Health Politics

As other states discuss plans to reopen, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear told residents on Tuesday the Commonwealth has not yet reached its peak of coronavirus cases.

Beshear has said the length of time residents need to adhere to social distancing guidelines will be measured in months, not years, but the decisions of when and how to reopen the economy will be left in the hands of public health officials.

At Tuesday’s daily briefing, Kentucky’s governor was not prepared to advise universities to close for the year, but he also said he couldn’t envision sports arenas packed with tens of thousands of people this fall.

“Regardless of some of the other things that are being talked [about] out there, understand that we are on the slope up,” Beshear said. “We have not reached the top and we are not on the way back down.”

Beshear reported a total of 2,210 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Tuesday, including 115 deaths and 653 Kentuckians who have recovered from COVID-19.

The state continues to see a disproportionately high number of fatalities among black residents, who account for about 23 percent of all coronavirus deaths where race is known. Beshear also announced the first death of a staffer at a long-term care facility.

“These folks, this staff, they’re heroes too,” Beshear said. “They don’t just show up every day knowing they can contract the coronavirus. They show up every day trying to protect the most vulnerable.”

Testing Ramping Up

Nearly 28,000 people have been tested as of Tuesday, and testing continues to expand. Kroger Health completed 178 tests at its drive-thru in Frankfort on Tuesday with a goal ramping up to at least 250 tests per day.

Beshear said Kroger plans to open a second testing facility in Kenton County on Wednesday. That facility will be open for four days and plans to conduct 1,000 tests.

Testing will play a major role in returning the state to normal, because officials will need to track the spread of the virus, Beshear said.

“And what we find is, when we do a lot of testing, there are a lot of asymptomatic people out there and I think that is the same all around the country,” Beshear said.

Unemployment

Kentuckians continue to face challenges receiving unemployment as the state gets between 14,000 and 16,000 calls per day, said Josh Benton with the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

More than 520,000 people have signed up for unemployment insurance in Kentucky since March 16.

The most common reasons that people have not yet received their unemployment payments are because of overlapping claims, identity verification issues or because a claim is under investigation. Beshear continued to encourage residents to sign up even as they struggle to deal with the state’s antiquated system.

“But I know many of you out there still haven’t gotten the service you need. That is our fault. We are working through it,” Beshear said.

Doctor Armor

Personal protective equipment for the state’s doctors and first responders remains in short supply, said Public Health Commissioner Steven Stack.

“Now we’ve had to have, in some instances, nurses or doctors who use [the same masks] for the entire shift or even multiple days at a time,” Stack said.

As of Tuesday, health care facilities in Kentucky possessed 4.2 million gloves, 634,000 masks and just 37,000 gowns, according to the administration.

How did the state get that data?

Stack said the federal government is asking states to keep an inventory of each piece of equipment used at every single facility. That, he said, is how the federal government is determining where to send supplies.

Those supplies cover not just the doctors and nurses who are working in hospitals, but police, firefighters, EMTs and the workers in long-term care facilities, among others.

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

 

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.