FRANKFORT, Ky. — After the CDC reversed its guidance Wednesday, saying that coronavirus testing is not necessary for people who have been in close contact with infected people who do not show symptoms, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear encouraged Kentuckians to keep getting tested.
“C’mon, it’s common sense," Beshear said. "If you’ve been directly exposed to somebody who has COVID, don’t you want to know if you have it? Don’t you want to make sure you’re not spreading it to somebody else? Don’t you want to make sure your kids don’t have it? So keep getting tested."
Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack also continued to urge those who come in contact with infected people to get tested, even if they aren't immediately experiencing symptoms.
“This (guidance) has a number of us in public health concerned … because we know as many as 40% of people may be walking around infected and spreading the infection but not having any symptoms or signs,” Stack said.
Beshear announced 696 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, including 114 new cases in children under 18. Beshear reported seven new virus-related deaths in Kentucky on Wednesday, among them an 89-year-old woman from Boone County, for a total of 45,230 statewide cases and 902 deaths since the pandemic began.
Kentucky's virus positivity rate dipped once again to 4.64% on Wednesday, and Beshear said the state's positivity rate has hovered around 5.8% since early this month.
"This is one positive sign that's out there, but it can't be the sign we're looking for. It has to be a work in progress, to get it down below 4.6%, below 4%," he said.
The state has administered more than 839,454 coronavirus tests so far. Kentucky's travel advisory, which at one point advised Kentuckians not to travel to more than a dozen states, has been reduced to five: Idaho, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas.
NKY Health reports that 3,627 people across Boone, Kenton, Campbell and Grant counties have tested positive for COVID-19, and 85 people have reportedly died of the virus. The health department reports 654 active cases and 2,888 people who have recovered from coronavirus as of Wednesday.
In Northern Kentucky schools on Wednesday, three total active cases were reported out of Diocese of Covington schools, including two students at Covington Catholic High School and one case at St. Paul Catholic School. Neither school has reported any staff testing positive for COVID-19. Lindeman Elementary School, part of the Erlanger-Elsmere Independent School District, reported one COVID-19 case in a staff member Wednesday.
Northern Kentucky University also reported three active COVID-19 cases in students as of Wednesday. The university did not report any staff who tested positive for COVID-19.
NKY counties in COVID-19 'yellow zone'
Several Northern Kentucky counties, including Boone, Campbell, Kenton, Grant and Carroll counties, have positivity rates between 5% and 10%, according to the latest White House report.
That puts them in the White House's "yellow" zone, a step below the "red" zone denoting a 10% or greater positivity rate. Now, 16 counties of Kentucky's 120 counties are currently in the red zone, down from 20.
White House data shows most Northern Kentucky counties are in the "yellow zone" with coronavirus positivity rates between 5% and 10%. Beshear said this rating system may determine future actions in different counties, possibly including another recommended delay for in-person schooling in red counties.
Team Kentucky Fund raised $3.5M for those in need
Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman announced that the Team Kentucky Fund has garnered over $3.5 million in donations, and nearly $800,000 has been issued through the program.
So far, the state has issued 2,421 vouchers for the program, serving just over 1,000 Kentucky households. More than $400,000 distributed through the program has gone toward paying rent, plus roughly $100,000 each for mortgages, electricity and food.
$8M dedicated to 'Last Mile' internet for K-12 students
Coleman announced a plan Tuesday to allocate $8 million in CARES Act funding to “Last Mile” internet service to all K-12 students in Kentucky.
Students currently without internet access from low-income homes will be eligible to have the full $10-per-month cost paid through the next school year. Students with internet access from low-income homes will be eligible to have nearly all of the monthly cost paid through the federal Lifeline program for the next two or three school years.
“COVID-19 has not only created new and unique challenges we must confront, it has brought to surface issues that have been plaguing our communities for generations. These underlying issues disproportionately affect communities of color and Kentuckians who live in poverty. One of these issues is lack of access to high-speed internet," she said.
Coleman said before the pandemic, approximately 90% of Kentucky’s K-12 students had internet access, and that number has grown to 95% over the past five months.
The state will send out a request for proposals by Sept. 15 with a goal of identifying providers that can supply high-speed internet service for all Kentucky K-12 students in low-income homes at no more than $10 per month for the next two to three school years.
Plan to prevent evictions during pandemic
With a new executive order Monday, Beshear announced Kentucky will prohibit landlords from charging late fees, interest or other penalties on renters who can't pay due to the COVID-19 pandemic from March 6 through Dec. 31, 2020.
Additionally, the order creates more steps before eviction processes can begin, and it requires landlords to meet with nonpaying tenants to work out plans to keep them housed. Beshear had suspended evictions as the pandemic took hold.
"We believe that it is a framework that is going to be workable and is going to help a lot of Kentuckians," Beshear said at his daily briefing.
To do this, the state will dedicate $15 million in CARES Act funding to create a Healthy At Home Eviction Relief Fund to help those in need pay rent and remain in their homes.
Kentuckians will be able to apply for the fund beginning Sept. 8. Details on how to apply are coming soon, Beshear said.
The Team Kentucky Fund, Kentucky Housing Corporation Emergency Solutions Grant and other local funds will also be available to help, he added.
Beshear said the program aims to address three concerns: "Wanting to make sure that people can stay in their home; that they’re not gaming the system at the expense of a landlord that is also a commercial enterprise — a business — feeding a family that deserves to be treated fairly; and, finally, wanting to make sure we don’t have a lot of Kentuckians emerging from this crisis with a ton of debt they cannot climb out of."
Find free testing in NKY
In Northern Kentucky, St. Elizabeth Healthcare and Covington's Gravity Diagnostics now offers free, appointment-only drive-thru testing at 25 Atlantic Ave in Erlanger. The site, the former Toyota HQ building off Mineola Pike, will be 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 will be available through St. E at 7200 Alexandria Pike, Alexandria. The free testing site will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Schedule an appointment at those sites online at www.stelizabeth.com/covid-testing.
To find all coronavirus testing locations near you, click here.
Watch a replay of the briefing in the player below: