Health

Gov. Andy Beshear announced 322 new cases of coronavirus in Kentucky Friday, the largest daily increase so far. Beshear said the increase is partly due to the state’s efforts to expand testing and that he still believes Kentucky is in the “plateau” of the pandemic.

There are 3,779 confirmed coronavirus cases in Kentucky as of Friday evening. Beshear reported nine new deaths associated with the illness, for a total of 200.

The governor said the uptick in cases shows that Kentuckians need to keep practicing social distancing guidelines.

“We’ve got to stay at it, we’ve got to stay strong. This is a reminder, or even a wake up, of what we’re dealing with,” Beshear said.

Nursing homes have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, with 578 residents and 268 staff testing positive for coronavirus. There have been 91 coronavirus deaths in Kentucky long-term facilities.

Beshear also announced that an additional 352 state prisoners convicted of non-violent, non-sexual crimes near the end of their sentences have been released from state custody. Beshear said all of the prisoners had five years or fewer remaining on their punishments and that 339 of them were state inmates serving out their punishments in local jails.

Beshear said it might be possible that some coronavirus restrictions will be lifted by Memorial Day on May 25, but that Kentuckians need to be prepared to still engage in social distancing and wear masks in public.

“At best we’ll be dealing with a new normal,” Beshear said. “We’ll be able to do many more things, but the way we do them is dramatically changed. I think it’s really important for people to know we will reach something akin to an old normal once we have a vaccine or a very effective treatment.”

Secretary of State Michael Adams joined Beshear during his daily coronavirus update on Friday to talk about the expansion of mail-in and absentee voting during Kentucky’s June 23 primary elections.

Adams said Kentucky won’t have the partisanship that has divided other states when deciding how elections should proceed during the pandemic.

“In Ohio and Wisconsin, you had party versus party, you had branch of government versus branch of government, you had brinksmanship and then the voters not being clear on what the rules would be until very late in the process,” Adams said.

All Kentuckians will be able to vote by mail during the June 23 primary elections, though they will have to request a ballot on the State Board of Elections website to do so.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.