Beshear Confirms 198 COVID-19 Cases In Kentucky; Death Toll Rises To Five

Mar 25, 2020

Credit Screenshot / Governor Andy Beshear

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear confirmed Wednesday 198 cases of the novel coronavirus in Kentucky at his daily press conference on the pandemic. He said that’s an increase of 35 cases from Tuesday. The number of new cases was lower than the previous day’s new cases, which Beshear said is good news. He said the next two weeks will be critical in the fight against the virus.

"Now is that crunch time," Beshear said. "Please follow the guidance more than you ever have."

Beshear also announced the commonwealth’s fifth death associated with the virus: A 75-year old male from Jefferson County.

Beshear said the new cases come from Daviess, Fayette, Franklin, Grayson, Jefferson, Jessamine, Kenton, Laurel, Madison, McReary, Nelson, Oldham, Warren and Wayne counties. A second case was also reported Wednesday in Calloway County. 

At least one case confirmed Wednesday comes as a result of a college student returning home from a spring break trip after contracting the virus. Beshear said spring break trips should be canceled as many travel destinations grapple with virus outbreaks.

“The answer is no. We can’t go on spring break,” he said. 

Unemployment Benefits

Beshear announced a wide expansion of unemployment benefits aimed to help Kentuckians who would not traditionally qualify for benefits. Those now eligible for benefits include cosmetologists, substitute teachers, those who are self-employed and other independent contractors. 

Credit Screenshot / Governor Andy Beshear

Drive-Through Testing

Kentucky’s capacity for coronavirus testing will increase next week with the state’s first drive-through testing facility. Beshear said the site will be limited to strict testing criteria. He said additional drive-through facilities will potentially open next week as well. He explained that resources will be limited, but the new sites signal the arrival of more tests than have previously been available. A partnership regarding drive-through testing could be announced at Thursday’s COVID-19 press conference.

Tele-Health Services

Acting Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friendlander announced an expansion of telehealth services in the commonwealth. Telehealth providers allow for access to healthcare services without physically visiting a hospital or doctor’s office. 

“We have entered various orders to allow more telehealth in Kentucky than ever before,” Friedlander said. 

State leaders received waivers from the federal government to allow the expansion, which will include some services including home health.

Steps Taken To Address COVID-19

  • Beshear announced a new Team Kentucky fund that went live today. He said the fund is an “opportunity to make sure that we can help with as many sacrifices that people are making as possible.” People can donate to the fund to help provide financial assistance to Kentuckians whose employment has been affected by this virus. The fund 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. 

  • Beshear also announced a COVID-19 reporting hotline for people to report situations and groups or organizations they believe are dangerous. He 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. Beshear said 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 also taking “security measures” around hospitals to ensure safety. He said people will see additional law enforcement and National Guard around hospitals.

  • Beshear also 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.