FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 1, 2020) – Gov. Andy Beshear on Wednesday asked Kentuckians to focus on what we can do here to fight the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
“Our aggressive actions and everything you have sacrificed is making a difference,” the Governor said. “It is making a difference.”
As we head into a critical month in the global pandemic’s spread in the United States and throughout the commonwealth, Gov. Beshear said Kentuckians should concentrate efforts on three key areas to blunt the deadly outbreak. Social distancing is the main component, Gov. Beshear said, including everything from keeping at least six feet apart in public spaces to limiting all non-essential travel.
“I know it feels like this is all out of our control, but it is actually more in your control than most crises that we face, because your actions, your choices can reduce the spread of the virus,” the Governor said.
Gov. Beshear said the issue becomes harder to manage as the weather turns more favorable. He issued a warning ahead of this weekend.
“We cannot let a beautiful weekend ultimately harm the people around us,” the Governor said.
Gov. Beshear called on reporters and news anchors to post videos about social distancing on social media to help convince their followers to make the right choices this weekend.
“We’ve appreciated everything that you’ve done,” he said. “My challenge to you – and you’ve got two days to do it – is to get that message out.”
The Governor also shared information about COVID-19 cases that have been linked to a failure of social distancing at a church revival in Hopkins County, which was held following his order to end in-person services.
“Hopkins County has been hit really, really hard,” the Governor said. He read excerpts from a communication from the Hopkins County Health Department that said dozens of people in the community had fallen ill after they attended a church revival in Dawson Springs and did not then self-isolate themselves. The health official said Hopkins County has connected 24 positive cases and two deaths to the revival contacts.
The second thing Kentucky can do to fight the coronavirus is boost the state’s health care resources. Gov. Beshear said he and his staff are working every day to secure more equipment. A recent count of the state’s health care resources found 18,500 hospital beds, 1,300 ICU beds and 1,352 ventilators, though the Governor said those resources have been added to in recent weeks.
The third key is to boost testing. “I can confirm we’ve done more than 10,000 tests,” the Governor said. He said more tests coming in will make it easier to deploy resources.
Helping Kentucky workers
While working to prevent the worst outcomes, Gov. Beshear has committed to protecting workers across the commonwealth whose livelihoods already have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Josh Benton, deputy secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, said officials are working to fix problems brought on by an unprecedented surge in unemployment claims.
Benton said the claims website, kcc.ky.gov, has been completely revamped for ease of use and capacity is being continuously added to the call center. Benton said the center went from fielding about 1,500 calls per day to anywhere from 80,000 to 200,000 calls per day.
In these unprecedented times, the Governor has expanded access for groups not normally eligible for unemployment insurance. Substitute teachers, freelance workers, small-business owners, restaurant workers and more can access a range of benefits.
Gov. Beshear said Wednesday that the Kentucky National Guard was being called into action to help feed the commonwealth’s seniors, families and displaced workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
National Guard members will deploy to four regional food bank warehouses: Dare to Care Food Bank in Louisville; Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland in Elizabethtown; Freestore Foodbank in Wilder; and God’s Pantry Food Bank in Lexington.
Members will sort and pack food into bags and boxes, and distribute that food through “no-touch” deliveries in communities across the commonwealth.
“This support for Kentucky’s food banks will help our community members continue to receive food and pantry items that they desperately need,” said Brig. Gen. Hal Lamberton, Kentucky’s Adjutant General.
Emergencies can make people vulnerable to scams. Gov. Beshear and Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner for the Department for Public Health, warned Kentuckians to be wary of coronavirus testing scams. The Governor said there were both at-home tests being sold and some drive-up testing operations being reported.
“You shouldn’t be handing over your hard-earned and precious money to go get pop-up testing anywhere,” said Dr. Stack, who urged anyone feeling ill or with questions to follow the state’s guidance on when to call health care providers.
Finally, Gov. Beshear reminded Kentuckians to complete the 2020 Census at 2020Census.gov while staying healthy at home.
“We want to make sure every single person in Kentucky is counted so our state receives the correct amount of federal funding over the next 10 years,” the Governor said. “These dollars will help us recover from the health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19.”
As of 5 p.m. April 1, the Governor said there were 680 cases of COVID-19 in Kentucky, 93 of which were newly confirmed. There were two new deaths reported Wednesday, raising the state’s toll to 20 deaths related to the virus.