Gov. Andy Beshear announced 696 new COVID-19 infections in Kentucky on Wednesday, for a total of 45,230, and seven new deaths.

The number of new cases so far reported in August, 15,079, has now surpassed July’s 14,527 cases. Still, the rate of people testing positive, a seven-day average, has dropped below 5 percent again, to 4.64 percent, which Beshear said, is “one of the lowest numbers we’ve had in the last four or so weeks.”

Sixteen percent of Wednesday’s new coronavirus cases are in kids and teenagers ages 18 and younger, including school-age kids in districts that have already opened to in-person instruction or plan to soon, the governor said.

“We need to make sure we make decisions based on science, and not just based on complaints,” he said. “If you’re in an area where you think you’ve made a wrong decision, there is always time to make a right one.”

Two more students at K-12 schools that have reopened in some capacity have contracted the virus, and so have four teachers. At Kentucky colleges and universities, 60 more students have tested positive, including 25 new cases at Morehead State University and 27 positives at the University of Kentucky.

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly changed its recommended policy for when people exposed to the virus should get tested, confusing and frustrating some public health officials. The CDC’s new guidance says even if a person has direct contact with someone known to be positive, “you do not necessarily need a test” unless you are at-risk or were recommended to get a test by a health care professional.

Beshear and Public Health Commissioner Steven Stack roundly rejected this change in guidance, saying it runs counter to public health consensus. They told Kentuckians to follow their guidance, instead, which is to get tested often, especially if someone is directly exposed.

“I would encourage you to still follow our guidance here in Kentucky,” Stack said. And certainly, “if you have a high-risk exposure, to still get tested and not use this to justify a lack of needing to get tested.”

Beshear was more pointed in his rebuke. “That’s reckless. It contradicts everything we know and have learned about this virus. It is inexplicable,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Kentucky’s death toll from the virus stands at 902. Wednesday’s deaths included a 50-year-old man in Jefferson County and an 89-year-old woman in Boone County.

Two additional child care centers have reported at least one positive, for a total of 162 facilities, and nursing and assisted living homes reported 53 new resident infections and 25 staff infections.

There are 606 people currently hospitalized with the virus, 146 in intensive care and 96 on ventilators. At least 839,454 tests have been administered.

Kentuckians who need help paying for rent and utilities can still apply for aid through the Team Kentucky Fund, which has raised $3.5 million so far and distributed $789,658 to 1,032 households. More information can be found at teamkyfund.ky.gov.

Alex Acquisto covers health and social services for the Lexington Herald-Leader and Kentucky.com. She joined the newspaper in June 2019 as a corps member with Report for America, a national service program made possible in Kentucky with support from the Blue Grass Community Foundation. She’s from Owensboro, Ky., and previously worked at the Bangor Daily News and other newspapers in Maine.
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