In Holy Week, Beshear stands even firmer against gatherings, offers a video from a pastor; still seeking equipment and supplies

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

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

For many Kentuckians, “Easter week” involves three or more trips to church in eight days, and for many more it includes a weekend of family gatherings with egg hunts and shared meals, but Gov. Andy Beshear says “We can’t be doing that” this year — and even small gatherings of people who commit to staying six feet apart outside are simply not allowed.

“The answer to that, folks, and it’s a hard one, has to be no,” he said at his daily covid-19 briefing, when asked what he thought of that scenario. “We’re trying to make sure that we are not increasing contacts, even from six feet away.”

He added, “Social distancing is about making sure when you come across somebody . . . that you are at a sufficient distance not to spread the coronavirus; but it can’t be an excuse or a crutch, and I know that’s a hard way of saying it when we are talking about Easter, wanting to get together, but it can’t be a reason that we don’t stay at home.”

Essentially the same question was asked several different ways during the briefing, and Beshear’s answer was always the same.

“We cannot have house parties,” he said. “Right now, that is the area that we need to improve on. Sure, it’s smaller than a large gathering, and yes, I know you want your kids to be able to play with other kids, I desperately do, but we cannot be having house parties.”

He reiterated: “No, having people over and just saying we’re going to be six feet apart, you are all touching the same things, the virus is going to spread in that type of situation.” He said earlier, “We have direct proof that any crowd, anywhere can spread this virus and ultimately cause harm to Kentuckians.”

Beshear said Hopkins and Jefferson counties are not going to allow drive-through church services, either because they have been hit so hard by the coronavirus or because of their high population density. He said he supported the decisions of Hopkins Judge-Executive Jack Whitaker and Louisville Metro Mayor Greg Fischer: “They are seeing what is going on in their communities.”

He urged those at drive-in services to follow his rules: “Nobody gets out of the car, cars are six feet apart and you’re not passing things” among cars.

For many Protestant churches, Easter week is a rare time for communion, or “the Lord’s supper.” In Midway, the Sojourn Church plans to have a drive-in service to which participants will bring their own communion materials, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said at last evening’s City Council meeting.

But some churches have continued inside services, promoting Beshear to suggest Sunday that he might have to close them because there have been three cases of covid-19 outbreaks stemming from church services.

At Monday’s briefing, he played a video from Dr. F. Bruce Williams, senior pastor of Bates Memorial Baptist Church in Louisville’s Smoketown neighborhood, saying that he wanted to encourage obedience of Beshear’s policies, especially staying home and social distancing.

“All of them are designed for us to take the virus seriously and to get on the other side of the virus,” Williams said. “I know that this is a tough time, as the governor has said, and I know it requires sacrifice and some inconvenience, but lives are at stake and so I join the leaders and the governor for making sure that we keep these mandates.”

“For those who are part of the faith, though especially of the Christian church, I know that we have faith, but we also know that we are guided by faith and wisdom and both of those are important, they are not mutually exclusive. God has given us faith, but he has also given us consecrated common sense. So, let’s join them in making sure that the flock that we guide, that we are the kind of shepherds that not only feed them, but also we are the kind of shepherds who protect them.”

Noting that Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, Williams said, “Whatever else the resurrection means, it means that life is stronger than death, and that ‘s what gives me hope during this time. . . . God gets the last word and by the will of God, we will get on the other side of this. And so until then, let’s keep the mandates and I’ll see you on the other side of this pandemic.”

Beshear said, “Sunday is going to be tough,” and noted that his son was supposed to be baptized this Sunday, but will have to wait.

Other Kentucky coronavirus news on Monday:

  • Kentucky reported 54 new covid-19 cases Monday, bringing the official total to 1,008. New cases have hit something of a plateau, but Beshear cautioned that more time is needed to establish a pattern, and cases are expected to keep escalating.
  • Beshear said 163 Kentuckians have been hospitalized with covid-19, and about 70 of them are currently hospitalized.
  • Kentucky reported 14 new deaths Monday: an 85-year-old woman and men aged 56, 74 and 86 in Louisville; a 74-year-old woman in Lexington; a 96-year-old man in Boyd County; an 81-year-old man in McCracken County; an 81-year-old woman and a 63-year-old man in Campbell County; a 96-year-old man in Kenton County; women 92 and 89 in Kenton, and two 91-year-old women in Kenton, which Beshear said might have been duplicate reporting. He said some of these were deaths that had been reported elsewhere, but have now been confirmed by the state.
  • Beshear again called the pandemic the challenge of our generation and called on Kentuckians to show some of the same character traits often attributed to the nation’s “greatest generation”: personal responsibility, integrity, work ethic, and faithful commitment.
  • Beshear said he needs to confirm the numbers, but believes there are nine residents and three employees with covid-19 at Western State Hospital, with three residents hospitalized in Hopkinsville. He said most of the cases are connected to a single individual. “Western State is being hit pretty hard,” he said. “This is what happens when the coronavirus gets into a facility like our senior facilities.”
  • He said that in the 13 state prisons, 21 inmates have been tested for the virus and two have it, both at Green River Correctional Complex. Five of the 41 Department of Corrections staff tested were positive; four are at Green River and the other is a parole officer.
  • The governor said having enough ventilators remains a challenge, saying the state has been able to increase its count by about 70.
  • Julia Fair of the Cincinnati Enquirer offers details about who can get tested under the state’s agreement with Gravity Diagnostics and some details about this Northern Kentucky lab. Beshear said he is still trying to find enough swabs so the firm can meet its potential of 2,000 tests a day, which he has said would nearly double the available testing.
  • Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton urged businesses to donate masks, gowns and respirators, or to consider manufacturing it as supplies dwindle. “It is now a matter of life or death,” she said at a Monday press conference, Beth Musgrave reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader.
  • Donations of personal protective equipment are being coordinated through 833-GIVE-PPE(448-3773). “I know that we have more PPE out there and we need it,” Beshear said. “This is a call to action.” He aid the state especially needs medical and industrial gloves, gowns, and N95 respirator masks and surgical masks, not cloth masks.
  • Beshear said the state will soon be using state-park cabins for quarantined first responders. He said the state will not be using the park lodges at this time because they could be needed for covid-19 patients, which would add around 1,100 to 1,200 extra beds.
  • Noting that this is National Public Health Week, Beshear thanked all public-health workers.
    Sharon Joann Kenny Baker
  • Sharon Joann Kenney Baker, 56, died last Thursday of covid-19, and her family had to say their goodbyes on an iPad with only her nurse at her bedside, Andrew Wolfson reports for the Louisville Courier Journal. “As hard as it is to lose a sister, it was 1,000 times harder because we couldn’t be there with her,” said Angela Kenney Myers. She said they wanted to share their story as a way to encourage people to stay at home, to maintain social distancing and to keep their hands washed. “This virus is going to get much worse,” she told Wolfson. “I beg you all to do your part.”
  • The Herald-Leader reports that Lexington police received 86 calls from Friday to Sunday about gatherings that were not practicing social distancing at a number of different locations, including yard sales, cookouts, city parks and parking lots. A police spokeswoman told the paper that while police can encourage larger groups to break up, “unless the group gathering is violating other city ordinances, such as the noise ordinance, police cannot issue citations,” reporter Beth Musgrave writes.
  • The Herald-Leader shows how Lexington appears nearly deserted in a three-minute aerial video montage of the city, including images of emptiness in parks, Fayette Mall and Keeneland, with no one there during these perfect spring days of April.
  • Starting Tuesday, Kroger will limit customers to half of stores’ designed capacity to better encourage social distancing, which means for every 120 square feet, only one customer will be allowed inside Kroger stores, the Courier Journal reports . “A traditional grocery-pharmacy store of 60,000 to 75,000 square feet would allow 500 to 625 shoppers at a time. Larger Marketplace stores that are 125,000 square feet or larger would permit more than 1,000 shoppers at a time,” Sarah Ladd writes. In addition, the company now encourages employees to wear gloves and masks. Walmart has enacted a similar policy.
  • A new city order in Louisville cracks down on pop-up covid-19 testing sites after some of them have been accused of being scams, the CJ reports. The order says all approved sites must comply with health guidelines, and will be subject to inspection; and sites that do not comply will immediately be shut down.
  • joint statement by the American Medical Association, the American Pharmacists Association and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists opposed prescriptions for preventive use of chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, which President Trump has promoted as a treatment, based on anecdotal evidence. The groups also said they opposed purchases of “excessive amounts” of the medications by pharmacies and hospitals “in anticipation of potentially using them for covid-19 prevention and treatment,” which could have “grave consequences for patients with conditions such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis if they are not available to them,” Helen Branswell reports for Stat.

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.