• By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News

State sees worst coronavirus day yet

Gov. Andy Beshear announced record numbers for almost every metric the state uses to measure the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday, calling it “a terrible day.” “No way to sugarcoat it,” Beshear said at Tuesday’s daily briefing. “Today is the very worst day that we have had for reporting on the spread of the coronavirus and it is the deadliest day that we have had. This is exponential growth. ... If we don’t all do our part, if we try to be the exception, then slowing down this thing won’t work, and we will lose a lot more Kentuckians we love and care about.” Beshear announced record highs for new coronavirus cases, COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations, patients in intensive care and on ventilators, and the highest percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus since the testing became widely available in May: 9.59 percent. The governor reported 4,151 new cases of the virus, well beyond the previous record of 3,870, set on Thanksgiving. The new record of 35 deaths brought the state’s COVID-19 death toll to 1,943. The previous single-day high was 33, set Nov. 17. The number of COVID-19 patients in Kentucky hospitals hit a high of 1,777, with 441 in intensive care and 241 of those on a ventilator. And while COVID-19 patients’ share of beds in the state’s hospitals remained the same as Monday, 21 percent, their percentage of ICU beds increased to 32 percent, from 30 percent, and their share on ventilators increased to 41 percent from 38 percent. Restrictions On Nov. 18, Beshear imposed new limits, including bans on in-person schooling and indoor service in bars and restaurants, and tighter numerical limits on at-home social gatherings. All have been controversial. Asked why he is allowing elementary schools outside counties with the highest range of infections to reopen next Monday, Dec. 7, but keeping middle and high schools closed until Jan. 4, Beshear said evidence shows less virus spread among elementary students, and in-person learning is more important for them. As for the Dec. 7 reopening, he said, “Our hope is that we have tamped down the virus by that point to where there’s significant opportunity out there. But right now, we don’t see that changing.” Contact tracing Mark Carter, head of the state’s contact-tracing program, said it has shifted to a focus on mitigation instead of containment because the virus is so widespread. He said tracers are are only contacting patients who test positive, and instructing them to inform their close contacts. Seniors Community spread is also taking a toll on nursing homes. The state reported 2,251 active cases among residents and 1,193 among staff, with 173 new resident cases and 109 new staff cases reported today. Beshear said at least 57 long-term-care facilities have 15 or more active cases. Nursing home residents and staff have accounted for 65 percent of the state’s covid-19 deaths. Beshear reported that another veteran at the state’s Thomson-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore, who was previously listed as recovered, had died, bringing the center’s death toll from the virus to 31. He said there is currently two active cases in the center and no new cases have been reported for 18 days. He also announced that the veteran who was the first active case at the Western Kentucky Veterans Center in Hanson had died. In addition, he said a 37-year-old inmate from the Lee Adjustment Center, a privately operated state prison, had died from COVID-19. Funding Both Carter and Beshear made urgent pleas for more federal money. “Essentially all of our disease investigation and contact-tracing effort across the commonwealth has been funded by the federal CARES Act,” Carter said. “We’re required to have spent that funding by Dec. 30. We desperately need either an extension of that date or additional funding, or both in order to take this program into 2021 and get us through the months that we need to get through ‘til we reach the point where we have a widely available vaccine.”

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