Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear vowed to halt a recent escalation of COVID-19 cases after reporting 17 more coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday, marking one of the state's highest one-day death tolls since the outbreak began earlier this year.
"What that shows is we are -- in our total case count -- in an escalation, meaning last week was more; this week will be more than that, it appears," Beshear told reporters at a press conference Thursday.
State health officials reported 910 new coronavirus cases on Thursday after shattering records earlier this week, with rural and urban areas seeing massive spikes in new infections. Of the newly reported cases, 146 were children under the age of 18 with the youngest victim being 3 months old.
Last week the state saw its highest total of new infections reported over a seven-day period, but the governor said the state was on track to top that figure this week.
“When we have a lot of cases, sadly a lot of death follows," Beshear warned.
The 17 coronavirus-related fatalities reported on Thursday followed four COVID-19-related deaths on Wednesday.
The new deaths meant that as of Thursday, a total of 1,191 people had died from the coronavirus in Kentucky since the start of the pandemic. Seniors above the age of 80 account for more than half of those deaths.
Residents between the ages of 20 and 49 account for the bulk of statewide cases, but health officials are urging residents of all ages to take the virus seriously. People in the 20-29 age group appear to have the highest rates of diagnosis, according to state data.
To help combat the spread of the virus during Halloween, Beshear asked parents keep their children away from crowds and to use another approach to traditional trick-or-treating. He and state health commissioner Dr. Steven Stack asked residents to place individually wrapped candy outside on their porches, driveways or tables in lieu of the usual door-to-door trick-or-treating.
"We have put together the best guidance we can for Halloween to be safe. But we can’t do things exactly like we did them before, and we all ought to know that," Beshear said. "Having a big party right now during COVID puts everybody at risk. Let’s not ruin Halloween for our kids by it spreading a virus that can harm people they love."
The governor also doubled down on the state's "Mask Up" campaign, encouraging other leaders to post to social media using the #MaskUpKY and #MaskUpKentucky hashtags.
State officials have also announced several initiatives to keep residents engaged via social media throughout the pandemic. Most recently, the state offered residents a chance to win a a #TeamKY mask if they posted with Mask Up campaign hashtags.
“Masking up has been important, but it’s more important than ever right now,” Beshear said Thursday. “Masking up is critical to stopping that escalation of cases.”