Metallica Drive-In Contest

Metallica Drive-In Contest

Metallica DriveIn Contest

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The drive-ins are in Franklin, Somerset and Summersville, Ky.

Barren County posts 12 new positive COVID-19 tests

Barren County posts 12 new positive COVID-19 tests

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

Bars will have to close and restaurants must cut their indoor capacity to 25 percent, from 50 percent, under Gov. Andy Beshear’s latest orders to control the surge of the coronavirus in Kentucky.

Beshear said Monday he was acting to protect lives, maintain the economy and get children back in classrooms. He also announced that he was recommending to public and private schools that they should wait until at least the third week of August to begin in-person classes.

“You can’t do that with an uncontrolled surge in the virus,” he said, adding later, “If we see a lot of early cases in schools it will be harder to get all of our schools open for in-person classes in a way that it works for those families.”

All three announcements were expected, because Beshear had been laying the groundwork for about a week. He had voiced hope that his July 9 order to wear masks would stem the surge that began that week, but it continued largely unabated, except a typical drop in the number of new cases on Sunday, attributable to limited testing.

The state reported 522 more cases of the virus Monday, raising its seven-day rolling average to 611. At the start of the month, it was 220.

Counties with more than five new cases on the daily report were Jefferson, 185; Fayette, 93; Daviess, 22; Warren, 21; Oldham, 19; Barren, 12; Jessamine, 9; Boyle, Hardin and Kenton, 7 each; and Boyd and Bullitt, 6 each.

Also going the wrong way was Beshear’s other key metric: the percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus. The seven-day rolling average is 5.51 percent, the highest it has been since testing was largely limited to people with symptoms of the covid-19 disease.

“There has been a steady increase over time,” Beshear said. “We have to start to see that coming down.”

He announced nine more deaths from covid-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 709, and warned that deaths will increase because cases have: “Deaths can trail the cases by weeks, sometimes even more.”

Against the background of an issue that has become politically divisive, the Democratic governor of a state that generally votes Republican put himself on the same page as the national Republican administration, and asked constituents to do likewise.

He said he was following recommendations of President Trump’s administration, which came to Kentucky Sunday in the person of Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

“They and we agreed with over 74 counties in their red or yellow zone, that this virus is now escalating and spreading so much statewide, that statewide action is necessary. That’s the position of the Trump administration; that’s the position of this state government,” Beshear said, adding later, “We also agree on steps that have to be taken.”

Beshear had already taken two of the recommended steps, the mask mandate and reducing to 10 from 50 the number of people allowed at social, non-commercial gatherings. He said the new orders would be in effect for two weeks, with the hope that all the measures together will stop the surge. But he implicitly acknowledged that may be difficult.

He started Monday’s briefing by saying, “We all have to start out with believing and understanding that this is real, that the virus doesn’t just go away, and wherever you live in Kentucky, and you can look at the maps, the virus is spreading, and spreading significantly in your community. We all need to be singing from the same sheet of music.”

Health Commissioner Steven Stack summed up the Beshear administration’s case: “It’s not politics, it’s not ideology; it’s just science. When we come together, we spread the virus. … Masks are what keep Kentucky open; to keep Kentucky open, wear a mask when you go out.”

Beshear said Birx told him that the conversation they had Sunday was like those she had with Florida and Texas, which Beshear used as examples of what Kentucky needs to avoid. “At one point, Florida and Texas were just where we are today,” he said. “We can look at what’s happened to them and know that we absolutely have to act.”

Beshear said the risk of harm that would come from not acting was greater than the harm that will come to bars, some of which may not survive closure, and restaurants, whose success may depend on outdoor seating.

“We are going to work with our cites and localities to do what we can administratively to allow that outside seating to expand,” he said, adding later, “Everybody, please order a lot of takeout these next two weeks.”

He said the orders are in the businesses’ long-term economic interests. “If we don’t do this now with our restaurants it’ll result in longer-term closures,” he said. “I believe most of our restaurants are trying really hard.”

Beshear showed a photo of what he said were “hundreds of people, way closer than six feet, not a mask in this picture at all,” Saturday night in downtown Lexington. “There’s plenty of blame to go around,” he said, not just to proprietors and customers: “There’s been not enough enforcement out there; we can admit to that.”

Asked if local health departments are still in “education mode,” in which they use information and persuasion rather than take action against businesses that don’t enforce masking and social distancing, Beshear indicated that they need to step up their game: “We’re at a point now where we gotta stop this thing. … We can’t let ‘em do it twice.”

Asked about the perception of unfairness created by protests that violate several of his orders, Beshear said, “We can control what we can control. I need people to do the right thing in their homes and in their backyards. … We’re gonna fail in this if we say that guy over there isn’t wearing a facial covering so I’m not gonna wear mine either.”

And what if his latest orders don’t stem the tide? “We’ll be looking at all options.”

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.

Governor mandates mask wearing effective at 5 p.m. today (Friday)

Governor mandates mask wearing effective at 5 p.m. today (Friday)

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

In an effort to get ahead of the rising number of cases of coronavirus in Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear issued a statewide mask requirement Thursday that will be in place for at least 30 days.

“It’s no longer voluntary, it’s mandatory,” Beshear said. “I’d hoped that we’d all be willing to do the right thing, but I think that the amount of time that we’ve dealt with this, plus our anxiety, cabin fever, all of it has added up. But it’s time to get serious. It’s time to stop our escalation now.”

