FRANKFORT, Ky. — As coronavirus cases surge and Kentucky sees a record-high number of virus deaths, Gov. Andy Beshear said he will announce "additional steps" designed to limit the spread of the virus on Wednesday.
"It is time to get control of this beast, and I refuse to stand by and watch avoidable loss around us," the governor said during his coronavirus briefing Tuesday.
Though he still did not offer specifics on Tuesday, Beshear said "next steps" will not mirror restrictions placed in March and April, nor will they mirror Ohio's temporary 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. The governor added that Kentucky bars and restaurants would be affected by those "next steps," and that those steps will include some type of relief program for those establishments.
Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack explained that this most recent rise in cases is unlike the escalation seen in July and August, when cases plateaued after implementing a statewide mask mandate.
With this current, third escalation, the rise in cases began from a higher starting point "with no signs of relenting." Stack warned this week is already on track to set a new COVID-19 case record with just two days of data.
"There has to be a third intervention," Stack said. "To stand by and not take some sort of action to try to interrupt this progression would be to leave ourselves open to substantial harm that we have reason to believe we can help to prevent."
Beshear said he would reveal Kentucky's next steps, which he characterized as "strong" and "targeted action," at the top of his 4 p.m. COVID-19 briefing Wednesday.
Ky. asks positive cases to notify close contacts themselves
Due to an "overwhelming" number of new COVID-19 cases, Kentucky contact tracers are now asking people who test positive for COVID-19 to notify recent close contacts themselves.
"At this point, it is becoming impossible for our local health departments to call each and every one of these contacts in a timely fashion, which is necessary for contact tracing to be effective," said Judy Mattingly, Franklin County Public Health Director, during the governor's coronavirus briefing.
Local health departments and Kentucky Public Health will still notify people who test positive for COVID-19, and those who receive a positive result should quarantine for 14 days.
A "close contact" is defined as anyone who spent at least 15 minutes within six feet of someone who tests positive for COVID-19 or shows virus symptoms within 48 hours. Those symptoms most commonly include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, head and body aches, and loss of taste or smell.
Health officials said people who come in contact with someone who has COVID-19 should notify their own contacts and quarantine for 14 days. That means not attending school, going to work or leaving home to shop or eat. Health officials also ask people quarantining to stay away from other members of their household by using separate bathrooms and bedrooms if possible.
Record-high COVID-19 deaths Tuesday
Beshear reported 2,931 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the third-highest number of cases reported statewide in a single day and the highest Tuesday of cases on record. The governor also reported a record-high 33 coronavirus-related deaths.
The state's COVID-19 seven-day positivity rate also rose to 9.1% Tuesday, the highest rate since Kentucky made testing widely available.
Beshear shared the most recent White House report on Kentucky's coronavirus status, which described “aggressive, unrelenting, expanding broad community spread across the country” and called current mitigation efforts “inadequate.”
“The house is on fire at this point, and we need everybody not to close their eyes, close their ears while the house burns down on them,” Beshear said. “We need everybody to join the bucket brigade and do what it takes to address the crisis.”
Kentuckians living in one of 103 "red zone" counties are asked to follow 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 142,008 total cases of COVID-19 and 1,697 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began. More than 24,760 people who had the virus have reportedly recovered from COVID-19, and the state has now administered more than 2.4 million coronavirus tests since the pandemic began.
Hospitalizations have increased by 50% in the last two weeks, and Stack said that number has tripled since mid-September; 1,521 Kentuckians are currently in the hospital for coronavirus, with 354 in intensive care units and 178 on ventilators. Beshear said the state's main concern now is adequately staffing hospitals, not just bed capacity.
NKY Health reports 8,645 people across Boone, Kenton, Campbell and Grant counties have tested positive for COVID-19, and 102 people have died of the virus. The health department reports 3,803 active cases and 4,744 people who have recovered from coronavirus as of Tuesday.
Find 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: