FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - “It’s another day of tough news that we see across the country,” Gov. Andy Beshear said during a Wednesday press briefing on the coronavirus at the Capitol.
“Whether it’s Dr. Anthony Fauci warning that a number of states, including us and those around us, are poised for a significant outbreak,” he said, ”or states in the Midwest now surging just barely above behind some southern states that we’ve talked about, or record or high numbers of cases just to the south and all the way around us.”
Kentucky had 619 new cases reported to state health officials on Wednesday, including 17 children under the age of five, bringing the total to 28,727, since the first case on March 6. The positivity rate, based on a seven-day floating average, also rose to 5.81 percent, up from 5.08 percent on Tuesday, calculated by the number of tests versus positive cases.
“Right now is the moment where we either stop this increase, like you see in Oklahoma or Florida, or we ultimately suffer the same fate,” the Governor said, adding that although there was an increase in cases on Wednesday, “It looks like we are on track to be relatively stable as compared to last week’s numbers, and that’s a good thing.”
He added, “I believe, at this point, our willingness to wear a facial covering is stabilizing our numbers or reducing the growth that we would be seeing right now, because every other state is seeing that increase. It looks like we may be able to level out these last three weeks. We know we’re going to plateau again before we decrease.”
Beshear also reported five more deaths on Wednesday, for a pandemic total of 724. They included an 87-year-old woman from Clay County, an 82-year-old man from Graves County, a 77-year-old man from Jefferson County, a 58-year-old woman from Knott County and a 71-year-old man from McCracken county.
Despite the five deaths, Beshear said there was some good news, regarding the mortality rate. “We are down from three percent to, I think, right around two-and-a-half percent.”
The governor also announced in-person unemployment services would be available next week in Louisville.
Claimants must bring two forms of identification, like their driver’s license or other photo ID and social security card, for identity verification. Appointments can be made at kcc.ky.gov and going to the “In-Person UI Services” View Services button.
Kentuckians who need additional assistance with their unemployment insurance claims can also visit that website and use the “Chat Now” button, or call (502) 564-2900.
Beshear also addressed the latest data breach of the unemployment system. “One or possibly two individuals that we know of at most, weren’t able to see anybody’s name or social security number or birthday, just employer information and one line about an individual’s health.”
He said, “Just like the first data breach, absolutely no one to our knowledge has been harmed financially whatsoever, and at this time we don’t think that there is a threat to anybody’s credit or financial information at all.”
He blamed the unemployment system’s 20-year old system for the issues.
Michael Brown, secretary of the Governor’s executive cabinet, gave an update on COVID-19 cases in Kentucky’s correctional facilities. He reported there are currently 379 active inmate cases and 53 active staff cases; 432 inmates have recovered, and 69 staffers have recovered. In total, eight inmates have died due to complications from COVID-19.
He stated that the Governor was considering commuting the sentences of more offenders who are at least 65 years old and near the end of their sentences.
“We have released right at 1,200 inmates from our previous round of commutations and we’re currently in the process of screening another 700 inmates to see if they qualify based on those criteria,” said Secretary Brown.
Only those convicted of, or who pleaded guilty to, non-violent, non-sexual crimes are under consideration, Brown said, and that the process is going on now.