Health

Gov. Andy Beshear said masks and social distancing efforts have prevented an exponential increase in coronavirus cases, but that the rate of positive cases is still too high for schools to reopen.

Earlier this week, Beshear recommended that schools delay in-person instruction until at least Sept. 28.

During a news briefing Thursday, Beshear said that based on the current level of the virus in the state, “just about any school district” would have a challenge reopening right now.

“If it’s places where they don’t have a lot of testing, I’m worried about when they will find out exactly how much spread could have occurred,” Beshear said.

Beshear pointed to schools in Georgia that had to quarantine hundreds of students and teachers following an outbreak in classrooms.

The decision for schools to open back up to in-person classes is ultimately up to the 171 school districts around the state.

Some public school districts and private schools have decided to go forward with plans to reopen this month, including public districts in Warren County, Hardin County and Green County.

“I just appeal to our schools that I believe this is a significant risk to the life and health of teachers, students, the parents they come home to and the caregivers,” Beshear said, noting that children are able to spread the virus, even if they often don’t have severe complications from it.

Beshear said he hoped that by the end of the week, data would show that the number of new cases in Kentucky had leveled off again.

“We need to stick with it and we can’t make decisions that ultimately are going to cause a significant spread right now. Because that’s going to make everything we want to do that much harder,” Beshear said.

Beshear announced 785 new cases of coronavirus in Kentucky on Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 37,686.

He also announced six new deaths, bringing the total number of Kentuckians lost to the illness to 796.

The positivity rate of coronavirus cases ticked up slightly from Wednesday to 5.67%.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.