Protesters make themselves heard at Beshear’s daily briefing; three who got quarantine notices at Bullitt church sue him

Protesters stood on the back lawn of the Capitol before gathering at the windows of Gov. Andy Beshear’s briefing room and shouting as he spoke. (Photo by Daniel Desrochers, Lexington Herald-Leader)
—–
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.

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

As Gov. Andy Beshear announced that he was working with other governors to coordinate easing of restrictions against the coronavirus pandemic, a noisy group of protesters on the Capitol patio outside his briefing room demanded that he “open up Kentucky” and “let us work,” among other chants.

“They want businesses reopened immediately, and that would cause the death of more Kentuckians,” Beshear said when asked about them. Earlier, soon after they became distracting, he said, “Everybody should be able to voice their opinion,” and “My job isn’t to make the popular decision, but the right decision.”

Other states have seen similar protests. Beshear said he talks weekly with Gov. Eric Holcomb of Indiana and Mike DeWine of Ohio “in planning on how we will eventually ease restrictions,” but “I maybe underestimated how important it is for you Kentuckians to know the steps and the planning” for doing that.

Beshear said that before protesters at the curtained windows of his briefing room began various chants, including “We want to work,” “Families are essential,” “Let freedom ring” and, finally, “We will be back.”

They kept it up for the rest of the briefing, occasionally getting louder than Beshear on his Facebook Live broadcast. Near the end, when he was asked a political question, he said “We’ve got to drown out the politics,” and “We cannot step back one moment from what it takes to protect each other.”

The protest was led by Erika Calihan, whom then-Gov. Matt Bevin appointed to a judicial nominating commission for appellate courts and was “an outspoken skeptic of the gubernatorial election results in which Beshear defeated Bevin, a Republican, by 5,136 votes,” reports Phillip Bailey of the Courier Journal.

President Trump has reflected the eagerness to reopen the economy, and Beshear alluded to him by noting “We’re following the White House guidelines” and doing much like Ohio and Indiana, which have Republican governors. He said that on Friday, he would discuss metrics for easing restrictions.

Again referring to the protesters, he said, “We have a lot of people who have gotten together and are close . . . Hopefully they are distanced from each other, but still, no one should be engaged in a mass gathering. If there isn’t social distancing they’re spreading the coronavirus, and that’s really concerning.”

Beshear has banned mass gatherings, creating a dispute with Maryville Baptist Church in Hillview, which held services Sunday and said it would do likewise Wednesday evening. Three people who attended Sunday and got notices and letters asking them to sign a self-quarantine agreement sued Beshear and other officials in federal court, seeking an injunction to block enforcement.

Their attorneys, Liberty Counsel, published the letter and the agreement, which calls for them to take their temperature daily and contact the Bullitt County Health Department after each reading, and to tell the department of any symptoms. The lawyers said their clients took the proper social-distancing precautions.

Asked about the suit, Beshear said, “Here in Kentucky, there are so many different ways to worship, and all but one church in this commonwealth are engaged in them. . . . In many states they are not allowing those drive-in services like we are.”

In other covid-19 news Wednesday:

  • Some social-distancing measures may be needed from time to time until 2022, to keep resurgent cases of covid-19 from overwhelming the U.S. health-care system, says a study by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Intermittent distancing may be required into 2022 unless critical care capacity is increased substantially or a treatment or vaccine becomes available,” they wrote in the journal Science. The study “looked at a range of scenarios for how the SARS-CoV-2 virus will spread over the next five years,” and said blood studies are urgently needed to monitor immunity to the coronavirus, which may be weak or short-term, Stat reports.
  • The Washington Post reports on an early plan created by the Centers for Disease Control  and Prevention and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reopen the economy: “The plan lays out three phases: Preparing the nation to reopen with a national communication campaign and community readiness assessment until May 1. Then, the effort through May 15 would involve ramping up manufacturing of testing kits and personal protective equipment and increasing emergency funding. Then staged reopenings would begin, depending on local conditions.” It also warns of the risks of a resurgence of covid-19 cases.
  • Beshear said seven more Kentuckians had died of covid-19: a 94-year-old woman in Hopkins County, a 48-year-old man in Simpson County, four Jefferson County women aged 93, 93, 89 and 88, and a 65-year-old man whose county had not been identified.
  • Three deaths were reported in long-term-care facilities, Beshear said. He reported that 39 more residents and 10 more employees had tested positive for the coronavirus. He said he had heard that a legislator had suggested that visitation again be allowed at such facilities, and “That would ravage them; that is a very dangerous suggestion.”
  • Beshear reported 88 new coronavirus cases, for a corrected total of 2,291, but said a new reporting system had left “at least 50 positives today” not counted. Hotspots included Daviess County, with 11 cases, and Hopkins, with seven. “We are still in that escalation and it is absolutely everywhere,” Beshear said.
  • The governor announced a project, funded partly by Louisville philanthropist Christy Brown, to test front-line health-care workers to track immunity to the virus and identify those whose plasma could be used to treat serious cases of covid-19. University of Louisville President Neeli Benapudi said U of L will work with Baptist Health and Norton Healthcare on the project.
  • Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman said in a video at Beshear’s briefing that the Team Kentucky Fund for covid-19 relief has raised $1.9 million from more than 7,000 donors, and will be co-chaired by five former lieutenant governors: Jerry Abramson, Crit Luallen and Dr. Daniel Mongiardo, who served with Beshear’s father, Steve Beshear; Dr Steve Henry; and the lone Republican, attorney Steve Pence.
  • Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association, says “The rate of rural hospital closures will most certainly soon escalate without additional federal relief,” Ayla Ellison reports for Becker’s Hospital CFO Report.  Kentucky Health News reported in October about one study that found 16 rural hospitals in Kentucky were at high risk of closing and another that found 35 in poor financial health.
  • UK Now tells the story of how nearly 70 University of Kentucky faculty collected over $5,000 to purchase 6,500 masks for UK HealthCare. Every day, Beshear tells of the state’s challenges to get enough personal protective equipment for the health care workers in the state and encourages everyone to donate what they can.
  • Carolyn Chen of ProPublica reports in detail on how covid-19 affects the lungs, and points out that while ventilators save lives, not everyone on a ventilator will survive. The Post reports that while covid-19 damages the lungs, it also may cause “heart inflammation, acute kidney disease, neuological malfunction, blood clots, intestinal damage and liver problems.”
  • ProPublica reports on the increase in home deaths in several large cities and says, “The official covid-19 death count may, at least for now, be missing fatalities that are occurring outside of hospitals.”
  • Delta Dental of Kentucky and its Delta Dental of Kentucky Foundation have designated up to $6 million to support dental-care providers and local nonprofits amid the covid-19 crisis, says a news release. The application period is April 15-30 and is open to current and past partners of the foundation, and any Kentucky-based nonprofit with services that benefit Kentuckians. Interested applicants may visit community.deltadentalky.com/Relief to apply.