'Casual' attitude could lead to more cases, governor warns

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Gov. Andy Beshear warned Kentuckians on Monday that they are getting too casual, leading to the start of a new escalation in cases of the coronavirus.


“What I hope really sinks in to everybody, is the word ‘urgency,’” he said during a Capitol press briefing.  “I believe that since the traditional start of school, we have become more casual in our approach to COVID, our concerns about COVID, and how well we follow those rules and guidelines that are out there.”


He admitted this could be natural since it has been seven months and most never had to deal with something like this for seven months.


“Now, what we believe we are seeing, and I believe we’re seeing it nationally, is the start of a new escalation,” Beshear said.  “And as we come toward a fall season and winter, when more people are going to be inside, where we know the virus spreads faster, we have to do better than this.  We can’t be casual, as what we do right now may impact is two weeks or a month from now.”


The governor pointed out, “Last week, we had almost 5,000 new cases, the most that we have ever had.  Folks, we have been at this long enough to know what we can do to reduce the number of cases.  We’ve done it several times, yet we’re having the largest number of cases right now.  We’ve got to have urgency. (A total of)  4,949 cases are far, far too many.  And I now believe that we are not sitting at a plateau, we are seeing what would be the third escalation that we’ve dealt with here in the commonwealth.”


There were 456 new cases reported to state public health officials on Monday, 83 of them were from children ages 18 and younger, of which 20 were children ages 5 and under.  The youngest was only six months old.  That brings the total number of cases to 66,939, since the first one was reported in Kentucky on March 6.


Gov. Beshear also reported there were five new deaths on Monday, raising the total to 1,162 Kentuckians lost to the virus.


The deaths reported Monday include a 56-year-old woman from Fayette County; a 91-year-old woman and two men, ages 93 and 97, from Jefferson County; and an 84-year-old woman from Johnson County.


“Let’s call and check on the families who have lost someone,” Beshear said. “I lost my friend Alice Sparks at the end of last week.  She lived a wonderful life and lived life to its fullest, but she should still be with us.”


As of Monday, there have been more than 1,373,500 coronavirus tests performed in Kentucky. The positivity rate was 4.41 percent, down slightly from Saturday’s 4.42 percent.  At least 11,787 Kentuckians have recovered from the virus.


During the Monday press briefing, Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander offered an update on health care and the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer, or P-EBT, program.


“As of today, more than 1.6 million Kentuckians have enrolled in Medicaid.  That’s a little more than one in three Kentuckians.  Especially during a pandemic, it is vitally important for people to have health care coverage,” he said.  “We have also provided more than 100,000 households with access to food through SNAP benefits.  We are the only state that I know of that has proactively reached out to those who have had to apply for unemployment insurance to see if they are also eligible for other benefits.”


He said eligibility for the program still is based on National School Lunch Program participation. For August and September, eligibility also is based on school start dates and instruction method.


Friedlander said the benefit amounts vary by student and that new cards will be automatically sent out to each child. The cards will be mailed beginning in October, but some children may not receive their cards until the end of November.


He said 541,844 Kentucky students were enrolled in the P-EBT program.


“We provided P-EBT benefits to more than 500,000 children in Kentucky in the first phase,” said Secretary Friedlander. “In the second phase, you don’t have to apply. Over 625,000 children are going to receive meals. We will be sending these benefits to you, sometime in the month of October.


Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman also spoke on Monday, regarding the new online portal for reporting on COVID-19 for schools.


“Today is Sept. 28, which is the first day that the Governor recommended that in-person classes could resume,” she said. “Our schools are asked to self-report Monday through Friday for each day that their schools are in session.”


She said the information is crucial for leaders, parents and other caregivers.


The new dashboard will be available on the main kycovid19.ky.gov website under the Healthy at School section.


The Governor’s next press briefing will be Tuesday at 4 p.m..

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