As projections warn of resurgence, Beshear talks about how he will deal with ‘a very scary virus;’ says Ky. will have enough tests

List of testing sites in which the Commonwealth of Kentucky is playing a role; to enlarge, click on it.
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As news develops about the coronavirus and its covid-19 disease, this item may be updated. Official state guidance is at kycovid19.ky.gov.

By Melissa Patrick and Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

As a short list of Kentucky businesses plan to reopen next Monday, Gov. Andy Beshear spoke at length Monday about how he would proceed with a slow, gradual restart, noting that some states were seeing a spike in coronavirus cases and covid-19 deaths as they relaxed restrictions.

Such increases have been projected by the Trump administration, according to internal government documents published by The New York Times, confirming the fears of public-health experts that reopening the economy will cause such spikes.

“”Some people see stable numbers and they think it is no longer contagious, and it is,” Beshear said at his daily briefing. “People see stable numbers and think it is no longer deadly, it is because we continue to see deaths. So let’s remember even as we work at being healthy at work, this is still a very scary virus out there, and I’m using that term intentionally. We have to be gradual, we have to be smart, and we have to make the right decisions, and we need everybody on board.”

Beshear showed headlines from other states that are seeing spikes in case numbers, including one that said, “Mississippi governor reconsiders reopening state after its largest spike of covid-19 deaths and cases.”

“I want to commend Mississippi’s governor; his name is Tate Reeves. We were elected at the same time, that’s probably the only thing we have in common and he’d say the same thing,” Beshear said. “Governor Reeves was planning this big re-opening, I think starting today, but got a big spike in cases and paused it. All right, that is doing the right thing. It’s saying that ultimately the virus is in charge of the timing, and we are going to protect the health and safety of folks. I hope he keeps after that.

“But what we are seeing in a number of places that are opening up or that are more aggressive in their timetable is more cases or major concerns. Listen, I hope all those leaders are trying to do the right things, but I want to learn from others that decide they want to be first. When it’s being first at doing something that can risk people’s lives, I do admittedly want to watch, because I want to make the best, smartest decision for you. I want to make that decision that protects you and your parents and your kids and I want to do this right. And I know the decisions that I make are going to be the difference between life and death for real people and for Kentuckians.

“So understand that I’m not going to be the fastest. I’m just not going to do that. . . . I think we’ve got to be the smartest, based on public health, based on a gradual phasing in, where we can protect our population.”

Asked about Indiana’s faster opening on some fronts, Beshear said he and Gov. Eric Holcomb talk weekly and that he continues to believe, as does Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher, that re-opening at a gradual pace is the best way to proceed. Fisher said on KET’s “Kentucky Tonight” that he is trying to work out compromises with mayors across the river.

Asked about the lack of a two-week decline that is called for in federal guidelines for reopening, Beshear reiterated that new cases remain at a plateau of new cases, that the state has increased its testing capacity, and there was federal money available to hire 700 people to trace the contacts of people who have been exposed to people who have been infected or exposed.

On May 11, Kentucky will allow manufacturing, construction, automobile and boat dealers, office-based businesses to reopen at 50 percent capacity. It will also allow horse racing without fans, pet grooming and boarding, and studio photography.

In addition to a list of 10 rules that all businesses must follow to reopen, specific regulations for each of the businesses that are allowed to open next week have been posted on kycovid19.ky.gov under the Healthy at Work tab.

“It’s important that you meet these guidelines, these requirements, because it allows us to be healthy at work,” said La Tasha Buckner, the governor’s chief of staff and general counsel. “That allows us the successful reopening and to make sure we’re making advancements and staying at the plateau level and hopefully declining.”

A second phase of health-care activities, non-urgent outpatient and ambulatory services, such as colonoscopies, will be allowed to resume Wednesday, May 6. Additional business sectors are scheduled to re-open May 20 and May 25.

Beshear has said those reopenings will be delayed if they can’t be done safely, and there were signs Monday that the virus remains in control.

The New York Times reported: “As President Trump presses for states to reopen their economies, his administration is privately projecting a steady rise in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths over the next several weeks. The daily death toll will reach about 3,000 on June 1, according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times, nearly double the current number of about 1,750.”

The projections by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, based on government modeling, “forecast about 200,000 new cases each day by the end of the month, up from about 25,000 cases now,” the Times reported. “The projections confirm the primary fear of public-health experts: that a reopening of the economy will put the nation back where it was in mid-March, when cases were rising so rapidly in some parts of the country that patients were dying on gurneys in hospital hallways as the health care system was overloaded.”

The report from FEMA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows counties with “elevated incidence growth” of cases, as well as “elevated incidence of plateau” and other categories. Compared to its major adjoining states, Kentucky compares favorably, but there are many “elevated” counties in its western half: Ballard, McCracken, Henderson, Daviess, McLean, Simpson, Warren, Allen, Meade and Jefferson. Boone, Kenton, Campbell, Jessamine and Perry are also elevated.

For a larger version of the map, click on it.

Counties at elevated plateaus (again, from west to east) include Marshall, Calloway, Webster, Muhlenberg, Barren, Grayson, Hardin, Bullitt, Nelson, Oldham, Shelby, Fayette and Floyd. Some counties are showing a “sustained decline”: Graves, Christian, Hopkins, Ohio, Butler, Adair, Pulaski and Jackson.

The Times noted that Scott Gottlieb, who was President Trump’s commissioner of food and drugs, said Sunday on CBS, “We expected that we would start seeing more significant declines in new cases and deaths around the nation at this point. And we’re just not seeing that.”

In other covid-19 news Monday:

  • Beshear announced 163 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the state total to 5,245. Click here for a daily summary of covid-19 cases, deaths and other related data.
  • There have been eight more deaths, for a total of 261. The latest were of six Jefferson County residents, men aged 69, 74, 86, and women 86, 89 and 98; a 79-year-old woman from Hopkins County, and 66-year-old woman from Hardin County.
  • Beshear said the state expects to be able to test more than 2 percent of the state’s population, which would be around 88,000 people, and that it can possibly do more. He said that would meet federal guidelines.
  • Kentucky will offer 17 drive-through testing sites this week. Beshear also announced a new partnership with St. Elizabeth Hospital in Northern Kentucky that will open next week, by appointment only. Click here to find a location.
  • A federal judge ordered Beshear from enforcing interstate travel bans that Beshear has acknowledged are difficult to enforce. Judge William O. Bertelsman wrote, “The restrictions infringe on the basic right of citizens to engage in interstate travel, and they carry with them criminal penalties.”
  • In long-term care facilities, there have been 17 new cases among residents, one of an employee, and seven more deaths. In all, 812 residents and 321 staffers have tested positive and 137 residents and two staffers have died from it, in 76 facilities. Click here for a list.
  • The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that there have been more than 158 active cases of covid-19 among inmates and staff at the Green River Correctional Complex in Central City, according to the Muhlenberg County Health Department, while 17 people have recovered and at least two people have died from it. J. Michael Brown, Beshear’s executive cabinet secretary, said all inmates and staff have been tested in this facility, but results won’t be release until all are in. “We think this will be used as a model” for other prisons, he said.
  • Brown said that in addition to practicing good hygiene,  providing masks for everyone and doing daily temperature checks, the prison will separate inmates into four buildings: one for those who test positive, one for those who test negative, but have had exposure; one for those who test negative and have had no exposure; and one for inmates who are medically vulnerable to the disease.
  • The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the Kentucky Distillers Association have partnered to get personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer to small businesses. Masks can be purchased for $1 each at kychamber.com/maskorderform. Businesses in need of sanitizer can visit kyhandsanitizer.com to put in an order for purchase.
  • Beshear said that of the 23,078 March unemployment insurance claims that were left to process, only 900 did not involve employer-separation issues, which are being worked on.
  • Louisville’s chamber of commerce has called on the governors of Kentucky and Indiana to align their “disjointed reopening plans.” Greater Louisville Inc. President and CEO Sarah Davasher-Wisdom wrote, “Our families, workers and businesses need consistency for this regional economy and do not view the Ohio River as the line we are being asked to stay behind.” She asked that Gov. Andy Beshear and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb “identify coordinated solutions” to ensure the region is “best positioned for reopening, Ben Tobin reports for the Louisville Courier Journal.
  • Beshear has removed a member of the state Board of Emergency Medical Services, saying Robbie Smither of Shelbyville “publicly promoted violent action against law enforcement” on social media, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. WHAS-TV reported last week that Smither criticized the arrest of a Louisville woman for repeatedly violating a quarantine order. “This is tyranny,” Smither posted on Facebook. “I wish this lady would have used deadly force against these tyrants and then a jury nullify the case.”
  • The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service has stepped up efforts across the state to make isolation gowns, N95 mask covers and surgical caps, Carol Lea Spence reports for UKNow.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is allowing emergency use of an experimental drug that appears to help some coronavirus patients, reports Modern Healthcare. Preliminary results from a government-sponsored study of 1,063 patients showed that remdesvir shortened recovery time by 31 percent, or about four days on average, for seriously ill covid-19 patients.
  • The FDA says coronavirus antibody tests, which identify people who may have had the virus, including those with no symptoms, must meet standards for quality and accuracy. This comes after the agency allowed more than 100 such test on the market without review, The Washington Post reports. Officials told the Post that “unscrupulous actors” have been “marketing fraudulent test kits and using the pandemic as an opportunity to take advantage of Americans’ anxiety.”
  • An opinion piece in The New York Times goes into detail about what natural herd immunity for the coronavirus may look like, noting that there would be nothing “quick or painless” in this process without a vaccine, because it would result in millions of deaths.
  • Doctors have found that some covid-19 patients have dangerously low blood-oxygen levels — levels that usually lead to unconsciousness or even death — but are able to breathe normally. Doctors are trying to figure out if home monitoring using pulse oximeters, a device that measures oxygen levels through your finger, will help.
  • report by the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says “The severe and unprecedented size of the health, human, and economic crisis caused by covid-19 should determine the size of the legislative response — not arbitrary dollar comparisons to stimulus in prior recessions, the level of debt, or the debt ratio.”
  • As meatpackers anticipate supply disruptions due to coronavirus infections among their employees, Costco has joined some other grocers and is allowing only three meat purchases per Costco member, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.
  • Former President George W. Bush issued a video calling for national unity in the pandemic, saying “In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants. We are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God. We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise.” President Trump tweeted, “I appreciate the message from former President Bush, but where was he during impeachment, calling for putting partisanship aside?”