‘Mask up:’ COVID-19 cases escalating as in-person classes begin in Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX19) - Kentucky reported its highest number of COVID-19 cases last week, causing Gov. Andy Beshear to warn Monday the state could be at the start of another escalation phase in its battle with the virus.

That warning receives extra justification in the White House’s newest state-by-state report, which places Kentucky in the “red zone” for case growth with 101 new cases per 100,000 residents, though Jefferson County accounts for an outsized share of new cases.

Monday’s statewide data isn’t concerning by itself: 456 new cases, five new deaths, 4.41 positivity rate.

But Kentucky’s weekly case totals show 4,949 newly confirmed cases the foregoing seven days, Sept. 21-27.

Weekly COVID-19 cases in Kentucky
Weekly COVID-19 cases in Kentucky (Source: Kentucky Department of Public Health)

The state has experienced marginal increases in weekly cases going back to the July 13-19 period, whose 3,772 cases marked an alarming increase from the previous week’s 2,482.

That July escalation came as Beshear imposed new statewide measures, including a mask mandate, a travel ban and gathering limits, to stop runaway (exponential) spread of the virus.

The measures seemed to work. Since July 13 weekly case counts have, with some variability, stayed in the low 4,000′s. Now nearing 5,000 cases, however, Beshear is again advising extra urgency as the fall approaches.

“Now what we believe that we are seeing, I believe we’re seeing it nationally, is the start of a new escalation," Beshear said. “As we come toward a fall season and winter, where more people are going to be inside and we know the virus spreads faster, we’ve got to do better than this. We can’t be casual right now.”

The governor explained stopping the virus is the same as it was before: social distancing, mask wearing, lowering your exposure risk and minding the state’s COVID-19 map to understand what risk there is in your own county.

“This is our greatest and most important tool for getting back to everything we want to do,” the governor said. “Do the right thing: Mask up.”

Incidence rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases by county in Kentucky
Incidence rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases by county in Kentucky (Source: Kentucky Department of Public Health)

Meanwhile, in-person classes began in many Kentucky schools Monday more than a month after Beshear recommended districts delay them due to the risk of COVID-19.

A new dashboard was unveiled Monday showing COVID-19 cases as self-reported by each district.

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

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