Beshear takes steps to stem COVID-19 tide

Mary Ann Kearns [email protected]

Calling his actions “unpopular,” but cautioning that “inaction is deadly,” on Wednesday Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear called for new restrictions to curb the current wave of COVID-19 cases in the state.

“We are at war and we need your help to win,” the governor said.

On Wednesday, he announced measures regulating operation of restaurants, bars, and other places where people gather, and on Thursday, he asked churches to consider canceling in-person services through Dec. 13. He cited several instances of spread from church-related events, not just worship services.

On Thursday, Beshear reported 3,649 newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the commonwealth, the highest day’s total yet, he said, as he pointed out that the top five days have all been in the last week.

Beshear said not only the general public but also health care workers and their availability to provide care are being impacted.

“Our challenge is…when we run out of people,” he said.

Local health care agencies are meeting the challenge head-on.

“We are working closely with the Buffalo Trace District Health Department, Fleming County Health Department, the Kentucky Department for Public Health and our partners in providing care throughout the region to ensure we are well-coordinated in meeting the varied and vital health needs of our patients,” Katelyn Bailey, a spokesperson for LifePoint said.

The Mason County Emergency Management Agency stands ready to respond if needed, Director Clay Buser said.

The Auxiliary Hospital is on standby at the Mason County Schools STEAM Academy and has been since it was taken down this summer, he said, and could be up and running within 24 hours.

“We stand ready to provide that if needed,” Buser said. “We just need to be told to turn the switch on.”

“As reported by KDPH, cases of COVID-19 have increased state-wide and in Mason and Fleming counties in the last several weeks,” Bailey said. “With the documented increase in confirmed positive cases, hospitals in our region, including ours, continue to see an increase in hospitalizations. We monitor hospital capacity within every department each day, closely tracking fluctuations in emergency, acute and critical care areas and regularly report our capacity in these areas to the state. At this time, our hospital has adequate capacity to meet patient needs.”

Meadowview currently has two COVID-19 patients in ICU and nine total COVID-19 patients in-house, according to Buffalo Trace District Health Department Director Victor McKay, as he echoed Bailey’s concern over the increased numbers of confirmed cases locally.

“As you are aware, Mason County hit the Red Zone two weeks ago and we remain there today. This past Monday, we saw our highest number yet as 19 positives were reported in Mason County and an additional three were reported in Robertson County. That was unprecedented and we should all be concerned,” he said.

“We recently brought contact tracers on board in order to provide relief for our nursing staff,” McKay said. “The nurses have been overwhelmed with testing and contact tracing and we are very proud of the dedication and commitment they have displayed throughout this pandemic.”

The latest numbers reported show Mason County with 323 total confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with 65 of those currently active. The county has also recorded three deaths.

Robertson County’s total case count has risen to 68 with 17 of those now active and two deaths attributed to COVID-19.

Lewis County health officials said it has 459 cases of COVID-19, with 66 of those active cases. The county has also recorded 18 deaths attributed to the pandemic.

Fleming County reported 290 total cases on Thursday with 39 active cases.

In Bracken County on Wednesday, 118 total cases were reported with three of those new and 41 active. The county also has three deaths.

In Adams County, Ohio, 618 total cases have been confirmed with 10 deaths and in Brown County, Ohio, there have been 798 confirmed cases with four deaths.

New requirements announced by Beshear that will be effective for three-six weeks beginning Nov. 20 include:

— Private gatherings limited to two households for no more than eight total people.

— Attendance at venue events limited to 25 total people per room.

— Bars and restaurants closed to indoor dining.

— Gyms, fitness centers, pools, bowling alleys and similar venues limited to 33 percent occupancy.

— Businesses such as offices should have all employees who are capable of working from home to do so.

— And finally, all public and private schools and universities will cease in-person instruction beginning Monday, Nov. 23. Middle and high schools will remain closed to in-person classes through Jan. 4 and elementary schools can resume classes on Dec. 7, provided they are not in the Red Zone.

KHSAA has postponed the start of basketball and other winter sports until January.

Beshear also announced that a fund to help bars and restaurants impacted by the mandate. The $40 million Kentucky Food and Beverage Relief Fund will use federal CARES Act funding to provide up to $10,000 in relief to affected locally-owned establishments.

The impact of the governor’s mandate to restaurants, which were already struggling under the current conditions, was already being felt locally with one restaurant saying it would close its Maysville location permanently on Thursday and a local bar saying it would remain open for carryout until current food supplies are depleted and would then close with plans to reopen next month.

McKay said it is up to each individual to do their part to help stem the flow of the virus.

“Governments and health departments cannot fix this. It’s really up to each and every one of us to help slow the spread,” McKay said. “I once heard “respect the virus. Because it won’t respect you.” Words we should all be paying close attention to.”

Bailey concurred. “We ask that community members do their part in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our community by practicing social distancing, wearing a mask and avoiding large gatherings,” she said.

“We also want to remind community members to not put off the care they need during the pandemic. It is safe to come to our hospitals should you or your family need care,” Bailey added.

McKay reminded the public to continue practicing safe measures,

“With the upcoming holidays quickly approaching, the health department is asking everyone to follow the guidelines established by the CDC and the Kentucky Department of Public Health,” he said. “We should all know them by heart and that is to wear masks when out and about. Wash their hands, practice social distancing.”

The Buffalo Trace District Health Department has been providing COVID-19 testing for months and plans to continue as long as possible, McKay said. Testing takes place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and the department may add an additional day or two depending on caseloads.

To schedule a COVID-19 test, please contact the health department at 606-564-9447. Testing is available at other facilities in Mason County so contact your primary care physician to learn more.

For up to date COVID-19 information, please visit http://www.buffalotracehealth.com/

Maysville City Manager Matt Wallingford said Thursday the city is reducing staff to meet the governor’s mandate.

Beginning Monday, City Hall staff will be reduced to 33 percent, Wallingford said. City hall will be open and he plans to be in the office every day, he said.

“With that, I want to stress to our citizens and those who work in our city, please utilize phone calls and email to communicate with city employees if at all possible,” Wallingford said. “While city hall will remain open, please only come to the building if, for example, you need assistance filling out an application, need to drop off or go over a set of plans, etc. A city hall employee directory with email addresses and direct phone numbers can be viewed at www.cityofmaysville.com If you must come to City Hall, please phone or email ahead to make sure that the person you need to meet is in the office (that particular day).”


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