Governor Andy Beshear confirmed 103 cases of COVID-19 in Kentucky in today’s update. Beshear said this increase was expected as more tests are administered and more labs come online.
New cases are from Fayette, Jefferson, Christain, Hardin and Henderson Counties. One case is in northern Kentucky. Beshear said he doesn’t have the locations on four of the cases. He said it’s harder to get the data in with more labs online. But he said this is good because testing capacity has increased.
Beshear said two new labs--University of Kentucky and Diatherics--have recently come online. He said the state believes there have been over 2,000 tests administered in Kentucky. Of the tests the state has information on, Beshear said the average age of people who tested positive for COVID-19 is 53.3 years old. He said while the hospitalization rate amongst those who have been tested and have symptoms is somewhat high, the ICU rate is around six percent.
People who are sick but have not sought care should call the COVID-19 Hotline at (800) 722-5725 or their medical doctor to prevent flooding of health care facilities. Beshear said the hotline has had 22,841 calls as of yesterday since its establishment. He said the hotline receives roughly 2,400 calls a day. He said people who are healthy but nervous do not need to call the hotline or the doctor. Beshear said they should practice good hygiene and engage in social distancing. He said people who are sick but otherwise would have not sought care should call the hotline.
Beshear said social distancing helps to “flatten the curve.” He said every person who oesn’t follow the guidance and holds public meetings undermines the sacrifices of others. He said a Lewis County pastor is refusing to close in-person services at their church.
“Bringing together some of the most vulnerable in a small room when we know that this virus has been passed around in churches, means that you are harming your congregation and it undermines the sacrifice of every other church,” Beshear said.
He said Kentickians should follow guidelines to make sure the healthcare system is not overwhelmed and maintains the capacity to take care of sick people. He said it’s important for the people who get really sick to have access to doctors, nurses and the resources they need to get better.
“The more that we have this the sooner in our future we will be able to do that type of testing that all of us want to see, where everybody could get a test even if it's just because you're nervous. We’re not there yet and it may take us some time to get there. But I’m working everyday to get us there.”
As of Monday night at 8 p.m. the state is closing non-essential retail businesses to in-person traffic. These include entertainment, sporting goods, clothing, shoes, jewelry, bookstores, florists, furniture and auto dealers. Beshear said hardware stores are essential to home repairs and wants to make sure those stay open. He said stores unaffected by this order are grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, drug stores, liquor stores and auto repairs and parts stores.
“Don’t rush to any of these types of stores. All that does is create a crowd that can spread the Coronavirus,” Beshear said.
He said these retail businesses can still do curbside and pickup.
Beshear said the state, starting tomorrow, is mandating that medical facilities cease elective procedures. He said the vast majority of providers have responded to the state’s recommendation voluntarily.
“But whether it’s a group of chiropractors, that have been exceedingly difficult, or others that think that they should be the exception, it is now requiring us to turn it into a mandate.”
Steps Taken To Address COVID-19
Kentucky has issued a state of emergency that Beshear said will last until COVID-19 is “taken care of.” He said the state’s emergency management operations center is up, as well as the state health operations center.
The state established the COVID-19 hotline and a website providing updates on the virus for Kentuckians.
Beshear said there is also a hotline to prevent price gouging. A price gouging order is in effect. Kentuckians who see price gouging occuring should dial (888) 432-9257.
Beshear said every major grocery in the country and the state has said there is going to be enough products.
“You don’t need to buy for a month. Buy for a week at most...Make sure that you buy enough for your family, but there’s enough for the next family coming behind you,” he said.
Beshear said officials have adjusted sick leave policy in state government, but businesses should do the same.
“Every business out there needs to do the same. Paid sick leave is the way you make sure an employee that is sick does not come back to work.”
CDC guidelines say everyone should be engaged in social distancing. Beshear said people over the age of 60 or people with heart, lung or kidney disease; compromised immune systems; or diabetes be extremely careful. He said Kentuckians should not fly if they don’t have to.
Beshear said the state has issued executive orders and worked in Medicaid to make sure COVID-19 testing and treatment is free.
He said the state has limited visitation in “just about every type of facility that works with or for our seniors.”
Beshear also said the state has recommended schools cease in-class activities, including in-person classes. He said Friday this has been extended to April 21 and, as of now, all school districts have complied.
Beshear recommended parents keep kids on a schedule where they have scholastic and physical activities.
Beshear said the state is making sure first responders and health care workers are covered through Kentucky employers mutual insurance. He said the state has also asked hospitals to cease elective procedures.
Child care centers are closed with the exception of those helping healthcare workers and first responders.
All Kentuckians on the Grand Princess cruise ship were brought back home.
Beshear said the state closed restaurants and bars to all in-person traffic, except for drive-thru, delivery and, in some instances, take-out.
He said the state has waived the waiting period for unemployment insurance and continues to work to reduce the barriers to unemployment. Beshear said they are working on unemployment for independent contractors and small business owners.
The federal government’s Small Business Administration has granted Kentucky application to allow small businesses to get disaster loans. But Beshear said the SBA has not updated their website for Kentuckians to apply.
“That’s not acceptable. I have called...to speak to either HHS or the vice president’s office.They listened to the call today. It sounds like they are on it,” he said.
Beshear said the state is going to do everything it can to extend things like driver’s licenses. He said the state is extending Medicaid, SNAP and “all the benefits that people are on that are out there.”
“If it’s running out and you would have to reapply in the next couple of months, you don’t have to,” Beshear said.
He said the state is re-upping people on those benefits for a three-month period.
The state issued an executive order to close all public-facing businesses that encourage public congregation.
Beshear said they’ve made changes to Medicaid to ensure people could get signed up and suspended all charitable licenses. He said the state has issued a formal letter banning all mass gatherings.
Unemployment Insurance Claims
Behsear said he believes he shared a wrong statistic regarding unemployment insurance applications on Friday. He had originally said that applications were up eight times the number from this time last year, which was 1,957. Beshear amended his statement and said applications this year are actually 30 times that number.
He said people filing unemployment claims this week need to follow the picture schedule. He said people won’t be penalized if they follow the schedule and have a later day because of their last name.
Beshear said people should remember that Medicaid and SNAP are also available.
Beshear reminded people to limit their contacts and that the safest place for them to be is at home.
“That doesn’t mean you can’t go for walks. That doesn’t mean you can’t go to the grocery store. It just means that you do your part by limiting your contacts as much as possible,” he said.
Beshear said ‘healthy at home’ allows people to get their essentials from the community and go out to get the exercise they need, while still practicing socially distancing. He said he is confident in the food chain supply.
“There is going to be enough. In fact, we are our own worst enemy in that. The issue isn’t there isn’t enough in stores. It’s that we take too much when we go to the stores.”
Connecting With Amish and Mennonite Communities
Beshear said Todd County Health Director Jen Harris has worked with the Amish and Mennonite communities in the Todd County area. Beshear said Harris has effectively communicated the type of restrictions and social distancing needed for COVID-19 response to those communities. He said this communication is needed across the state and is willing to share Harris’s contact information for those who need it.
Utilizing Hotels For Patients Or People In Need
Beshear said the state is working on using empty hotel rooms for those that need it. He thanked the hospitality industry for “stepping up” and making offers. He said they are going through planning right now.
Beshear said he wished the best to U.S. Senator Rand Paul and his family after news that Paul tested positive for COVID-19.
“I believe right now there’s no Republicans. There’s no Democrats. There’s just Americans against the Coronavirus,” he said. “And I believe with his vote [Rand] that seem to place limitations on getting this aid, we still want him to be healthy.”