Beshear ends non-essential retail, elective medical procedures; calls out violators, including a church; Sen. Paul has the virus

As news develops in Kentucky about the coronavirus and its covid-19 disease, this page will be updated. Official state guidance is at https://kycovid19.ky.gov.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

  • Gov. Andy Beshear said he would order all non-essential retail businesses to close by 8 p.m. Monday, March 23. His order applies to “all in-person retail businesses that are not life-sustaining.” It includes auto-dealer showrooms; clothing, furniture, electronics and sporting-goods stores; opticians and bookstores. It does not include banks; pharmacies; grocery, drug, pet, liquor, building-supply, lawn-and-garden and auto-parts stores; gas stations, vehicle rental and “the lawful sale of firearms and ammunition.” Businesses can still do online and phone orders, and curbside and delivery service. Beshear warned Kentuckians to sanitize hands after using gas pumps: “This virus can live on just about any surface.”
  • The order continues Beshear’s approach of gradually escalating restrictions. “We have already done a whole lot of things that a lot of other states have done maybe in one scary order,” he said. He encouraged Kentuckians to use the social media hashtag #HealthyAtHome, saying that this would be the term he uses instead of “shelter-in-place,” which he has said doesn’t fit.
  • Beshear said that starting Monday, all medical facilities must cease elective procedures, because not all have complied with the request he made a week ago, in an effort to keep hospital beds available. “A group of chiropractors have been exceedingly difficult,” he said.
  • Some churches violated Beshear’s order against mass gatherings. He called out one in Lewis County, saying “You can’t do that. Bringing together some of the most vulnerable in a small room — when we know that this virus has been passed around in churches — means that you are harming your congregation and it undermines the sacrifice of every other church, every other church that is doing the tough thing and canceling their in-person services.”
  • “God makes a way,” pastor Paul Prather wrote in his faith column for the Lexington Herald-Leader. “This past Sunday I preached to the biggest congregation I’ve ever spoken to. Without leaving my house.” Prather canceled services at his church and went online.
  • Responding to a question the day before, Beshear said Jen Harris of the Todd County Health Department is working with Amish and Mennonite populations there to make sure they are informed about covid-19, and is willing to work with other such communities.
  • U.S. Sen. Rand Paul announced that he had tested positive for the virus. His Twitter account said, “He is feeling fine and is in quarantine. He is asymptomatic and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events. He was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person.” Paul was criticized for going to the Senate gym Sunday between getting the test and the results; Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee of Utah said they would self-quarantine because they had contact with him.
  • Paul may have caught the virus at the March 7 fundraiser at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville. Joe Sonka of the Courier Journal writes, “Kentucky’s governor, Louisville’s mayor and a high-ranking member of Congress, all clad in tuxedos, made their way to the dinner table at the glitzy ball inside the art museum — but little did they know that the bourbon heiress and prominent philanthropist sitting next to them were unknowingly infected with the virus that was well on its way to becoming a global pandemic. The opening to a bad novel? No, it unfolded two weeks ago in Louisville, as the emergence of the coronavirus continues to be as strange as dystopian fiction.”
  • Two University of Kentucky professors wrote a letter to Kentucky newspapers warning rural Kentuckians and their hospitals to get more serious about the threat, recommending public-service announcements about social distancing, handwashing and so on; coordinated local testing; and state coordination to make sure hospitals have what they need.
  • Beshear noted the shortage of personal protective equipment, such as masks, respirators and gowns, and said “We are doing everything we can” to secure them for medical facilities in the state. He said the shortage is the most limiting factor for mass testing, and such equipment must be saved for those who are the sickest.
  • He said two more laboratories can test for the virus: the University of Kentucky and Diatherix.
  • The governor said he misspoke a few days ago when he said the state had eight times the number of applications for unemployment assistance compared to last year, and it was actually 30 times that amount. He encouraged anyone who needs unemployment benefits, Medicaid or food stamps (now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) should apply. “There is no stigma on public assistance,” he said. “We want to make sure that everybody gets the help they need coming through this.”
  • Beshear said Kentucky now has 103 confirmed cases of covid-19. He said there have been more than 2,000 tests and that the average age of someone identified with the virus is 53.3 years old. He said the hospitalization rate for those with it was “somewhat high” but the share of cases in intensive care is down to 6 percent, which he said was encouraging.
  • He said the covid-19 hotline (800)-722-5725 was getting about 2,400 calls a day. He said it should be called by Kentuckians who are ill but would a have not otherwise sought care, and not by those who are well but nervous.
  • Repeating an earlier assurance about the food supply, he said, “These are not the times to hoard. These are not the times to react in fear. These are the times to understand that how we treat each other is what gets us through this.”