Coronavirus Update For Friday, April 17
On Friday, Gov. Andy Beshear laid out a series of benchmarks for reversing his executive orders closing businesses and banning gatherings of more than 10 people. But Beshear has not set a date for when he will reopen Kentucky.
One day earlier, President Donald Trump laid out guidelines for easing social distancing restrictions in three phases, starting with the return of restaurants and gyms, and progressing to schools and eventually workplaces.
“We believe our approach is very much in line with the White House,” Gov. Beshear said. “The plan put out by the White House has certain thresholds that states should meet before we start taking certain steps. The benchmarks are being driven by public health. We are all on the same page about what keeps people safe.”
Here are the benchmarks the governor will use to decide when to advance to the first stage, according to a state press release:
- 14 days where cases are decreasing
- Increased testing capacity and contact tracing
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) availability
- Ability to protect at-risk populations
- Ability to social distance and follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on large gatherings
- Preparedness for possible future spike
- Status of vaccine and treatment
Even when the first stage benchmarks are met, individuals would still be required to practice good hygiene, stay home if they feel sick, shelter in place if they are vulnerable due to age or other health conditions, maximize physical distance from others, avoid gatherings of more than 10 people unless precautionary measures are observed, minimize non-essential travel and adhere to federal guidelines regarding isolation following travel.
Employers would be required to continue encouraging employees to telework, have workers return in phases If possible, close common areas, minimize non-essential travel and mandate employees follow federal guidelines including self-quarantining after traveling. Employers should also consider making special accommodations for personnel who are members of a vulnerable population.
During the first phase of reopening the economy, schools and organized youth activities would remain closed, visits to senior living facilities and hospitals should still be prohibited, large venues (sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues, places of worship) would only be able to operate if they followed strict physical distancing protocols, elective surgeries could resume on an outpatient basis at facilities that adhere to federal guidelines, gyms can reopen if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols. However, bars would remain closed.
For more information on the White House’s criteria and all three proposed phases of reopening, visit whitehouse.gov/openingamerica.
“We think that following these benchmarks, possibly before May we could see some loosening in the health care area,” Gov. Beshear said. “We could see the ability to open up in some small ways before May, during May and beyond, but this will be a phased approach based on our benchmarks and recommendations from many groups. We have to ensure any actions we take protect the sacrifices that so many Kentuckians have made.”
Almost since first acting to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the governor has been under political pressure to reopen the economy, including protests and calls from business owners and political leaders. Beshear has even been sued—most recently by a group of churchgoers in Boone County.
However, the biggest obstacle to reopening the economy is a lack of capacity for testing. So far, less than one-percent of the population of Kentucky has been tested, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. Even if Kentucky could increase its testing capacity, there is still not enough personal protective equipment for healthcare workers to safely administer the tests. At the drive-thru testing sites recently opened through a partnership between the commonwealth and Kroger, people are administering their own tests as a way to conserve PPE.
The other key for reopening the economy is a vaccine or a treatment for the virus. Dr. Steven Stack, the commissioner of the Department for Public Health, said a vaccine likely won’t be available until 2021.
“Normal going forward is not the same as normal going into this,” Dr. Stack said. “When we start lifting restrictions, I want to be very clear, there will be more disease. More people will get infected. There is a counterbalancing need with people’s need to go on with life and people’s need to remain safe.”
Gov. Beshear announced Friday that there were 134 new cases, raising the state’s total to 2,522 COVID-19 cases. There were eight new deaths, raising the state’s toll to 137.
Around the world, there have been over 2.2-million confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about a third of them—692,169—here in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been over 150,000 deaths, with most of them—28,998—here in the U.S. Over half a million people around the world have recovered from COVID-19, with nearly a fifth of them—83,114—in Germany.
On Thursday, it was announced that one of the new COVID-19 cases was a 10-day-old baby. Governor Beshear announced Friday that the baby is now home and is doing well.
Four new drive-thru testing sites will open next week, in Madisonville, Paducah, Somerset and Pikeville. The four sites will be open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Beshear said they hope to perform 1,000 tests. Each site is available not just to local residents but to the residents of the contiguous counties.
The testing will be provided free for healthcare workers, first responders, individuals 65 years or older and those who have chronic health conditions.
For more information, visit Krogerhealth.com/covidtesting.
The state has created a hotline (1-833-GIVE PPE) and website (giveppe.ky.gov) to streamline the donation process. In addition, PPE donations can be accepted at all 16 Kentucky State Police posts and at Transportation Cabinet offices in Louisville and Lexington.
Callers can reach the Kentucky COVID-19 Hotline at 1-800-722-5725, visit the Kentucky COVID-19 website at kycovid19.ky.gov or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
The Kentucky Public Protection Cabinet has established the Team Kentucky Fund, an online platform to provide financial help to Kentuckians whose employment is affected by the coronavirus. The governor challenged those who are able to help to make a tax-deductible donation to the fund. In addition, a website portal has been created to streamline the process for businesses looking to donate supplies and services for Kentuckians in need.
The state has also created the COVID-19 Reporting Hotline (833-597-2337) that will investigate complaints about non-compliance with coronavirus mandates. Labor Cabinet personnel will monitor the hotline from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET. There is also a new state website Kentuckians can visit to make online complaints kysafer.ky.gov.