FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear reported 627 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, including 76 people aged 18 or younger, for 40,299 total statewide cases.
Kentucky also reported 12 new virus-related deaths for 830 total COVID-19 deaths. As of Tuesday, more than 9,223 people have recovered from the virus.
“It looks like in the data that we are leveling out, we are plateauing. We are plateauing way too high, but you gotta plateau before you see a decline,” said Beshear.
Because Kentucky cases are not declining, Beshear's administration recommended delaying the start of in-person classes in Kentucky until Sept. 28 last week, saying that opening schools now would be unsafe.
"I do not want to experiment with our kids," Beshear said.
The decision to open K-12 classrooms or keep students at home still rests with local school districts. In Northern Kentucky, Kenton County Schools, Boone County Schools, Covington Independent Public Schools and Fort Thomas Independent Schools have altered their plans and moved instruction online during the first six weeks of school. However, the Diocese of Covington joined Lexington and Louisville in their decision to start in-person classes Monday.
Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said schools will notify the local health department before notifying the community of new coronavirus cases. The Kentucky Department of Public Health will use the information to publish a school case report, which will be given at the governor's daily press briefings.
"The public needs to be able to know they are or are not taking if their child goes into the classroom," Stack said.
The plan is based on the same pre-existing statute that districts follow for lice, strep throat and other outbreaks in schools.
“Our goal is to have a transparency at the state level and at the local level that protects the individual student’s health information and identity but can give parents the information they deserve,” Beshear said.
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. Twenty counties of Kentucky's 120 counties are currently in the red zone, according to the weekly report.
Beshear said this rating system may determine future actions in different counties, possibly including another recommended delay for in-person schooling in red counties.
NKY counties, cities receive $9M in CARES Act funds
Beshear announced 11 Northern Kentucky governments were approved for more than $9.2 million in reimbursements from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act for local governments with expenses related to virus response.
Many of these governments will use the funds for payroll for public safety workers and to buy more personal protective equipment and telework supplies.
Boone County, Carroll County, Gallatin County, Pendleton County, Bellevue, Butler, Crescent Springs, Edgewood Florence, Highland Heights and Warsaw applied along with hundreds of other Kentucky governments May. Now, 134 applications have already been approved totaling more than $66.6 million.
More Ky. COVID-19 numbers
Kentucky's virus positivity rate dropped slightly to 5.48% on Tuesday, and Beshear said the state's positivity rate has hovered around 5.8% since Aug. 9. Though case numbers are plateauing and exponential case growth has stopped, cases have not stopped rising.
The state has administered more than 770,382 coronavirus tests so far. Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said Kentucky is one of a few states that has been able to maintain the same COVID-19 testing capacity in recent weeks as PPE supplies necessary to run those tests are at increased demand.
“The demand for the tests continues to grow more quickly than the resources to provide the tests, so we are likely to be at some kind of plateau in number of tests for a while, but it’s going to be a challenge just to maintain the plateau because a lot of other states are going to compete now more intensely to try to get these resources,” Stack said Monday.
Stack said Kentucky averages just under 60,000 tests a week, or about 4.7% of Kentucky's population.
"The White House’s initial guidelines were to test over 2%," he said.
NKY Health reports that 3,437 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 891 active cases and 2,461 people who have recovered from coronavirus as of Tuesday.
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: