Health

Gov. Andy Beshear said two more people have died due to COVID-19: a 60-year-old man in Daviess County, and a 76-year-old woman in Hopkins County, bringing the state’s death toll to 20.

As of Wednesday evening, Kentucky has around 680 confirmed cases of the disease.

During his Wednesday press briefing, Beshear said he continues to be frustrated that Kentucky is struggling to compete with the federal government in buying up the country’s limited supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), like face-masks.

“I know that every day that we can’t get it [PPE] we are putting people’s safety on the line. Yes. It is a major problem,” he said.

Beshear said most of the available equipment is going directly to FEMA. The governor also noted that Kentucky has only received a small portion of what the state has requested from the federal government, as previously reported by The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

On the plus side, Beshear said the state has made progress in increasing the number of hospital beds and ventilators. He said he expects arrangements to temporarily convert two hotels into hospitals will add 8,000 beds to the existing 18,000. He also expects the state to get an additional 71 ventilators to add to the state’s 1,352 – much short of his goal to double the number of the critical devices.

While trying to prepare for an influx of patients, the state is also working to address a huge backlog of unemployment insurance claims. Beshear said he’s heard reports about long wait times and problems with the website.

“We haven’t been able to move fast enough. It’s an unprecedented time. It’s an amount of claims that we’ve never seen before,” he said. “But you know what, it’s our job to fix it.”

Josh Benton, Deputy Secretary of Kentucky’s Education and Workforce Cabinet, said they’ve updated the website and are trying to hire more people to work the phones.

Benton said those seeking unemployment insurance should use the online application to file and check claims if possible, and save the phone lines for people who have a disability or who are having technical issues with the website.

He said 150 state workers processed 70,000 unemployment insurance claims in the past three days.

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.