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Public Health Commissioner Gives Dates For Healthcare Reopening, Beshear Confirms 87 New Cases

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Screenshot of Governor Andy Beshear's Facebook Live
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Governor Andy Beshear confirmed 87 new cases of COVID-19 in Kentucky today and five deaths. He said the number of new cases is the “lowest number I think we’ve had in a couple of weeks.” Beshear also said he thinks the cases in the state have “plateaued.”

He said the deaths include two females, an 81-year-old and an 88-year-old, in Hopkins County.

The Marshall County Health Department received notification of the county’s first confirmed death related to coronavirus. The individual was an 86 year old female who had been in an area hospital. Marshall County Health Department Public Health Director Billy Pitts said the department “extends our heartfelt sympathies to the patient’s family and friends.” 

“This serves as a very unfortunate reminder to the community about the importance of social distancing and other guidance offered in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 and help protect our most vulnerable neighbors,” Pitts said. 

Beshear said the state also has one probable cause and one probable death from coronavirus. He said the state currently has 4,146 total cases with 48,799 people tested. He said 1,521 have recovered.

Unemployment Insurance Update

Beshear said last night 150,000 claims were processed at $174 million. He said the checks should be mailed out, or the money should go into people’s bank accounts today. He said these are payments the people who had already qualified for unemployment have not received.

“I made a commitment that we would take care of those who had applied in March this week,” Beshear said.

He said 282,000 claims were filed in March and 183,000 have been paid out so far. He said 70,000 claims are going to be paid out tonight. 

“That leaves 30,000 claims that we’re going to resolve this week,” he said. “Unfortunately it’s going to take a little bit of time in these because a couple of bad apples can make this challenge that much more difficult.”

Beshear said someone applied for unemployment insurance for Tupac Shakur. 

“And that person probably thought they were funny,” Beshear said. “Except for the fact that because of them, we’ve got to go through so many other claims.”

Kentucky Healthcare Reopening

Phase 1 of Healthcare reopening began today. 

Beshear said starting to reopen the state with health care allows a “controlled and safe area to start this expansion” because healthcare professionals are used to dealing with contagion. 

Kentucky Department for Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said several guidelines exist for all phases of reopening: 

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Credit Screenshot of Governor Andy Beshear's Facebook Live
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Stack said state officials have tried to procure PPE in order to help with a coronavirus surge but have not procured PPE to provide for regular business operations. 

“This is not intended to single out or punish anyone,” Stack said. “In order for healthcare to safely operate it has to be able to get the materials it needs through normal channels. We’re going to tell you here dates you could potentially open back up but if you don’t have the materials you need to comply with these rules then you can’t open up.”

He said all phases are subject to delay or roll-back if the state experiences a second coronavirus surge.

Stack asked healthcare facilities to reach out to their respective professional associations for guidance. He said dentists should visit the Kentucky Board of Dentistry website.

Stack said dates have been added to the healthcare reopening slides. 

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Credit Screenshot of Governor Andy Beshear's Facebook Live
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Credit Screenshot of Governor Andy Beshear's Facebook Live
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Credit Screenshot of Governor Andy Beshear's Facebook Live
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Credit Screenshot of Governor Andy Beshear's Facebook Live
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“I urge you to not become complacent,” Stack said. “Just because the disease right now seems to be at a plateau it is not a time to feel that you are safe. It is not a time to feel that this is not still a serious threat. This is exactly the time when we are at risk from the greatest harm if people start to get lax about complying with the things we ask you to do.

Beshear said he hopes to gradually reopen in a “smart and safe” way. 

“This is the way we are going to move into a broader phase one opening,” he said. “We are going to start working through, in different chunks, week by week things that fall in that phase one. And we’re going to, later this week probably Wednesday, talk about the first piece that we’re going to try to put into effect May 11.”

He said every week thereafter for four weeks, state officials are going to gradually ease some restrictions and bring some groups and some industries back online. He said officials will ease restrictions or “have more Healthy at Work happening” on May 11, May 18, May 25 and June 1.

Beshear said by May 11 everyone should be wearing masks in every area the state is reopening and in essential businesses. He said people who are not healthcare workers should have cloth masks, not N95 or surgical masks.

Testing & Tracing

Beshear said Bowling Green testing will continue from Tuesday through Friday of this week to Tuesday through Friday of next week. Owensboro will also have continued testing into next week.

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Credit Screenshot of Governor Andy Beshear's Facebook Live
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Beshear said until vaccines and treatments are available, testing and tracing are important to fight the coronavirus. Beshear said state officials have a plan where 700 additional people, as well as others in Jefferson County and other regions, will work on contact tracing throughout the state. The state Department of Health will also have 20 more people working on tracing. Beshear said the state will also have a request for proposal out this week for private sector partners to help trace contacts. 

Steps The State Has Taken To Address COVID-19

  • ?Announced that Monday, April 27, the state will begin the gradual restart and reopening of our Phase 1 health care services and facilities, although they will operate vastly different than they did before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). Click here for detailed guidance.

  • Announced the launch of "Healthy at Work," a new initiative to help Kentucky businesses reopen safely as we fight the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).

  • The state will work to expand testing in predominantly African-American communities. 

  • The Murray Calloway-County Hospital is providing drive-thru COVID-19 testing to residents of the region. 

  • In-class educational instruction will cease for the remainder of the Spring 2020 Semster.

  • Kroger will be setting up drive-up testing sites in Madisonville and Paducah beginning April 21.

  • ?Beshear announced benchmarks Kentucky must meet in order to start reopening the state's economy while keeping Kentuckians safe from the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). The steps reflect federal guidance announced Thursday by the White House.

  • ? Kentucky is joining with Governors, Eric Holcomb of Indiana, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Tony Evers of Wisconsin, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Tim Walz of Minnesota and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan to closely coordinate plans to reopen the regional economies when the time is right.

  • License plate numbers of any individual attending in-person gatherings will be recorded by state and local officials. The residents will then receive quarantine notices in person from their local health departments.

  • Beshear issued an executive order limiting the number of people in stores that remain open. Only one adult per household should shop at one time.

  • The state is increasing unemployment hotline operators from 12 to more than 1,000.

  • The Department of Public Health is introducing a tiered system to streamline COVID-19 testing. Public Health Commissioner Steven Stack announced a partnership with 32 Kentucky hospitals to expand access to testing, especially in the rural parts of the commonwealth. 

  • Beshear issued an executive order commuting the sentences for 186 C and D felons. 

  • Beshear has issued a 14-day quarantine for returning Kentucky residents who have left the state for reasons other than: caring for a loved one, going to the closest grocery store for supplies, parental visitation, going to work

  • State officials are moving ahead with plans to convert the Louisville Fairgrounds into a field hospital with at least 2,000 beds. Beshear said the state is working in conjunction with the National Guard and Army Corps of Engineers.

  • State officials banned overnight stays in state parks. Beshear said this includes campgrounds and lodges.

  • Beshear extended the policy of no in-person instruction in schools through at least Friday, May 1.

  • Beshear announced an executive order expanding travel restrictions to where out-of-state people travelling into Kentucky need to quarantine for fourteen days “wherever they’re coming.” People who are just stopping for gas in the state are not included in the order.

  • Beshear issued an executive order allowing critical workforce sectors to rehire previously retired workers to fill key roles.

  • Beshear issued an executive order easing restrictions on nurses who live out of state and making it quicker to obtain a license.

  • 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 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. 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 is mandating 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 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.

Hannah Bullard and Dalton York contributed to this post.
 

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