Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear reported 576 new cases of coronavirus during a press briefing Tuesday.
That’s the state’s second highest number reported in a single day since it began testing — Kentucky recorded its highest single day in early May when state officials tested staff and incarcerated people at Green River Correctional Complex in Central City.
The total number of cases in Kentucky now stands at 20,223, Beshear said. He also reported six new deaths, which brings the state’s COVID-19 death toll to 635 people.
“It should tell you this virus isn’t playing and neither are we,” he said. “And it puts so many at risk when we all or any of us fail to do our part.”
Beshear again advocated for people to wear face coverings to curtail the spread of the virus. His statewide mask mandate went into effect Friday, July 10.
He had some help with his mask messaging Tuesday.
Nine-year-old David Turner Jr., of Louisville, was in attendance. Turner has a rare form of brain cancer.
“You should wear a mask when you are with other people besides your family,” Turner said. “I wear a mask to protect other people and so should you.”
The governor addressed concerns about scaled back capacity at testing sites, including reports of long wait times, difficulty getting appointments and seemingly reduced staffing at sites. He said that two of the Kroger sites moved to “summer hours” several weeks ago after there appeared to be less demand.
“We weren’t seeing them being fully booked… Something happened right around the fourth of July, or pretty much the fifth of July, we had a lot more people that suddenly wanted testing when we’ve been waiting for people and they hadn’t been showing up,” Beshear said.
He said they’ve since expanded hours at those sites. Other sites around the state, he added, “are still trying to decide what their future is” as they wait to hear what kind of funds will come their way from the federal government.
Watching demand for testing increase around the country, Beshear said he does hope to increase testing capacity in Kentucky. The state has contracted Gravity Diagnostics for another several months; it’s a Covington laboratory that the state has been working with to boost testing capabilities since early April.
“We are very much mindful on the testing front,” Beshear said. “Now I do believe we have more flexibility and we are in a better place than when we started, we didn’t have any of these resources.”
He also said employers need to offer paid time off — something his administration pushed for early in the pandemic — and support employees who have to miss work while they wait for test results or due to getting infected with the coronavirus. Beshear said the decision by employers to do otherwise is “incredibly short-sighted.”
“Otherwise, somebody desperate isn’t going to tell you, is going to go to work, is going to infect your workforce, and instead of paying one person for 14 days to make sure that you don’t infect anybody else, you’re going to lose your entire workforce,” he said. “That’s just not smart business.”
Beshear also brought up a recent Ohio Valley Resource report about a western Kentucky TV station manager telling employees they needed his consent before getting a COVID-19 test after one of the station’s workers tested positive.
“I don’t think your employer can dictate your health care decisions,” the governor said. “If you’re worried and you want to get a test and your employer is trying to stop you, why don’t you call us here in state government and we’ll talk to them.”