Beshear Confirms 92 New Cases & 3 Deaths From COVID-19

Apr 4, 2020

Credit screenshot / via facebook live stream

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear confirmed 92 new coronavirus cases and 3 new deaths from COVID-19 in his Saturday statewide update.

Of the new cases reported to state authorities, 13 are in western Kentucky counties: five from Hopkins County, three from Christian County, one from Henderson County, one from Lyon County, and one from Webster County.

The Commonwealth now has 917 total cases of the coronavirus. 76 people are currently hospitalized. Beshear confirmed the state has administered 16,663 coronavirus tests.

Eric Friedlander represents the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. He advised listeners on how to apply Medicaid after recent modifications have been made. The once 20-page application for Medicaid has been reduced down to a single page, and anyone who doesn’t have healthcare and applies will be insured until June. 

The application can be found under the services page at kycovid19.ky.gov. Friedlander also said there are other resources available, including for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“There are other sites and numbers to call if you need help with food or buying groceries. That's what SNAP is about,” Friedlander said. 

He said calls regarding SNAP can be answered Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. EST to 5 p.m. EST, and 9 a.m. EST through 2 p.m. EST on Saturdays.

For immediate food needs, Friedlander said individuals can call 211, for a service provided by the United Way to help people find local food banks.

Beshear also shared the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's recent advice on facemask protocol. 

“The CDC is now advised that wearing a cloth face mask may help reduce the spread of COVID-19. So, if you were going to the grocery store and you can't control how many people are in there, that's one of the times that they're suggesting wearing the mask,” Beshear said. 

The governor explained according to the CDC, the masks prevent droplets from sneezing or coughing from spreading toward anyone else. Beshear also warned wearing a facemask could lead to an increase in an individual touching their face in public. 

“So wearing a cloth mask in public, when it is more difficult to maintain a safe distance, may help reduce the risk of it spreading,” Beshear said. “However, if you've got a cloth face mask on and you're moving it around a bunch, it's not helping you. It's actually hurting you based on everything you would be touching in a grocery store or anything else.” 

Beshear asked the general public to only wear cloth masks and leave more advanced surgical masks and N-95 masks for healthcare providers. He said facemasks are a voluntary public health measure for Kentucky, although the guidance does come from the CDC.

In preparation for the expected upcoming surge of hospitalizations, the state is working on increasing their health care capacity. This includes getting more personal protective equipment (PPE), a task that is becoming more difficult, according to Beshear. 

“Everytime we expect an order of PPE, it doesn't come. Certainly, the N-95 masks don't come. Either the vendor who was supposed to be sending it to us will tell us the federal government bought it, typically FEMA,” Beshear said. “Now the challenge that we have is that we don't have direct producers of this In Kentucky, so we have to get it in. A lot of this right now is coming from overseas, and it never makes it past that port of entry to come our direction. Instead, it's diverted elsewhere.” 

Donations for PPE can be dropped off at any Kentucky State Police post, or given at giveppe.ky.gov

Beshear also responded to reports the pastor of Maryville Baptist Church in Maryville, Kentucky, was going to defy the state ban on mass gatherings to hold services. 

“If you are still holding mass gatherings, church or otherwise, you are spreading the coronavirus and you are likely causing the death of Kentuckians. It is that clear,” Beshear said.

During the press conference, Beshear shared a graph of community mitigation goals from the CDC. Lines on the graph represented the consequences in terms of statewide deaths of different courses of action, including the scenario of a three-month stay at home with poor compliance, and a three-month stay at home with strict compliance. 

 

CDC line graph showing three different levels of potential community mitigation results
Credit screenshot / via facebook live

Beshear said Kentucky is currently operating under strict compliance, with the exception of organizations like Maryville Baptist Church. 

“If this pastor wants to still hold a live service, I mean, folks, that's how people die. That's how we go from strict compliance to the poor compliance,” Beshear said.

Beshear said his goal is to keep the commonwealth operating under strict compliance. According to the CDC graph, the difference between poor compliance and strict compliance represents about 11,000 Kentucky deaths.

“This is our chance to be a great generation and to pass our test of humanity. This is our chance to say we care more about the health of other people than our economic certainty at this moment,” Beshear said. 

Steps The State Has Taken To Address COVID-19

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

  • 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 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.

Sydni Anderson contributed to this post.