FRANKFORT (AP) — More than three-fourths of Kentucky's counties are listed among the hardest-hit areas from the COVID-19 outbreak, showing the alarming spread of the virus, Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday.
Ninety-four of the state's 120 counties are now reported to be in the red zone — the most serious category for coronavirus incidence rates, Beshear said. People in those counties are asked to follow stricter recommended guidelines to contain the virus.
The governor called on local governments, businesses, schools and others in those hard-hit communities to work “in a unified effort to stop the spread of this virus.”
Kentucky reported 2,342 new coronavirus cases Thursday, its third-highest daily number since the pandemic began. It came one day after the state posted its record daily high of 2,700 cases.
The governor reported 18 more virus-related deaths statewide Thursday.
More than 1,300 virus patients are hospitalized in Kentucky, including nearly 300 in intensive care. The statewide rate for positive tests reached 8.29%, the governor said.
Meanwhile, having 94 Kentucky counties placed in the red-zone category underscores the prevalence of the virus, the governor said. The prior report listed 80 Kentucky counties.
Schools in red-zone counties are urged to hold only virtual classes because of high coronavirus transmission rates in their communities.
People in red-zone counties are urged to avoid hosting or attending gatherings of any size. Employers should allow employees to work from home when possible, and noncritical government offices should operate virtually. In-person shopping should be reduced, and people can opt to order online for pickup. People are urged to avoid nonessential activities outside their home.
Beshear said Thursday that state government will follow red-zone recommendations next week in Franklin County, which includes the state capital of Frankfort. Anyone who can work virtually will do so, and the same applies for any service that can be done virtually, the governor said.
“We’re going to live up to what we’re asking other people to do,” he said.
The governor has stressed that the red-zone actions are recommendations — not new mandates — while emphasizing the importance of following them to help tamp down the virus.
Beshear was asked whether his victory in a crucial Kentucky Supreme Court ruling Thursday might make him more willing to change some recommendations into mandates.
“I don’t think we’re there yet," the governor said. “We are trying to see right now how well these work, how embraced they are by the communities. And we are seeing some real significant buy-in. And we are seeing cities and counties step up to enforce it.”
The state's high court upheld the governor’s authority to issue coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and individuals to try to contain the spread of COVID-19.
With Kentucky registering its third-highest daily virus count Thursday, total coronavirus cases statewide surpassed 129,600. The statewide virus-related death total reached at least 1,622.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal. The vast majority of people recover.