Beshear Confirms 93 New COVID-19 Cases And 2 Deaths, State Sends 40,000 Acceptances For Unemployment
Governor Andy Beshear confirmed 93 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths in Kentucky today. He said the new cases are a decrease from Tuesday’s new cases and don’t represent a doubling of the overall number in the timeframe seen in other states.
“Our rate of increase is lower at the moment than anticipated and that’s a good thing overall for our healthcare capacity,” he said.
Beshear confirmed the new cases in the following counties:
Beshear said the new deaths are a 60-year-old male from Daviess County and a 76-year-old female from Hopkins County. He said Louisville announced another death today but state officials have not been able to confirm it. He said the total deaths in Kentucky from the virus is 20.
Beshear asked Kentuckians to light up their houses, businesses and universities green as a sign of solidarity. He said state officials will light up the governor’s mansion and the Capitol.
“We are in the surge. We know we’re in the increasing escalation of our curve in the next couple weeks and in fact this entire month is absolutely critical. We need everybody to give everything they’ve got during this period of time. Remember, we typically see the ramifications of how well we’re doing about two weeks later.”
He said there are three primary ways Kentucky can “attack” the coronavirus: social distancing, increasing healthcare capacity and increasing testing capacity.
Beshear confirmed more than 10,000 coronavirus tests administered in the state. He said University of Kentucky and University of Louisville are increasing their testing.
Beshear showed a graph the White House recently released modelling potential fatalities in the United States with and without intervention. He said the state is still working on modelling.
“We think this is a somewhat optimistic scenario. Our concerns are that the virus can spread faster than this and its toll may be greater than this,” he said.
Based on the federal numbers, state officials drew up a localized model for Kentucky. Beshear pointed out the difference between the curves on the model with and without social distancing.
“Remember not everyone out there is engaged in social distancing or significant social distancing right now.”
Beshear said state modeling will have different assumptions and different projections than the White House model.
Beshear said Kentuckians should be aware of coronavirus testing scams such as at-home testing and pop-up drive through testing.
Beshear said the Kentucky National Guard is deploying to help at food banks. He said they will assist by sorting and packing food into bags and boxes and distributing through no-touch food distributors. He said 70 National Guard members will be deployed to four different food bank warehouses in Louisville, Elizabethtown, Wilder and Lexington. He said the food banks will help feed seniors, families and any displaced workers.
Beshear recommended Kentuckians support local businesses and ring their bells at 10 a.m. He said people should continue to stay healthy at home. He also urged people to complete the Census.
“Folks if we’re healthy at home, we have time to complete the Census. After all this is over, the Census and how many we have sent back is going to decide how much federal aid we have in a number of key, critical areas.”
Beshear said completing the Census is a “patriotic duty” and will make “moving forward” much easier.
State Officials ‘Working Diligently’ To Change Unemployment Insurance System
Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Deputy Secretary Josh Benton acknowledged the problems people are having in applying for unemployment insurance and said state officials are working to change the system.
“The first thing we did was make sure that those individuals that we expanded coverage to were able to submit an application. And they were able to do that even though they were receiving messages that said that they were ineligible,” Benton said.
He said state officials were able to capture the applications and process them “behind the scenes.”
Benton said officials revamped the Kentucky Career Center website to house all information, including updates, regarding unemployment insurance in the state. He said more than 120 people, compared to the pre-pandemic 12, are staffing the phone lines to field questions on unemployment.
Benton said in the past three business days the line has received anywhere from 80,000 to 200,000 calls. He said that volume of calls is causing backlogs and hold times. He said they are working with vendors to add more people to answer calls.
“We would like you to prioritize who's calling,” Benton said. “There are some people who need to talk to someone to be able to file their claim. Those people are individuals who need to reset their pin or it's someone who might be having trouble with the online application that needs assistance.”
Benton reminded Kentuckians that scams may try to take advantage of them. He said messages not coming from a ky.gov email address is not from the state.
“We’re not going to call you and ask you for money,” he said. “Don’t provide any information to anyone who’s asking that. They’re trying to scam anyone who’s eligible for UI.”
Beshear said state officials sent last night 40,000 acceptances to people who applied for unemployment.
Hopkins County Hit ‘Really, Really Hard’
Beshear said Hopkins County has been hit “really, really hard.” He said a church in the county had a preacher from Texas visit Dawson Springs on March 15 and 16 for a revival. He said multiple families were sick and the church posted on social media that they “just had the flu.”
“According to several people interviewed, they were encouraged not to self quarantine and to still come to church. They did not practice social distancing at the revival,” he said.
Hopkins County currently has 24 cases with hundreds of contacts. Beshear said the cases and contacts have an “epidemiological link” to the revival. He said cases in Muhlenburg, Clark and Warren counties have also been related to the revival.
“It’s disappointing, because the [Madisonville] mayor and myself have really worked on communicating what is going on and the dangers of congregation,” said Hopkins County Judge-Executive Jack Whitfield Jr., in reaction to Beshear’s comments. “And we’re still seeing our numbers rise faster than anyone else around.”
Whitfield Jr. said he doesn’t know of any churches in the county that are still holding in-person services. But he said he plans to advise any organization, whether a church or a business, against holding in-person gatherings.
“It’s heartbreaking to see our community hurt from this virus,” he said.
Beshear said he thinks the county officials in Hopkins County are doing an amazing job in combating the coronavirus. The Mayor of Madisonville and Whitfield hold daily coronavirus updates on Facebook.
Beshear announced a new website portal to connect businesses interested in donating services or supplies with Kentuckians and Kentucky medical facilities in need.
?Beshear asked mayors and county judge-executives to monitor people gathering in public places such as parks and stop them if people are not practicing social distancing and risking the spread of COVID-19.
Unemployment eligibility has been expanded to include individuals typically not covered by unemployment insurance. This includes self-employed, independent contractors, freelance workers, substitute teachers and childcare workers employed by religious affiliated organizations and nonprofits.
?State officials have suspended evictions in for the duration of the COVID-19 Emergency.
Beshear established a Team Kentucky fund to help provide financial assistance to Kentuckians whose employment has been affected by this virus. People can donate to the fund that will be overseen by the Kentucky Public Protection Cabinet. Beshear said the fund will work like most popular fundraising platforms where people can “click a couple buttons and give instantly.” He said donations are tax-deductible.
State officials created a COVID-19 reporting hotline for people to report situations and groups or organizations they believe are dangerous. Beshear said this could be groups not engaging in social distancing or businesses not abiding by CDC guidelines. The hotline is 1-833-KYSAFER or 1-833-597-2337. The hotline will be staffed from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. by labor cabinet employees. People can also leave messages after hours. He said the hotline received roughly 2,000 last night.
Beshear said the state is taking “security measures” around hospitals to ensure safety. He said people will see additional law enforcement and National Guard around hospitals.
Beshear encouraged all radio and TV stations to do public service announcements. He said Kentucky needs more encouragement about social distancing and recommended stations pull information from the kycovid19.ky.gov website.
The state is going to be conducting a survey of outpatient surgical centers for their supplies and staff. Beshear said it's something the state is doing so it can “marshal every single resource at a time of need.”
The state is closing non-essential retail businesses to in-person traffic as of 8 p.m. Monday night. These include entertainment, sporting goods, clothing, shoes, jewelry, bookstores, florists, furniture and auto dealers. Beshear said these retail businesses can still do curbside and pickup and urged them to be “innovative.” He said stores unaffected by this order are grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, drug stores, liquor stores, hardware stores, agriculture supply and equipment stores and auto repairs and parts stores. Beshear said these stores still need to follow CDC guidelines and “spread people out.” He said auto dealers will still be able to provide repairs and parts and can only do sales if the interaction is complete online or over the phone.
The state, starting Monday, is mandating that medical facilities cease elective procedures. He said the vast majority of providers have responded to the state’s recommendation voluntarily.
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. People who are sick but would have not sought care should contact their healthcare provider to prevent flooding of health care facilities. People who have questions about the virus call the COVID-19 Hotline at (800) 722-5725.
A price gouging order is in effect. Kentuckians who have any information regarding possible price gouging should dial (888) 432-9257 for the Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection hotline.
Officials adjusted state government sick leave policy to ensure sick employees stay at home. Beshear said businesses should do the same. He encouraged all businesses to allow employees to work from home if at all possible.
The state published CDC guidelines with warnings for sick individuals. Beshear said people over the age of 60 or people with heart, lung or kidney disease; compromised immune systems; or diabetes should be extremely careful and avoid places with crowds. He said Kentuckians should not fly if they don’t have to and that no one should get on a cruise ship. CDC guidelines say everyone should be engaged in social distancing.
Beshear issued an executive order to waive copays, deductibles, cost-sharing and diagnostic testing fees for private insurance and state employees. He said the state has issued executive orders and worked in Medicaid to make sure COVID-19 testing and treatment is free.
Beshear signed an executive order to allow pharmacists to refill prescriptions for up to 30 days.
The state closed all state prisons to visitors.
Beshear said the state closed restaurants and bars to all in-person traffic, except for drive-thru, delivery and, in some instances, take-out.
Beshear said the state has limited visitation in “just about every type of facility that works with or for our seniors.”
The state has recommended schools cease in-class activities, including in-person classes. Beshear said Friday this has been extended to April 21 and, as of now, all school districts have complied.
Beshear said the state is making sure first responders and health care workers are covered through Kentucky Employers Mutual Insurance. The insurance provides wage replacement benefits for first responders and medical personnel who have been quarantined for COVID-19.
Child care centers are closed with the exception of those helping healthcare workers and first responders.
The state postponed primary elections, moving voting to June 23.
The state issued an executive order to close all public-facing businesses that encourage public congregation.
Beshear 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. Beshear said SBA’s website is fixed and small businesses can now apply online for the disaster loans they need. SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans applications can be completed and filed online at www.sba.gov/disaster.
All Kentuckians on the Grand Princess cruise ship were brought back home.
The state provided a three-month extension on driver’s licenses.
Beshear said the state is extending Medicaid, SNAP and other benefits: “If it’s running out and you would have to reapply in the next couple of months, you don’t have to.” He said the state is re-upping people on those benefits for a three-month period.
The state has suspended all charitable gaming licenses.
The state has issued a formal letter banning all mass gatherings.
The state is delaying the tax filing deadline by three months from April 15 to July 15.
Beshear said the state has issued guidance for good mental health.
Liam Niemeyer contributed to this story.