Spike in COVID-19 cases has Kentucky leaders on alert

Spike in COVID-19 cases has Kentucky leaders on alert

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Coronavirus cases have once again spiked in Kentucky, and the new uptick has the attention of state leaders.

Since Wednesday, Kentucky has reported its highest totals of new COVID-19 daily cases ever, prompting Governor Andy Beshear to deliver an end-of-the-week warning during his Friday briefing.

“We are now seeing a real and significant increase in cases and our positivity rate from people’s gatherings around the holiday,” Beshear said.

Beshear said the uptick was expected because of holiday travel, but it is still disturbing. He encouraged Kentuckians who traveled recently to get tested.

“You have to assume if you’re indoors with other people that someone has the virus,” he said.

Beshear did not indicate during his briefing if the increase in cases means tighter restrictions in public places, but some state lawmakers are not willing to take a chance. The State House of Representative flexed its Republican muscles Thursday by passing House Bill 1, which would prevent Beshear from shutting down businesses and schools that are following CDC COVID-19 safety guidelines.

According to a Legislative Research Commission spokesperson, it would “allow any business or school district to remain open as long as they form and implement a comprehensive COVID-19 safety plan following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pandemic guidelines and post the plan on-site, such as on a front door, where customers or students and parents can read them. In an effort to help businesses that are struggling due to pandemic-related closures and building capacity restrictions, the bill also suspends penalty and interest on unpaid unemployment insurance through the end of the calendar year.”

Noam Bilitzer, the executive chef of the Red Hog, told WAVE 3 News it was encouraging to see state lawmakers pay attention to the economic struggles restaurants have faced.

“We’re pivoting with it, because at the end of the day we need our business to survive,” Bilitzer said. “And we’re adjusting ourselves to meet the demand and meet the restrictions that we’re with.”

Beshear addressed the bill on Friday, saying he would veto it if it passed the Senate.

“Are we going to give the CDC now the ability on an ongoing basis to change law, which this would be, when sometimes they’ve gotten it wrong and we’ve gotten it right?” Beshear asked.

Louisville Metro Public Health continues to monitor COVID outbreaks and contact tracing to the best of their ability, a tall order for an understaffed and underfunded department.

“If we could just stay home, get tested and get through the next couple of months, I think we’re going to be in a very good place,” Dr. Sarah Moyer explained.

Hospital leaders are also preparing themselves for a potential influx of patients.

“Here in the next three to seven days, give or take, we should, if we’re going to see one, begin to see an increase of the number of overall admissions into the hospital system,” UofL Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jason Smith said “Ours are up a little bit. We were down a little bit over Christmas, but we are back to the levels that we saw during the spike after Thanksgiving and so now it’s a matter of is it going to get higher. And I don’t know the answer. It’s a little too early to tell right now if we kind of follow those trends.”

Moyer told WAVE 3 News people who test positive for COVID-19 in Louisville should call their close contacts to assist Metro Public Health in contact tracing.

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