FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX19) - More than a 1,000 people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 have died in Kentucky since the start of the pandemic, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Wednesday, a grim milestone the governor mourned even as he noted how much higher the number could have been.
“It ought to kick us all in the gut,” Beshear said.
Some 16 deaths were newly reported Wednesday. Kentucky’s total number of confirmed deaths stands at 1,004, of which 592 have come from long-term care facilities. (That share has decreased following the state’s July case surge.)
Responding to doubts that the deaths are actually COVID-19-related, Beshear noted Kentucky’s causes-of-death analysis is in fact more stringent than what the White House recommends, something Health Commissioner Steven Stack, MD, talked about last week.
“For those that don’t think this is real, there are a thousand families you can go talk to,” Beshear said.
On the issue of other, underlying conditions being reported alongside COVID-19 as a cause of death, Beshear said, “Unless you want to claim that everyone walking around with diabetes is already dead, then (COVID-19) contributes.”
The governor also criticized the idea that COVID-19 only affects the elderly.
“They’re one of us," he said. "No matter how old they were, they deserved time.”
Meanwhile, at 227 deaths-per-million-residents, Kentucky’s death count remains below the per-capita counts of 34 other states, including current and former hot spots like New York, Florida, Mississippi and Texas.
“It’s a smaller tragedy than we might otherwise have had,” Stack said, “had we not take the steps we did over the last six months.”
The state also reported 667 new cases Wednesday, and its positivity rate (based on a 7-day average) stayed below 4 percent for the second consecutive day. Currently it is at 3.84 percent, a measurable sign of success after the state saw days near 6 percent on daily case reports around 1,000 in late July.
Kentucky published the White House’s state-specific report on COVID-19 in the commonwealth Wednesday, as it has done each of the last five weeks.
The report notes Kentucky is in the “red zone” overall for new cases and that 53 percent of its counties have “moderate or high levels of community transmission.”
The report recommends, among other things, that the state keep its mask requirement in place statewide.
Beshear singled out that recommendation as a sign of political consensus on the issue of mask use even as his own attorney general, Daniel Cameron, challenges that and other pandemic measures in the state’s supreme court.
“There is no room between what the experts at the federal level or at the state level know we need to do, that there needs to be a mask requirement and it needs to be statewide,” Beshear said. “If you don’t like that I put it out there, that is directly from the federal administration.”
President Trump said Wednesday Cameron would be among 20 people he would consider appointing to the U.S. Supreme Court should a vacancy arrive in his next term.
Asked about that “short” list, Beshear declined to comment.