FRANKFORT, Ky. — Because of a recent escalation in coronavirus cases, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Tuesday that Kentucky has begun "surge preparations," among them limiting capacity in hospitals as it did at the beginning of the pandemic. Those preparations also include examining possible hotel options, using state parks and looking at operational plans in place to set up a field hospital, if necessary.
"We are making our preparations to be ready from a logistics side for a second surge. Certainly we think that is happening nationally, but we've shown here in Kentucky that we can stop it," Beshear said, calling on Kentuckians to keep wearing masks and observe social distancing.
Beshear reported 1,312 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, the highest number of cases reported on a Tuesday through the pandemic and the fourth-highest number of cases reported in a single day. The governor said 144 of those cases are in children under 18.
The governor also reported 16 new virus-related deaths on Tuesday.
"We are seeing virtually all of our numbers escalating at the same time, which tells us it's real, and it tells us that it could surge in the way that is requiring us to make preparations as a state and should require all of us as citizens to double down on our efforts," Beshear said.
With the escalation, Beshear also expressed concern that high case numbers will lead to higher hospitalization and death rates. As of Tuesday, 776 Kentuckians have been hospitalized for COVID-19, with 202 in intensive care units and 96 on ventilators.
Kentucky has seen at least 89,544 total cases of COVID-19 and 1,342 total deaths since the pandemic began. Kentucky's coronavirus positivity rate also rose again to 5.08% Tuesday, the highest it's been since Aug. 25.
"It's grim because it shows that we are not just continuing in our third escalation, but this one is probably now the second-most worrisome escalation that we have seen, surpassed only by that original March increase," the governor said.
So far, more than 17,402 people who had the virus have reportedly recovered from COVID-19, and the state has now administered more than 1.8 million coronavirus tests since the pandemic began.
NKY Health reported that 5,422 people across Boone, Kenton, Campbell and Grant counties have tested positive for COVID-19, and 96 people have reportedly died of the virus. The health department reports 1,400 active cases and 3,926 people who have recovered from coronavirus as of Monday.
Beshear and his family are now in their second week in quarantine after they came in contact with a security detail who tested positive for COVID-19. Beshear said he and the first family have continued to test negative for COVID-19.
Two NKY counties in White House 'orange' zone
The latest White House COVID-19 report on Tuesday designated Boone and Campbell counties in the orange zone, indicating moderate spread. Kenton and Grant counties are listed in the yellow zone for less severe spread of COVID-19.
Currently, 12 Kentucky counties, many of them in Eastern and Western Kentucky, are in its “red zone,” indicating severe community spread of COVID-19 in those areas.
For those red counties, the White House recommends against holding gatherings of any kind. Additionally, the White House recommends all Kentuckians wear masks when in public.
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: