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Kentucky Expects COVID Plateau As Rise Slows

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Gov. Andy Beshear said he’s confident COVID-19 cases will soon begin to plateau after months of uncontrolled spread throughout Kentucky.

Beshear’s prediction came the day the first shipment of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine arrived at Kentucky hospitals. He credited restrictions on public spaces and schools for curbing the spike.

“We are definitely seeing in our weekly numbers an impact from the recent steps that we took,” Beshear said. “We were in exponential growth that was truly frightening. Without taking steps, aggressive steps, we believe by now we would’ve already been significantly higher – doubling or tripling our daily numbers.”

Beshear announced 1,802 new cases Monday. He said that was lower than the past two Mondays.

The positivity rate calculated by the state has also declined in recent days. Despite a slight increase on Monday to 8.58%, Beshear said the rate dropped from week-to-week for the first time since mid-October.

“From October 11 all the way through last week, we had seen increase over increase,” Beshear said. “For the first time, we have a week-to-week decrease.”

The positivity rate calculated by WFPL and Johns Hopkins is nearly twice as high as the percentage used by Beshear. Beshear said that’s because the state audits its cases before calculating the positivity rate, though he did not provide much clarification on what that process entails or what cases might be removed from the calculation.

The governor also released new guidance for schools. Schools in red and orange counties, where community spread is high, will have the option to return to in-person classes beginning in January.

Schools are able to start classes again Jan. 4, but Beshear and the Kentucky Department of Education recommend that in-person classes start no sooner than Jan. 11.

The state’s “Healthy At School” guidelines will become mandatory Jan. 4 for any district that returns. They require schools to provide “meaningful” virtual options to students and accommodations to high-risk employees and educators.

Beshear said at least one district that wasn’t offering AP classes virtually, which negatively impacted students’ class ranks and other educational markers.

“If we’re going to operate when a county is red, we have to provide this meaningful virtual option that does not negatively impact the students that take it,” Beshear said.

Aside from the requirements, Beshear listed additional recommendations for schools in orange and red counties. Orange county schools should create a hybrid or remote learning option. In red counties, the remote learning or hybrid model should be more “aggressive.”

“The more aggressive hybrid model is going to be at the discretion of the school district,” Beshear said. “It’s asking them to think and to take extra steps. If you were already going to start with one step to reduce capacity, think about what the next step would be.”

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