Democratic Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced Sunday that the state had set a grim record with 273 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, the highest single-day rise to date. Kentucky's increase in infected individuals comes after protesters took to the streets throughout the week to call for the state to be reopened.
With the 273 additional confirmed infections, Kentucky now has 2,960 cases of the novel virus and 1,122 recoveries. Beshear also announced four new deaths on Sunday, bringing the total number of fatalities across the state to 148.
"We are still in the midst of this fight against a deadly and highly contagious virus," the governor said during his daily news conference. "Let's make sure, as much as we're looking at those benchmarks and we're looking at the future, that we are acting in the present and we are doing the things that it takes to protect one another."
Recent protests broke out in several states—among them Kentucky, Ohio, Minnesota and Michigan—with demonstrators taking to the streets to call for an end to the stay-at-home orders that have drastically slowed the country's economy, as well as the virus' spread.
As Beshear gave his press briefing on Wednesday, protesters gathered in Frankfort, Kentucky's capital, to demand the state's economy be reopened. Some demonstrators stood directly outside the room where Beshear's press conference was taking place and yelled "Open up Kentucky!" and "You're not a king."
"We do have some folks up here in Kentucky today, saying we should reopen Kentucky immediately, right now," the governor said. "Folks, that would kill people. It would absolutely kill people."
Newsweek reached out to Beshear's office for additional comment.
Beshear unveiled the state's phased plan to reopen its economy on Friday. The guidelines, which mimics those released by the Trump administration this week, includes benchmarks such as ramping up testing for health care professionals and a 14-day decrease in confirmed cases.
Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said that the state had "not yet hit a downward trajectory" and called the required two-week decline in cases a "significant hurdle" that still needs to be overcome. Beshear, however, noted that some measures may be lessened in the next few weeks.
"We see the ability to really start opening up in some small ways maybe leading up to May and some other small ways in May — and then have a lot more optimism as we get towards the end of it," he said.
As of Sunday afternoon, more than 764,000 individuals had tested positive for COVID-19 in the U.S., with over 40,500 deaths caused by the new disease and 71,000 recoveries.