FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky's surging coronavirus outbreak continued Friday with nearly 800 more cases, the second-highest daily total as the governor braced the state for new restrictions unless the disease's resurgence is brought under control.
Gov. Andy Beshear called it a “dangerous time of escalating cases” but continued to express hope that his recent mandate for most Kentuckians to wear masks in public will stop the escalation. But the Democratic governor sounded prepared to take new actions if the trend isn't curbed.
“To be fully transparent, if we don’t see numbers stabilize over the weekend, yes ... we’re going to have to take more," he said. “We cannot allow an escalation to continue. We’re trying to avoid this with everything we have. But at some point, we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do."
Beshear said the additional actions could be announced as soon as next week. The resurgence in virus cases comes as businesses try to recover from the nation's dramatic economic downturn and as school districts make plans for the coming school year.
Besides the mask mandate, Beshear recently announced limits on social gatherings and a travel advisory. Kentuckians traveling to several hot-spot states are recommended to undergo a 14-day self-quarantine. He also reduced the number of people allowed at social gatherings from 50 to 10. The rule doesn’t apply to businesses or wedding venues.
“We know what to do here," the governor said Friday. “It just takes the will.”
Beshear also said he was on a call with the Kentucky Council of Churches to discuss the rising number of virus cases. He said churches are seeing a trend where a member on vacation becomes infected and brings it back, spreading it among other church members.
The governor said he asked churches to take voluntary actions to help combat the pandemic.
“I recommended for the next two Sundays, with the escalating number of cases that we have, that it’s a very dangerous time and recommended that people do the virtual or drive-up services.”
He said there was no mandate or executive order and if houses of worship still plan to hold services, he recommended they “double down” on wearing masks and cleaning.
Earlier in the state's fight against the virus, Beshear issued an order barring places of worship from holding in-person services. But a federal judge ruled that the ban was unconstitutional.
On Friday, Beshear reported 797 more confirmed coronavirus cases as the total statewide number approached 26,000 since the start of the pandemic. New confirmed cases included 19 children under age 5, including a month-old girl from Laurel County, the governor said.
“We are seeing more cases than we ever imagined before," he said. “And now is the time for everybody to recognize the severity of the situation that we’re in.”
He reported seven additional virus-related deaths in Kentucky, raising the death toll to 691. Beshear warned that the surging number of cases will result in more deaths.
“It’s going to be heartbreaking,” Beshear said.
Meanwhile, 618 people are hospitalized in Kentucky because of the virus, including 130 in intensive care, he said.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness and be fatal