FRANKFORT, Ky. — Amid an exponential surge in coronavirus cases, Gov. Andy Beshear again warned Tuesday that Kentucky's hospital systems may become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
With a higher number of patients requiring more care in hospitals added with community spread seen in Kentucky and nationwide, Beshear expressed concern that there may soon be fewer doctors and support staff available to care for the rising number of COVID-19 patients.
“All across the state, we are seeing beds fill up, we are seeing nurses and doctors stretched, and if we do not stop the exponential growth of cases, we will exceed our healthcare capacity. We will run out of doctors and nurses that are not sick or are not quarantined, and we will experience more loss and more death than we have to,” the governor said at his Tuesday briefing.
Hospitalizations continued to increase Tuesday, with 1,658 Kentuckians currently hospitalized for COVID-19, 390 people in intensive care units and 207 on ventilators.
Beshear said the state's supply of personal protective equipment remains "generally in good shape" as Kentucky tries to secure more N95 face masks.
The governor reported 2,690 new coronavirus cases and 17 deaths on Tuesday, adding to the 162,838 total positive COVID-19 cases and 1,809 virus-related deaths reported since the pandemic began in March.
Kentucky also placed Ohio on its travel advisory list on Tuesday, which recommends travelers quarantine for 14 days upon their return from states with testing positivity rates of 15% or greater. That travel advisory applies to leisure travel, but it does not apply to Kentucky commuters who work in neighboring states. Find the full list of 15 states on that travel advisory here.
Extensive pandemic restrictions went into effect across Kentucky last week, including closing restaurants and bars to indoor dining, as well as limiting capacity at indoor venues, gyms and other businesses. Beshear said that the state is aware of at least four restaurants that are not complying with the ban on indoor dining, including one cafe in Northern Kentucky which has now lost its food permit but continues to operate.
“This concept … ‘I can do whatever I want, when I want’ is not American. It’s not Christian. It’s not who we are as people, and it’s not the society we founded,” Beshear said.
The governor said restaurants that remain open for indoor dining will continue to lose their food, beverage and alcohol permits and must reapply to get them back.
"We know it's spreading in these establishments, and by staying open, first of all, you're not doing your part to stop the virus, and second, there will be enforcement actions out there," he said.
Starting Monday, all K-12 public and private schools were required to move classes online. Public universities also pledged to move instruction online, Beshear said.
Kentuckians are also asked to cap home gatherings at eight people from no more than two households. These restrictions are in effect through Dec. 13 at 11:59 p.m., and the governor has not yet said whether they could be extended.
"We want to see in the very least a slowing of the growth" before lifting the restrictions, Beshear said.
Additionally, Kentucky health officials have released guidance on celebrating Thanksgiving safely amid the surge in COVID-19 cases, with an emphasis on protecting people who are most vulnerable to coronavirus and related complications.
More Ky. COVID-19 numbers
Kentucky has administered more than 2.6 million COVID-19 tests since the pandemic began and more than 26,951 people have reportedly recovered from coronavirus. Kentucky's seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate dipped slightly to 8.82% on Tuesday.
All but four Kentucky counties have moved into the "red" on the state's COVID-19 incidence rate map on Tuesday, indicating "critical" spread in those areas of 25 or more cases per 100,000 people.
According to NKY Health, 9,697 people across Boone, Kenton, Campbell and Grant counties have tested positive for COVID-19, and 119 people locally have died of the virus. The health department reports 4,104 active cases and 5,474 people who have recovered from coronavirus as of the latest data available Monday.
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: