Covid-19 update: Beshear implores Kentuckians to stay at home, at least not gather; says Dawson Springs revival was a site of spread

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

As Kentucky looks forward to another round of fine spring weather, Gov. Andy Beshear is imploring Kentuckians to stay at home, saying that home is the best place to not get the coronavirus and also the best place to not spread it.

“It’s going to be a beautiful weekend again, and we cannot repeat last weekend where we saw a lot of crowds come together,” he said at his daily press conference. “And so as the weather gets nicer, I need you to be even stronger to make sure that we are doing what it takes.”

Beshear stressed that practicing social distancing is the one part of the show that Kentuckians can run in this time of uncertainty and that by doing this, they will reduce the spread of this virus.

“This is the one part that is entirely in our control, where we as Kentuckians without any help from the federal government or anybody else can slow the spread of this virus, can make sure we have the health-care capacity we need by decreasing the number of cases over time or at least lessening them,” he said. “This is the best way that you as an individual can help in this fight. . . . I need you, we as a state need you; your actions are so important.”

Beshear showed a recent White House graph, which President Trump has used, to demonstrate the importance of social distancing and the reason for community mitigation measures to limit the spread of the virus. It showed upwards of 2.2 million deaths from covid-19 with “community mitigation” interventions and between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths with them.

He then showed a graph translating the White House model to Kentucky, showing that the state would have between 21,000 and 29,000 deaths without any mitigation, and 1,300 to 3,200 deaths with them.

Beshear called the White House modeling an “optimistic scenario” and cautioned that modeling being done by the state, which he would soon share, is “more pessimistic” and “will be tough for people to see.” He added, “Our concerns are that this virus can spread faster than this and its toll may be greater than this.”

Then the governor painted a grim picture of what can happen when Kentuckians don’t obey his order banning gatherings, reading from a Hopkins County Health Department document that he said had been slightly edited:

Hopkins County has been hit really, really hard. We know the community is reeling. .. . We had a church that had a preacher from Texas come down to Dawson Springs March 15 and 16 for a revival at another church. When he left multiple families were sick. The church placed a post on social media that those people did not have the corona, they just had the flu. According to several people interviewed, they were encouraged not to self-quarantine and still come to church. They did not practice social distancing at the revival. Hopkins County now has 24 cases, hundreds of contacts and two deaths with an epidemiological link to this revival. We’ve additionally had cases in Muhlenberg, Clark and Warren counties related to it as well. Also we have a nursing home with a case, a business with a potential outbreak from this one revival, a health-care facility and an ambulance service that has had multiple personnel affected and we closed a hospital unit and opened up a covid unit. This has spread throughout our community.

Hopkins County is a “hotbed” for covid 19, County Judge-Executive Jack Whitfield told The Messenger of Madisonville. The county has been among the daily leaders in new cases in the past week.

Beshear said, “To anybody who is not listening to the recommendations, to anybody that is still trying to hold — it’s not just a service, but a meeting — notice what one meeting can do, and it spreads far beyond those that are there. But because a couple of leaders in a different part of the community decided that they were going to ignore the guidance, they have put the entire community at risk. . . . You absolutely can’t be doing that.”

Hopkins County in red, Pike in blue

On the other end of the state, “The judge-executive of Eastern Kentucky’s largest county sharply criticized residents during a news conference Wednesday when he announced that Pike County has its first confirmed case of covid-19, saying many residents have refused to abide by social distancing,” Will Wright reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. “Despite Eastern Kentucky’s high population of at-risk residents, many have continued to gather in large groups and complain about orders issued . . . to slow the spread of the deadly virus, Pike County Judge-Executive Ray Jones said.”

Other news about the virus and its covid-19 disease Wednesday included:

  • Beshear reported 93 new cases and two more deaths, a 60-year-old man Daviess County man and a 76-year-old Hopkins County woman. “A third death, which the governor did not officially confirm, was announced in Louisville earlier Wednesday, bringing the death toll . . . to 20,” the Herald-Leader reported.
  • People over 60 are most vulnerable to the virus, but “in Tennessee, it is disproportionately affecting young people,” the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. “On Wednesday, Hamilton County health officials announced the county’s first child death due to coronavirus. In Tennessee, where there were 2,239 confirmed cases . . . as of Tuesday afternoon, more than 25% of people who had tested positive (566) were in their 20s and 15% (346) were in their 30s.”
  • Beshear said Kentucky continues to work to increase its number of hospital beds, ICU beds and ventilators. He said right now the state has 18,500 hospital beds, 1,300 ICU beds and 1,352 ventilators. He said the state has plans that would allow for an additional 8,000 hospital beds, with 1,600 of them in hotels that could be used for low-acuity patients. He said the state had secured an additional 70 ventilators, and was trying to double its amount.
  • The governor said the state is working every day to secure more testing and his office is running an audit to determine how many tests have been completed by outside labs. He said he could confirm that more than 10,000 tests have been completed, and all labs had not reported their numbers; previously he estimated 15,000-21,000.
  • The state opened a pilot site for drive-through testing in Frankfort, for vulnerable people who have covid-19 symptoms and for first responders. Beshear said he hopes to eventually have 40 such sites.
  • Beshear and Health Commissioner Steven Stack both cautioned people to be wary of any pop-up testing site that wants payment in cash. They said any testing site in Kentucky should be working with the state Department of Public Health.
  • With rent due on the first day of the month, Beshear reminded renters that evictions are illegal during the covid-19 emergency. Last month, Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton issued an order delaying all eviction cases, and last week’s federal rescue bill “prohibits landlords that participate in certain federally backed housing programs from filing an eviction, WFPL reports. “On Wednesday, a new Supreme Court order went a step further and said courts will not accept new eviction filings at all until at least mid-May.”
  • John Benton, deputy secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, continued to ask for patience as it works to take care of the huge influx of unemployment claims. He encouraged most people to use the claims site, kcc.ky.gov, so those who really need to speak to someone at a call center can get through. Beshear said 40,000 acceptance letters were sent Tuesday night to many who had been told at first that they didn’t qualify.
  • Kentucky Educational Television, which brands itself as KET, has gotten closer to its roots, replacing its normal programming on the main KET channel from 7 a.m. ET to 5 p.m. ET with a special lineup specific to at-home learning for PreK-third grade, grades 4-8, and grades 9-12. Visit KET.org/learnathome for an updated schedule.
  • Does the pandemic have a silver lining? “Among those lucky enough to have access to food and safe housing, and not be sickened by covid-19, there are indicators that the pandemic itself, and the massive shutdown it has triggered, is forcing the adoption of more-healthful behaviors,” Dr. Daphne Miller, a family physician and author, writes for The Washington Post. She says many are exercising more, spending more time with nature, eating out less and cooking more from scratch at home. Also, mental-health apps are showing a dramatic increase in downloads.
  • Blood-donation centers across the nation are ramping up efforts to collect plasma from people who have recovered from covid-19 in hopes it can be used to save the lives of others infected with the virus, JoNel Aleccia reports for Kaiser Health News. “The treatment is not a sure thing,” she writes, adding that studies show injecting the plasma from those who have recovered into those who are still suffering has had some success in reducing symptoms and death in past outbreaks, but has not had time to be proven in clinical trials.
  • Betty Nunn, a patient at Norton HealthCare in Louisville, told Deborah Yetter of the Louisville Courier Journal that she was very happy with her decision to do a telehealth visit, which she did through an app on her phone. “I was really happy with it,” she said. “I would do it again.” This sentiment comes as Kentucky primary care providers and behavioral health providers transition to caring for their patients through telehealth during the covid-19 outbreak.