3 more Ky. deaths from covid-19, first day with more than one; Trump invokes Defense Production Act to get more ventilators; Beshear says don’t travel to Tennessee unless you must

Concepts by Jason and Brooke Ison and @tizbitz, design by @SinclairArt for KyforKy.com
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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.

  • Gov. Andy Beshear announced two more deaths in Kentucky from covid-19, marking the first time two have been reported in one day. He said it would happen again, and more than once. The deaths were in Fayette and Hopkins counties.
  • UPDATE: Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced a covid-19 death in Louisville, bringing to eight the total deaths in the state from the illness.
  • Beshear told Kentuckians who live on the Tennessee border to not go there because Tennessee has not implemented the same aggressive steps to reduce the spread of the coronavirus that he has implemented in Kentucky, increasing the risk of bringing the virus into the state. “If you are a Kentuckians living on that border, I need you to not go to Tennessee for anything other than work or helping a loved one, or maybe the grocery if it is closer,” he said.
  • He specifically urged residents of Christian, Logan and Todd counties to not cross the border, since the Tennessee counties that border those counties have some of the highest covid-19 rates in Tennessee. “Folks, don’t travel,” Beshear said. “We need you to be healthy at home.”
  • Asked what he would say to Tennessee Gov Bill Lee, he said: “I would ask him to close restaurants and bars to in-person traffic. I would ask him to close forward-facing businesses, just like we have. . . . I’m not here trying to criticize his leadership. I’m just here trying to protect my people. I just want to make sure that all of our surrounding neighbors are doing everything that they can because it gives us an extra level of protection.. . . We will be better protected as a state if our neighbors are also doing the same thing.”
  • Beshear didn’t rule out closing the Tennessee border. “I think that we consider different options every single day,” he said. “I’m not there yet.” But the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution may prevent that.
  • Public art displays in Louisville, the city most pivotal in his narrow election victory in November, support Beshear, the Courier Journal reports.
  • Invoking the Defense Production Act for the first time, President Trump ordered General Motors to start producing ventilators, which hospitals say are in short supply with the number of severe covid-19 cases increasing.
  • Trump named a national coordinator for production of health-care equipment, Peter Navarro, who said at Trump’s daily press conference, “We are engaged in the most serious industrial mobilization since World War II.”
  • Congress sent Trump the $2 trillion virus-relief package, after many House members returned to Washington against public-health advice because Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky wouldn’t go along with a bipartisan plan to pass the bill by voice vote without a quorum.
  • Soon after the bill passed, Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C, announced that he is the third House member to test positive for the virus. He is the son of former Kentucky Supreme Court justice Bill Cunningham.
  • Beshear said Kentucky has 1,352 ventilators and that the state is working to augment that by 71. He said the state is close to making an agreement with two hotels to be able to convert them into hospitals.
  • The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting gives details on the amount of personal protective equipment the federal government has shipped to Kentucky, and says “It’s not enough.”
  • Appalachian Regional Healthcare, the largest hospital chain in Eastern Kentucky, said it would lay off about 500 employees after a 30 percent decrease in business following the ban on “non-urgent, in-person” medical procedures.
  • Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who was elected on an anti-abortion platform, asked Beshear’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services to temporarily ban abortion under the governor’s order. Fellow Republicans in the legislature are moving a bill that would allow Cameron to do that, but they would have to take unusual steps to get it passed before the legislative session ends.
  • The University of Kentucky said six UK HealthCare workers, one other employee and two students have tested positive for the coronavirus.
  • Kentucky reported 54 new cases Friday, for a total of 302.
  • “We’re at the end of the beginning” of the pandemic, with dozens of new cases daily, UK epidemiologist Kathleen Winter said on KET‘s “Coronavirus Update” Friday night. “Once that starts to decline, we’ll know that we’re having an impact.” But she said there is a “very strong possibility” of a resurgence if social-distancing measures are relaxed, and there is concern that the virus might remain active in warm weather.
  • With the warm weather expected this weekend, Beshear implored Kentuckians to stay home and to continue social distancing. He has asked county judges and mayors to close public playgrounds and basketball courts.
  • Winter said the limited availability of testing for the virus “has completely continued our ability to control this pathogen, to control the spread.”
  • Beshear noted that other states are seeing large surges of cases, and said Kentucky still has time to reduce that curve by limiting contacts and limiting cases so they won’t overwhelm the  health-care system. “These next two weeks are critical,” he said, adding later, “We know we haven’t quite seen the surge that is coming. So, let’s dig in.”
  • Why has Beshear allowed liquor stores to stay open? “Officials with recovery programs for people with alcohol use disorder said the abrupt cutoff of alcohol sales could be dangerous for alcoholics who are heavily dependent, leading to withdrawal that could be fatal without medical intervention,” Deborah Yetter reports for the Courier Journal.
  • Acting Health Secretary Eric Friedlander said Kentucky is going to have to be creative in how it addresses homelessness, saying there were not enough services before the virus and they are likely to become even more stressed. He said several Beshear moves will help, including the order to stop evictions and the expansions of unemployment insurance and other support services. He said the health cabinet is trying to find more housing. He asked local communities to work together and not try to ship their homeless populations to other locales.
  • Josh Benton, deputy secretary of education and workforce development, said many who qualify for unemployment benefits got a notice this week saying that they did not. He said the applications are still being processed, that they do not need to reapply and will be informed of the status of their claim next week.
  • In response to a question, Beshear said he considered grocery workers to be frontline workers in the fight against covid-19.