- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 26, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky’s governor offered a blistering assessment Wednesday of new guidance from federal health officials, calling it “reckless” and contradictory to the need for aggressive testing policies to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear responded to the guidance that says it’s not necessary for people who don’t feel sick but have been in close contact with infected people to get tested. It was posted earlier this week on the website of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Beshear, who took office last year, is usually restrained in criticizing the federal executive branch under Republican President Donald Trump, who remains popular in Kentucky. But the governor didn’t hold back this time, telling reporters that the new guidance “doesn’t make any sense at all.”

“That’s reckless,” Beshear said. “It contradicts everything that we know and have learned about this virus. It is inexplicable. And in Kentucky, we’re going to still continue to do the right thing.”

The governor wouldn’t get drawn into a discussion about what or who prompted the new guidance, telling reporters that he has “zero information” on what led to the change.

Beshear’s comments came as Kentucky surpassed 45,000 coronavirus cases and 900 virus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic. The state reported nearly 700 new cases Wednesday.

Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky’s public health commissioner, said the new federal testing advice “has a number of us in public health concerned.” He urged Kentuckians to continue following the state’s guidance, saying they shouldn’t use the federal advice as justification for not getting tested.

“I would encourage you, if you have a high-risk exposure, to still get tested,” Stack said.

The CDC previously had advised local health departments to test people who have been within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes. But on Monday a CDC testing overview page was changed to say that testing is no longer recommended for symptom-less people who were in close contact situations.

Beshear said the new guidance runs counter to what has been a steady message from a White House task force in pushing for more COVID-19 testing.

“Every drumbeat that we hear and that we are pushed on … is to increase testing,” Beshear said. “And so it appears that there is a disconnect going on somewhere there in Washington.”

Beshear predicted that the new advice will be only a “blip” before getting changed.

“Come on, it’s common sense,” he said. “If you’ve been directly exposed to somebody who has COVID, don’t you want to know if you have it? Don’t you want to make sure you’re not spreading it to somebody else? Don’t you want to make sure your kids don’t have it?”

Meanwhile, Beshear announced 696 new coronavirus cases across Kentucky, raising the total number of statewide cases to at least 45,230. He reported seven more virus-related deaths in Kentucky, raising the statewide death count to 902.

In one encouraging sign, he said, Kentucky’s positivity rate - a rolling figure reflecting the average number of tests coming back positive for COVID-19 - dropped below 5% at 4.64%.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some - especially older adults and people with existing health problems - it can cause more severe illness and be fatal.


Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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