Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear says the next two weeks are crucial in determining how far and how fast the coronavirus spreads in Kentucky.
As states begin to see a rapid escalation in confirmed cases, Beshear called on Kentuckians to find the courage and benevolence to do what is necessary to protect the state’s most vulnerable residents.
“Oftentimes, we have been called to do very difficult things. Our challenge here is about staying home, it’s about staying home more than we ever have,” Beshear said during a Wednesday evening press conference. “Those sacrifices will saves lives and I can tell you I’m proud of what we are doing.”
As of Wednesday, Kentucky has tested 3,300 people and confirmed 198 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Beshear announced a fifth person has died from the virus in Kentucky; a 75-year-old man in Jefferson County.
Among the new measures announced, Beshear said additional law enforcement and the Kentucky National Guard will begin providing additional services at hospitals in the coming days.
The governor emphasized the National Guard will not be deployed to patrol neighborhoods.
Unemployment benefits have been expanded to cover independent contractors, small business owners, gig economy workers, cosmetologists, substitute teachers, childcare workers at churches and anyone who has had to leave their job because of quarantine or paid leave.
“There is zero stigma with being on public assistance right now,” Beshear said. “Knowing the ramifications of the decisions I’ve made, and it’s on me, I want to make sure you get through this in a good place.”
The state plans to open its first drive-thru testing site next week, though Beshear said it will be for specific groups only, and will serve as a proof-of-concept for future testing sites.
He also issued an executive order suspending evictions in the commonwealth. Kentuckians will still owe their rent, but will not be removed from their homes.
The administration has also setup a website to help businesses understand what will and won’t be closed following Beshear’s order—taking effect Thursday— to shutter all “non-life-sustaining businesses” to in-person traffic.
Finally, Beshear admonished young Kentuckians who went on spring break vacations. Already, one reveler returned from Florida and tested positive for the virus, temporarily shutting down at least one building as a result, Beshear said.
Beshear asked that anyone who has returned from a recent spring break trip to isolate themselves for two weeks.
The governor finished by again calling on Kentuckians to do everything they can to help others and limit the spread of the coronavirus.
“Team Kentucky, this has been special seeing you come together,” he said. “We are showing the absolute best of humanity, but we have to do even more.”