Gov. Andy Beshear announced 726 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 14 new deaths, making it the third consecutive day that daily coronavirus deaths reached double digits.

“We have to understand this [virus] is not just real, but it takes lives from us,” Beshear said in his daily update. “This virus is still out there, it’s still aggressively spreading.”

In the last three days, 38 people with the virus have died, increasing the total to 856. The state’s case total is now 41,626.

Thursday’s new deaths included two frontline health care workers — a 55-year-old in Graves County and a 65-year-old woman in Pulaski County.

The rate of people testing positive continues to drop, to 5.18 percent.

Just over 100 kids and teenagers under the age of 18 tested positive on Thursday, including five school-age kids in Warren County, Beshear said. In nursing and assisted living homes, four more residents and 20 staff tested positive.

Earlier in the day, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s board voted to allow teams to begin practice next week, with games starting the week of Sept. 7 — weeks before the governor’s recommended in-person school start date on Sept. 28.

Beshear said he was “certainly surprised” at KHSAA’s decision, considering “the virus [is] at its height.”

KHSAA’s decision came after the board voted down two options to delay most sports until late September. Unlike his firm stance on returning to the classroom, Beshear has been more equivocal on athletics, at times mentioning how his son, Will, is pitcher this season on his Little League team. The governor last month admitted to leaving a game with his son shortly after they arrived because few people were wearing masks.

“We know a lot about this virus now. We know that it spreads by contact, and we know the closer the contact, the easier it can spread,” the governor said, adding that he needs time to consider how to weigh in on KHSAA’s decision, and whether that will include issuing a recommendation or a mandate.

There are currently 638 people hospitalized with the virus, 155 in intensive care and 108 patients on a ventilator. At least 794,282 tests have been administered.

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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