Editor's note: This article has been corrected to include COVID numbers for Scott County Schools. A previous version inadvertently included substituted state numbers. The News-Graphic apologizes for the error and is happy to set the record straight.
Scott County’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to climb, marking almost two straight weeks of double digit cases.
The county has experienced its three greatest days of confirmed cases in November for a total of 345 this month. The total number of confirmed cases for the county is now at 1,569. The death toll remains at 22, but the number of hospitalizations has risen to 34. The age range for those in the hospital is 25-to-95 years old.
Statewide the number of hospitalizations due to the coronavirus has quadrupled in just a month with 8,440 of the 11,575 hospital beds available now in use. Statewide there were just 354 of the total 1,700 ICU beds available, according to the Kentucky Department for Public Health.
“We are doing good, all things considered,” said William Haugh, Georgetown Community Hospital CEO. “For Georgetown, hospitalized patient numbers are down today, compared to earlier in the week.”
The climbing numbers prompted Gov. Andy Beshear to issue a new round of COVID-19 restrictions that will go into effect today (Friday.) Moving from in-person classes to virtual instruction was among the most impactful, but data compiled by Scott County Schools shows such a move was likely even without the governor’s mandates.
“It was time to close the schools,” said Dr. Crystal Miler, public health director for WEDCO. “There wasn’t much transmission inside the schools, because everyone was wearing masks and the safety protocols, but it was what they were doing outside school, including athletics.
“There is so much disease spreading. We have to do something. In fairness, the governor has been warning us for weeks.”
The data released by the Scott County Schools system shows the number of confirmed cases among students and staff had increased substantially in the last couple weeks. This week alone, the school system showed 10 students and 5 staff members confirmed with COVID-19. In addition, some 73 Scott County students and 6 staff members are quarantined due to exposure. Since schools moved to in-person instruction in mid-October, the school system has had 76 students confirmed with COVID-19, 30 staff members and some 711 students and 59 staff members quarantined due to exposure.
“I support the governor’s decision,” said Superintendent Kevin Hub. “We always knew one of two things might close down the schools. One was COVID transmissions in the schools. The other would be the lack of staff members. We were already nearing the point where that was going to be an issue. Scott County has so many staff members quarantined, it wasn’t going to be long before we were going to have to make a decision.”
Scott County Schools will end in-person instruction today, Nov. 20, and move to virtual instruction Nov. 30 until Jan. 6. The school system had already planned for virtual enrichment and remediation instruction on Nov. 23, 24 before the Thanksgiving holiday next week, in order to give the buildings a deep cleaning. Because of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, the current restrictions will only effect 17 instructional days.
“We’ll make an evaluation closer to Jan. 6 as to what happens after that,” he said.
The governor’s restrictions pertain to private schools, too.
“Throughout this pandemic, our goal has been to conduct in-person classes in a safe and effective way,” said Providence Christian Academy administrator Ron Gleaves. PCA plans to reopen as soon as it is permitted, he said in a Facebook post. He said teachers would be in contact with their students as to their remote learning plans, he said.
Beshear’s restrictions allow for K-5 classes to resume in-person Dec. 7 with middle and high school students resuming Jan. 4.
“We fully understand that this will place hardships on many of our PCA families and staff and we will do everything we can as a team to help you navigate the remote learning challenges you will face,” Gleaves said. “However, we need to be reminded that we have been in this situation before and have persevered.”
Other area private schools were still making plans at press time.
Georgetown College’s schedule will not be affected by the governor’s restrictions. The college started the fall semester early so it could end with the Thanksgiving holidays and the next semester was pushed back to begin Jan. 28, 2021, said Jonathon Sands Wise, vice president of enrollment management.
“Early on, we were warned that this might happen,” said Sands Wise. “Dr. (Horace) Hambrick and the virologists said this was likely, so we are fortunate to move our entire semester to end at Thanksgiving. Our next semester doesn’t start until Jan. 28, so we hope it will be better by then.”
Restaurants must stop inside dining at 5 p.m. today (Friday), although they can have patio seating until Dec. 13. Several Georgetown restaurants have already started making the shift.
On Galvin’s Restaurant’s Facebook page, “Hey, Galvin’s fans! As many of you already know our doors for dine in will be shutting down this Friday starting at 5 p.m. However, don’t panic, we’re switching right over to online ordering and curbside service.”
“We appreciate the support you’ve shown us, we wouldn’t be here without you. Hope to see everyone very soon.”
Beshear prefaced his announcement of restrictions by saying, “When addressing COVID-19, action is unpopular, but inaction is deadly.”
The restrictions go into effect on Friday, Nov. 20 at 5 p.m. local time and run through 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 13. They include:
—Restaurants, Bars – No indoor food or beverage consumption; carryout and delivery encouraged as is socially distanced outdoor seating.
—Private social gatherings – Up to eight people from a maximum of two households.
—Gyms, fitness centers, pools, other indoor recreation facilities – 33% capacity limit; group classes, team practices and competitions prohibited; masks must be worn while exercising.
—Venues, event spaces and theaters – Each room will be limited to 25 people. This applies to indoor weddings and funerals but excludes in-person worship services, for which the Governor will provide recommendations Thursday.
—Professional services – Office-based businesses limited to 33% of employees; all employees who are able to work from home must do so; all businesses that can close to the public must do so.
—Schools – All public and private schools (K -12) to cease in-person instruction:
—Middle and high schools will remain in remote or virtual instruction until at least Jan. 4, 2021.
—Elementary schools may reopen for in-person instruction on Dec. 7, if their county is not in the red zone and the school follows all Healthy at School guidance.
To help offset the financial impact on restaurants and bars, Beshear also announced he is dedicating $40 million in CARES Act funding to provide qualifying entities $10,000 in relief for various expenses, with a maximum award of $20,000 per business entity.
Businesses with at least 50% of their sales via drive-through will not be eligible. To focus on locally owned businesses, publicly traded companies are not eligible to apply. Applications are scheduled to open on Nov. 30 and close on Dec. 18. Businesses will be required to remain in compliance with all public health orders. Applications will be processed in the order they are received, and funds will be awarded until they are exhausted. Additional details on where to apply will be forthcoming.
Earlier this month, the Governor also waived alcoholic beverage renewal fees for Kentucky restaurants, bars and temporary venues for 12 months to help during the pandemic.
Beshear reported 2,753 new positive cases of COVID-19 for Wednesday, the fourth highest single-day number.
“Our top five highest days ever in this virus pandemic, have all been in the last week,” Beshear said
He said 292 of those cases were among those who are age 18 and under, bringing the total number of positive cases in Kentucky to 144,753, since the first one was reported on March 6.
To view the fill daily report, incidence rate map, testing locations, long-term-care and other congregate facilities update, school reports, red zone counties and recommendations, the White House Coronavirus Task Force reports for Kentucky and other key guidance go to kycovid19.ky.gov.
James Scogin contributed to this report.
Mike Scogin can be reached at email@example.com.