Health

Gov. Andy Beshear closed out a week of briefings by reporting the second-highest single day increase in coronavirus cases.

Those 797 new cases contributed to a positivity rate of over 5%, he said. That measure is used to determine the rate of spread of the virus. And 5% is the threshold at which public health experts and the White House recommend putting restrictions in place.

Beshear hinted that if numbers don’t decrease or flatten over the weekend, the state may implement new restrictions next week. He said the White House’s recommendations including limiting restaurant capacity to 25% and closing bars.

“If you’re a bar and you’re not requiring anybody to do what’s required, you shut yourself down,” he said.

Beshear said his administration may also recommend to school district superintendents that they push back the start of school if it’s meant to be in early August. And he has recommended that churches limit in-person services for the next two weeks as a precautionary measure.

“The next two weeks are going to be real critical and, and are dangerous in where we are right now,” he said. He said he asked members of the Kentucky Council of Churches whether they could hold services virtually or in a drive-up manner.

He said churches that do hold services in-person should enforce other measures, such as wearing masks, social distancing and extra cleaning.

Friday’s 797 cases came days after an all-time high of nearly 1,000, reported on Sunday.

Beshear also said another 7 Kentuckians died related to COVID-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 691.

He said the state’s reopening and economic health, as well as when kids can return to in-person classes, are all directly tied to management of the coronavirus crisis.

Unemployment Update

The state will extend its contract with Ernst & Young for five weeks to work through its backlog of unemployment claims, Beshear said.

So far this month, they’ve gotten through 56,000 previously unresolved unemployment claims. He said there may be tens of thousands of remaining claims, including fewer than 5,000 for people who applied in March but whose applications are held up because they require federal approval.

“I think what you’ll see is that they will go down a little and then they will go down a whole lot,” he said. “But what we know is that people have been contacted, they know where their claim is, by and large.”

The original three-and-a-half-week contract cost $7.6 million. But Beshear said the new, longer contract will cost relatively less, at $4.4 million. The state used federal CARES Act funding for both contracts.

Beshear said the new contract cost less because it includes fewer employees, and the number will decrease over time.

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Reporter.