FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear and Kentucky health officials released new guidance Tuesday for safely celebrating Thanksgiving as new COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the state.
That guidance, much of it mirroring recommendations for other recent holiday celebrations, includes:
- Avoid gatherings with people who do not live in your household.
- Always wear a face mask or covering around others.
- Maintain a social distance of at least six feet.
- Avoid large gatherings, especially ones held indoors.
- Do not host or attend crowded Thanksgiving parades.
- Avoid shopping in crowded stores before Thanksgiving, on Black Friday or throughout the holiday season.
The governor said Kentucky is currently seeing COVID-19 spread, and the resulting loss, originating from family and social gatherings more "than anywhere else right now."
"This year, those larger gatherings can be very dangerous," Beshear said. "Those that you may think that you may only have five, ten Thanksgivings left with -- if we’re not careful this year, you may not have more than one."
Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack warned again Tuesday that fall and winter could bring the pandemic's worst phase yet, calling upcoming traditional holiday gatherings "a recipe for a disaster" in terms of spreading COVID-19.
By following state health guidelines for Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season, Stack said he believes Kentuckians can avoid spreading COVID-19 to vulnerable people.
"As you make your plans for the holidays, I urge you, please: 2020 has been a mess. It's been a mess for all of us. We gotta hang in there just a little bit longer," Stack said.
COVID-19 cases rising in Kentucky
Beshear reported 2,120 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, the highest Tuesday count on record and the fifth-highest daily count since the pandemic began. The governor also reported 14 virus-related deaths, including a 69-year-old man and an 80-year-old woman from Bracken County.
After a week that saw a record 12,196 new COVID-19 cases in Kentucky and surges across the country, Beshear expressed concern that hospital systems here may be overwhelmed if surges continue. Hospitalizations have steadily increased, with 1,189 Kentuckians currently hospitalized for COVID-19, 286 people in intensive care units and 142 on ventilators Tuesday.
Kentucky has seen at least 124,646 total cases of COVID-19 and a total of 1,590 deaths since the pandemic began. The state's seven-day positivity rate rose again to 7.68% on Tuesday. Beshear said the jump in the state's positivity rate is not a result of more testing, but indicates that more people who are tested are testing positive for the virus.
Eighty-one counties have moved into the "red" on Kentucky's COVID-19 incidence rate map, indicating "critical" spread in those areas of 25 or more cases per 100,000 people.
Across those "red" counties, including Boone, Kenton, Campbell, Grant and Pendleton in Northern Kentucky, the state recommends moving schooling online and asks Kentuckians living there to limit their contacts to stop the spread of COVID-19. Those recommendations go into effect Monday through Friday.
So far, more than 23,165 people who had the virus have reportedly recovered from COVID-19, and the state has now administered nearly 2.7 million coronavirus tests since the pandemic began.
In Northern Kentucky, 7,556 people across Boone, Kenton, Campbell and Grant counties have tested positive for COVID-19, and 100 people have reportedly died of the virus. The health department reports 2,712 active cases and 4,744 people who have recovered from coronavirus as of Tuesday.
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: