edicts public. This kind of move is not leadership, it's misleading."
"We have not been shown any data that would draw a rational basis to limit Thanksgiving in your home to eight people when you can go to a private venue with twenty-five people," said Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers in a release. "Nor were we presented with any data that justifies a blanket policy to close public and private schools, especially when we are seeing the loss of a year of educational opportunities and destructive effects to the mental health of our youth. Kentucky is in a crisis, this is real, and the Governor needs to start consulting with us for the sake of the Commonwealth."
Beshear responded Thursday that the state based new restrictions on the recommendations of health experts to limit spread from at-home gatherings, while there is "at least the opportunity for more enforcement in venues."
"There are practicalities behind all of this -- it's all thought through," Beshear said. "We can sit here and try to pick at them, but we are doing our best to fight a virus that didn't exist until the end of the year and has now killed 1,700 people. I'm trying to take action, and that action isn't gonna be perfect, but we're doing the best we can."
Beshear has not indicated if these restrictions could be extended if the most recent COVID-19 surge does not subside, but he has said a shutdown similar to spring's "is not on the table."
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.
Watch a replay of the briefing in the player below: