FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear expressed concern Wednesday that if the state's coronavirus positivity rate does not fall soon, school reopenings might be pushed back from the third week of August to a later date.
"That's certainly possible that we will make that recommendation," Beshear said at his daily press conference.
While Kentucky's positivity rate had fallen slightly to 5.18% at the beginning of the week, it rose again to 5.51% by Wednesday, concerning Beshear and state health officials.
"But when we looked at the escalation that we were on -- we've gotta stop the growth before we can start diminishing or reducing both the number of cases, the rate of cases," Beshear said.
On Wednesday, Beshear reported 546 new COVID-19 cases and one virus-related death for a total of 32,741 total positive cases and 752 virus-related deaths. Beshear said one additional person was lost to COVID-19 on Wednesday, one of the lower virus-related death counts in recent weeks.
"That is still one family that will need our help, that will need us watching out for them," Beshear said.
Earlier this week, he warned that with the rising case numbers last month, state and health officials expect numbers of virus-related deaths to increase within several weeks to a month. But since the state required Kentuckians to mask up on July 10, case growth has slowed from 52% from July 13-19 to 5% from July 27 - Aug. 2. Beshear said Kentuckians can expect that mask mandate, slated to last 30 days, to be extended.
First Lady Britainy Beshear called on Kentuckians Tuesday to donate face masks for students, educators and staff returning to school later this month through the launch of the new Coverings for Kids program.
“It’s more important than ever that we are proactive in preparing our schools for a safe return when that day eventually comes,” she said Tuesday.
Starting Aug. 11, people can drop off purchased or handmade masks at district donation centers. For more information on donating face masks, click here.
Free testing in NKY this week
In Northern Kentucky, St. Elizabeth Healthcare and Covington's Gravity Diagnostics will offer free, appointment-only drive-thru testing at 25 Atlantic Ave in Erlanger starting Thursday. 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.
Additionally, appointment-only drive-up testing will be available through St. E at 7200 Alexandria Pike, Alexandria starting Tuesday, Aug. 11. 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.
Kentucky has administered 663,100 COVID-19 tests so far. To find all coronavirus testing locations near you, click here.
More Ky. case numbers
NKY Health reported that 2,878 people in Boone, Campbell, Kenton and Grant counties have tested positive for coronavirus since March, with 833 active virus cases. As of Tuesday, 81 people have died of the virus and 1,964 people have recovered. Gov. Beshear reported that a 50-year-old man in Kenton County died of coronavirus on Tuesday.
In 265 of Kentucky's long-term care facilities, 2,664 residents (454 active cases) and 1,470 staff (208 active cases) have tested positive for the virus; 480 residents and four staff members have reportedly died of the virus as of Wednesday.
Health and Family Services Cabinet Sec. Eric Friedlander announced Wednesday that the state would pay for clinical lab testing using CARES funds to make it easier and less expensive for staff and residents to be tested for COVID-19, now through the end of the year.
In 110 Kentucky childcare centers, 84 staff and 75 children have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday.
Restaurants reduce capacity, travel advisory updated
To prevent statewide shutdowns and case surges seen in other states, Beshear ordered restaurants to reduce indoor dining capacity to 25% and maximize outdoor seating when possible. On Tuesday, Beshear said he would look into a possibly capacity increases when Kentucky's positivity rate dips back under 5%.
The governor announced a travel advisory earlier this month, asking Kentuckians to avoid traveling to states with high COVID-19 positivity rates, and if they do travel to hard-hit areas to quarantine for two weeks.
On Monday, the list of states on the travel advisory included Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Nevada and South Carolina. Ahead of events in Louisville, including the 51st Street Rod Nationals this weekend, Beshear encouraged people attending from out-of-state to be responsible and get tested.
Beshear also recently enacted a 10-person limit on social gatherings, a delay of school start dates to the third week of August and a two-week shutdown for all bars.
Watch a replay of the briefing in the player below: