As surgeon general says this week will be bad, Beshear says ‘It’s game time’ and pushes social distancing; starts toll-free hotline for Kentuckians to report violators of his emergency orders

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

Monday, March 23, 2020

  • Reflecting the surgeon general’s warning that “It’s going to get bad” this week, Gov. Andy Beshear stressed the importance of social distancing and good hygiene. “This is game time,” he said. “This is the time where we’ve all got to step up and prove we can do this and the stakes are the health and the lives of those that we care about.”
  • Health Commissioner Steven Stack painted a verbal picture of how someone can end up infecting 1,000 others. He said Kentuckians should ask themselves before choosing to engage without social distancing: “Was it worth what you did if someone else ends up on a ventilator in an intensive care unit?”
  • “This is our test of humanity,” Beshear said. “We are not just protecting people we know, we are protecting everybody around us. And so please follow that guidance.”
  • The state Labor Cabinet has set up a reporting hotline at 1-833-KYSAFER, or 1-833-597-2337, for Kentuckians to report businesses that are not in compliance with Beshear’s emergency orders and groups that are not engaging in social distancing. The hotline will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and messages can be left after hours. Beshear said not every call may be actionable.
  • Beshear added laundromats to the list of retail businesses that can remain open. Stand-alone tobacco and “vape” shops were also added, but only if they offer drive through or curbside service, as some other businesses are allowed to do.
  • Beshear said the state is working on public service announcements to explain and encourage social distancing, as suggested by two University of Kentucky professors, but encouraged broadcasters to do them too. He suggested they use information from kycovid19.ky.gov, and said it’s important for communities to hear the guidance from local leaders, not just him. “Do this and do it quickly,” he said. “The more messages we can get out there the better.”
  • Kaiser Family Foundation poll taken March 11-15, when social distancing was being put into place across the country, found that one in four Americans said they had stayed home instead of going to regular activities, and 40 percent had canceled plans to attend large gatherings. Overall, 67 percent said they had taken at least one of four named precautions, far above the 13% in a February poll but leaving one-third of Americans who had not. Democrats were more likely to have taken care than Republicans: 80% to 53%.
  • Lack of rural concern about the pandemic is a result of politicizing it, write Ron Brownstein of The Atlantic and Todd Frankel of The Washington Post.
  • Beshear was asked if he thought Kentucky would need to practice social distancing after March 30, noting President Trump’s tweet and statement that federal guidelines might be relaxed. He said “I’m not reading them and I’m not terribly concerned about what’s in them,” and said Kentuckians need to be prepared for social distancing beyond 15 days. “What we’ve got to be willing to do is what it takes,” he said. “That’s how we protect people; that’s how we make sure there is enough health care for everybody.”
  • “Rattled health officials are trying to fight off ascendant voices around Donald Trump pressing the president to restart the economy as soon as Monday to stem severe business and job losses,” Politico reports. “The prospect of resuming typical business so soon has horrified these public health leaders. . . . The government, they argue, has yet to definitively answer key questions that would dictate how to reactivate the economy: Do those who recover from coronavirus become immune? How do underlying health conditions affect the severity of the virus? And, most important, how widely has it spread?”
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said covid-19 cases will overwhelm the nation’s health-care system in 10 days to three weeks.
  • Beshear said the availability of hospital beds in Kentucky will depend on how well we do at not spreading the virus. If needed, he said, the state has plans to convert hotels into hospitals and have pop-up care facilities operated by the National Guard and others.
  • The World Health Organization said today that the coronavirus pandemic is “accelerating” across the world and that while social distancing is an important defensive measure, that won’t not stop it. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said more aggressive and targeted tactics are needed, including isolating and caring for every confirmed case, as well as tracing and quarantining all the patient’s close contacts, the New York Post reports.
  • U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on NBC‘s “Today” show, “I want America to understand this week, it’s going to get bad.” He warned that the virus is spreading because many, especially young people, are not following guidance to stay at home and practice social distancing. “Everyone needs to act as if they have the virus right now,” he said emphatically. “So, test or no test, we need you to understand you could be spreading it to someone else or you could be getting it from someone else. Stay at home.”
  • Adams suggested that the U.S. has higher proportions of young people with the disease than because of the larger numbers of young Americans who use electronic cigarettes.
  • Dr. Kevin Kavanagh, a retired physician and founder of HealthWatch USAtold Jack Pattie of Lexington’s WVLK that infections from the cornonavirus will likely last a few months, not weeks. He said, “If everybody would stay home in the entire world for two weeks, this thing would go away and burn out,” qualifying that to two weeks beyond having the virus for those who have it. He said the virus can live for three days on plastic and stainless steel.
  • Beshear revised his guidance for calling the state coronavirus hotline. He said that if you are well, but nervous and need information, “We do want you to call our coronavirus hotline.” The number is 1-800-722-5725. If you are sick, but would have otherwise not sought care but for the coronavirus, call your health-care provider and do not go to a health-care facility without calling first for guidance; if you are otherwise sick or injured, seek care.
  • The governor announced 21 new Kentucky cases of covid-19, for a total of 124, and the state’s fourth death: an 82-year old Lexington woman who had underlying health conditions, as the previous decedents did. In her honor, Beshear said, he would again light the governor’s mansion green, the color of compassion and renewal, and encouraged others to do the same.
  • He asked churches that are willing to ring their bells at 10 each morning so people working from home and those who have lost their jobs can hear them. “Ringing those bells will just remind everybody that we are out there and that we care about them,” he said.
  • People with diabetes can be more susceptible to — and can become sicker if infected with — any virus, including covid-19, according to a University of Kentucky press release. It includes a list of tips from UK’s Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center and Bluegrass Care Clinic to help people with diabetes stay healthy, such as having enough medication and other supplies to last several weeks. Beshear has signed an executive order to allow pharmacies to refill prescriptions for up to 30 days to ensure that everyone can get prescriptions.
  • A second person has been forced into self-isolation after being diagnosed with covid-19 and refusing to isolate. A judge ordered William Nooning, 66, to stay in his Louisville home for 14 days and be fitted with a global positioning device that will be constantly monitored, reports Andrew Wolfson of the Courier Journal: “Any violations may result in his arrest and criminal charges.”
  • Beshear said he has created the “Team Kentucky Fund” in the Public Protection Cabinet to allow anyone who would like to make a tax-deductible donation to help Kentuckians who have experienced hard times because of the coronavirus to do so.
  • He said that as cases ramp up, additional law enforcement and at times the National Guard will be posted at hospitals and medical centers to assure order and to let people know they are safe there.
  • Kentucky has added another covid-19 testing laboratory, AIT Laboratories, Beshear said.
  • Asked what the state was doing about coordinating testing at centralized sites, as suggested by the UK professors, he said: “We are doing everything we can on coordination with our hospitals and others. Each of them has their own procurement, ability to buy, and thus has different supplies right now. We are still working towards that goal of having drive through testing here in Kentucky and we believe that we are getting closer to it.”
  • Beshear said he spends much of each day working on getting more testing in the state. He said the main limitation is a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health-care workers who administer the tests.
  • The governor said he is doing everything he can to get as much PPE for Kentucky as possible, but the state often has to bid against the federal government or other states. “We are having some success. It is not the level we would like to see, and no state is having that, but we are fighting for it every single day,” he said. He noted that many nurses are wearing masks that they made at home.
  • He said the state would be taking a survey of outpatient surgical centers for their various supplies and the staff “so that we can marshal every single resource at a time of need.”
  • The Small Business Administration was processing loan applications through the state’s website, Beshear said, and he hopes to make an announcement this week on unemployment insurance for independent contractors and others.
  • Brown-Forman Corp. said it will donate $1 million to covid-19 response funds. The Louisville-based distiller says it will match dollar-for-dollar donations from others to the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation‘s Crisis Relief Fund. The donation website says “100% of donations will go directly to support restaurant workers in crisis.” Donations are also being made to the United States Bartenders’ Guild Foundation Emergency Assistance Program and One Louisville: Covid-19 Response Fund.

PROTECT YOURSELF AND OTHERS

Information about covid-19 in Kentucky can be found at kycovid19.ky.gov; to ask questions about the disease, call the state hotline at 1-800-722-5725.

Signs and symptoms of covid-9 include fever, cough, shortness of breath, but many people with the coronavirus have no symptoms, or may have the virus and be contagious for several days before developing symptoms.
If you develop symptoms and have been in close contact with a person known to have covid-19, or have recently traveled from an area with an ongoing spread of coronavirus, it is recommended that you seek medical advice.
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person through tiny droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Measures to protect yourself include: washing your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds; only use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands; avoid close contact with people who are sick; stay home if you are sick; do not visit with seniors or people with chronic health conditions if you are sick; cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw it away; get a flu shot; clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces; and engage in social distancing, which means trying to stay six feet apart.