Kentucky businesses are slowly reopening as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise.
But, even with increased testing available, the number of new positives is lower than before.
Gov. Andy Beshear this week addressed critics who say that the opening should be faster, saying it could cause the virus to begin spreading again.
“If we do that and it shuts down our economy again, then we have failed at what we’re working on right now, and that’s healthy at work,” Beshear said.
As of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, the number of new cases was 191, up from 105 on Monday. State officials advocate using a rolling, three-day average to determine whether cases are up or down, however totals are lower on weekends because some labs and doctors’ offices are closed.
The three-day average on Tuesday was 112 new cases per day, which includes 41 cases reported on Sunday, 105 on Monday and 191 on Tuesday. The previous Tuesday, the average was 289. That number is skewed because every prisoner in the Green River Correctional Institute was tested, and more than 300 tested positive for the virus. Those numbers were released on May 5. The average for the three days before the Green River tests was 138 cases per day. The average for the three days after the Green River test results was 125.
Kentucky Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack highlighted a case reported by the Centers for Disease Control in which 65 members of church choir met for a two-and-a-half hour practice, when one member was symptomatic. Afterward, 32 members were confirmed positive and another 20 were considered probable cases. Three of the choir members were hospitalized, and two died.
Stack said the CDC believes the act of singing augmented the spread of the virus.
“One person in a 2-and-a-half-hour period spread this to 80 percent of the people they were in contact with,” Stack said.
Churches in Kentucky reopened on Sunday.
Beshear used the statistic to point out that he will not open swimming pools, not because he doesn’t want people to enjoy themselves, but because he doesn’t want the virus to spread among kids, who then take it home to their parents and grandparents.
“Put this number of kids in a pool, knowing they’re going to get together, this is how it could spread,” Beshear said.
Also on Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist, advocated reopening schools, saying the disease has a mortality rate approaching zero among people under 18 years old, said it is very low for people under 45. He told Dr. Anthony Fauci “We ought to have a little bit of humility in that we know what’s best for the economy, and as much as I respect you, Dr. Fauci, you are not the end-all” when it comes to recommending when things should open. Paul said he believes the facts will bear this out, and there will be no surge in cases when schools reopen.
Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, responded that he never said he was the “end-all,” and does not give advice on economics. He said he is a “scientist, a physician and a public health official,” and only makes recommendations for public health based on scientific evidence.
“You used the word, we should be humble about what we don’t know, and I think that falls under the fact that we don’t know everything about this virus and we really got to be very careful, particularly when it comes to children,” Fauci said.
He added that the scientists are only now learning some of the effects of the virus did not come up in studies done in China and in Europe. Some children, “are presenting with COVID 19 who actually have a very strange inflammatory syndrome very similar to Kawasaki Syndrome. We have to be very careful that we are not cavalier in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects,” Fauci said. “You’re right in the numbers that children in general do much, much better than adults and the elderly and particularly those with underlying conditions. But I am very careful, and hopefully humble in knowing that I don’t know everything about this disease. And that’s why I’m very reserved in making broad predictions.”
Paul was earlier criticized by fellow Senators on both sides of the aisle for going to the Senate gym and cafeteria and having close contact with other Senators while he was awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test. Paul’s test later came back positive.
Three children in Kentucky are currently hospitalized for COVID-19, including a 2-year-old, a 10-year-old and a 16-year-old. Beshear and Stack said Tuesday that the 2-year-old is still on a ventilator, the 10-year-old is still in critical condition but improving, and the 16-year-old is doing well in a regular hospital bed.
Businesses that opened on Monday included:
• Manufacturing, distribution and supply chain businesses
• Vehicle or vessel dealerships
• Office-based businesses
(at 50% pre-pandemic capacity)
• Horse racing (no fans in attendance)
• Pet care, grooming and boarding
There are separate rules for each business to avoid spreading the virus to customers or to workers. Based on Kentucky guidelines, all businesses should continue to practice social distancing, and employees should still work at home as much as possible. Under the minimum guidelines, employers must provide personal protective equipment to employees, limit face-to-face contact by conducting business over the phone or Internet whenever possible, provide hand sanitizer in high-traffic areas, and encourage customers to wear masks. Businesses may refuse to serve customers who are not wearing masks.
Businesses must also designate a Healthy at Work officer, and even those that have been open throughout the quarantine because of being deemed essential must to daily temperature checks of employees.
Business specific rules can be found on the state’s Healthy at Work web site at govstatus.egov.com/ky-healthy-at-work.
More businesses will open as the summer goes on. According to a schedule released by the governor’s office, government offices can reopen on May 18, and public funeral services, memorial services, and retail stores that were previously closed can reopen May 20.
Guidelines have not yet been issued for other businesses, through reopening dates have been set. Restaurants are expected to reopen at 33 percent capacity or with outdoor seating on May 22, with cosmetology businesses, hair salons/barbershops, massage therapy, nail salons, tanning salons, and tattoo parlors to follow on May 25.
Bowling alleys, fitness centers, and movie theaters will reopen June 1, campgrounds on June 11, some childcare and low-touch youth sports will be allowed to reopen June 15. Bars may reopen July 1, and groups of 50 will be allowed to gather then.