‘This is not about politics:’ White House credits mask mandate for Kentucky’s case plateau

Gov. Andy Beshear provides Tuesday update on COVID-19 in Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX19) - Some 57 students and 25 faculty or staff members have active cases of COVID-19 across Kentucky’s school districts, Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday. An additional 90 students and 10 faculty or staff members have tested positive for the virus but are deemed to have recovered.

Beshear shared the data to punctuate his rationale for recommending school districts delay in-person learning until Sept. 28 — that community spread of the virus remains too severe.

“It’s just very important when it’s our kids’ health that’s on the line that we have this at a place where, if we’re going to put 15, 20 or 30 kids potentially in a room and expose one adult to all of them in some way or another, that we want to make sure we have this under the best control that we can,” he said.

Beshear’s case received supported from the Trump Administration last week when it released data showing more than half of Kentucky’s counties had positivity rates above 5 percent and 20 had positivity rates above 10 percent.

On Tuesday Beshear relayed the White House’s most recent update. Now, according to the Trump Administration, 16 counties have positivity rates above 10 percent, while the number of counties with rates above 5 percent has fallen below half the commonwealth’s total.

Kentucky’s overall positivity rate stands at 5.07 percent, a notch above Monday’s rate, which was below 5 percent for the first time since the state’s July case surge that briefly placed it on a dire trajectory.

Beshear said the state’s target positivity rate should be 4 percent or lower.

The positivity rate notwithstanding, for now the state’s surge appears to be over, as the governor continues to report case and death numbers that fall within a stable range.

Tuesday 688 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported with 10 additional deaths.

The White House, according to Beshear, credits the state’s mask mandate for the plateau.

“What they say in that report is masks are working,” the governor said, “and they support the mask mandate. They support this policy. This Republican administration supports this Democratic administration, because this is not about the politics, it’s about the science — and the fact that this works.”

Beshear continued: “The federal government says it’s working. State government says it’s working. All the public health officials all the way up and down say it’s working. So it’s easy: Just wear a mask.

“If you refuse to, just know that you could be spreading it to someone else. Regardless of how you feel about it, everyone else is willing to go through the discomfort. Why won’t you?”

Of the state’s 889 total deaths since March, 528 have occurred in long-term care facilities. But Beshear cautioned data is beginning to show more community deaths, calling any notion that the virus only affects those in long-term care facilities “a myth.”

Addressing the ‘digital divide’

Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman announced an $8 million investment Tuesday intended to ensure low-income Kentuckians have internet access as the pandemic forces more learning to occur remotely.

Coleman highlighted Covington Independent Schools as one of several districts to have increased its share of students with internet access to 95 percent through Beshear’s disbursement of CARES Act Funds.

“But we have to do better by the remaining five percent of students who still don’t have broadband access in their homes,” she said, adding that five-percent share of Kentucky students without broadband comprises 32,000 kids.

The $8 million investment will identify service providers to offer access at no more than $10/month per household.

Students currently without internet access will be eligible to receive a $10 subsidy for the next school year. Students who do have internet access but who live in designated low-income housing are eligible for the same amount over the next three years through the Federal Lifeline Program.

The internet can include a mobile hotspot or wired broadband access.

Eligibility will be posted to Kentucky’s Department of Education website next week.

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