Beshear and his top health officials have spent months begging Kentuckians to voluntarily wear masks, to little avail. Today, he stopped begging and made it a requirement. He said 22 other states now have some form of a mask mandate.

“It’s no longer a question,” he said. “I understand that the CDC and the federal government told us different things. Right. But that doesn’t get in the way of what the science absolutely shows now. . . . A mask helps to stop the spread of covid. It protects other people from getting it from you and now, there are studies showing that it can protect you from getting this virus in the first place.”

Beshear was referring to a new study at the University of California-Davis Children’s Hospital that found wearing a mask decreases the risk of covid-19 infection in the person wearing it by 65 percent.

“Everyone should wear a mask,” Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the hospital, said during a July 2 livestream. “People who say ‘I don’t believe masks work’ are ignoring scientific evidence. It’s not a belief system. It’s like saying, ‘I don’t believe in gravity’.”

Why wear a mask?

Dr. Monalisa Tailor, an internal-medicine physician at Norton Community Medical Associates in Louisville, strongly recommended wearing a mask during an online press conference Thursday. She said many people have the virus — but don’t have symptoms — and can easily spread it when they sneeze, cough, or spit while talking.

She said wearing a mask that covers both the nose and mouth helps to prevent the spread of those infected droplets to others, adding later that such aerosols can linger in the air up to three hours.

“It is something that we can do to protect ourselves, protect our family members and protect our neighbors,” she said.

Beshear’s executive order has a long list of exemptions, including people with physical impairments that keep them from safely wearing a mask. That said, Tailor encouraged almost everyone to wear a mask in public, including those with asthma or mild lung conditions, largely because of the risk the virus poses to their lungs if they get it.

“There are very few people that I would recommend should not wear one, and those would be folks that might suffer from claustrophobia or severe anxiety or panic attacks because they have some trauma related to feeling smothered, and that’s going to be a very select group of people,” she said. “Overall, looking at the general population, I would encourage everyone to wear a mask.”

Tailor encouraged those who can’t wear a mask to stay at home as much as possible, and if they do go out, to avoid closed indoor spaces, stay six feet away from others and keep their hands clean.

She said that social distancing is still “very important” even with a mask; that surgical masks should be thrown away after a trip out in public; and that cloth masks should be washed after each outing. She also reminded Kentuckians to remove masks by using the ear loops.

“That way you are less likely to touch the front,” she said. “That would be another way that you could spread the virus.”

Some fear a mask will make them breathe too much of their exhaled carbon dioxide, but Tailor said that that should not be a concern, since carbon dioxide and oxygen molecules are small enough to pass through masks.

She said Norton employees have worn pulse oximeters at work to measure oxygen levels while wearing masks and found that “It does not affect your oxygen capability or your ability to lose the carbon dioxide.”

What she would say to people who refuse to wear a mask? “This is something that we are doing to protect ourselves and those around us. I don’t want my family members getting sick, I don’t want my patients getting sick, I don’t want my friends getting sick. And if this is one way that I can help prevent the spread of the virus, I want to do that — for myself and for others.”

Debunking the myths

Infectious-disease physician Dr. Catharine Paules and pediatric allergist-immunologist Dr. Tracy Fausnight of Penn State debunked a list of common myths about masks in a university news release.

Myth: We didn’t need masks early in the pandemic, so we don’t need them now.
Fact: Mask recommendations have evolved with the data around covid-19. Early on, very little data existed about the virus, and the nation was short of masks. “Recently it has become clear that asymptomatic people can transmit covid-19 from speaking, coughing or sneezing,” they write. “This led to public health officials strongly recommending masks to prevent COVID-19 spread from individuals who do not know they are infected.

Myth: No studies exist about the effectiveness of masks.
Fact: “Several observational studies published since the covid-19 pandemic began show emerging data that masks coupled with other distancing measures help to prevent the transmission of covid-19,” Paules said.

Myth: Masks trap in bacteria and fungi, making people more susceptible to bacterial or fungal pneumonia.
Fact: “There is no data to support this statement,” Paules said. The release notes that health-care providers ask people at high risk for fungal infections, such as cancer patients, to wear masks for protection.

Myth: Masks won’t keep me from getting sick.
Fact: Masks do help keep a person from getting sick, and are even more effective at preventing somebody else from getting sick, the doctors write.

Myth: Masks weaken the immune system.
Fact: The immune system is exposed to germs all the time, they write, and wearing a mask doesn’t prevent it from “remembering” all of those prior exposures and staying strong.

Myth: We don’t need masks. We need herd immunity, to protect almost all the population.
Fact: Herd immunity works only if about 70 percent of the population has antibodies from an infection or a vaccine, and achieving that with the coronavirus would come at the cost of “a catastrophic number of deaths due to covid-19,” so we must prevent the spread of the virus until a treatment or vaccine is found, the doctors write.

One “myth” that has some truth, they write, is that wearing a mask can cause some people anxiety and a sense of claustrophobia. To overcome that, “Try wearing a mask at home for short periods of time,” Paules said. “Then you can gradually build up to wearing it for a whole trip to the grocery store, for example.”

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.

Health departments getting temporary workers to trace contacts of people who have COVID

Health departments getting temporary workers to trace contacts of people who have COVID

By Lisa Gillespie
Kentucky Health News

As restaurants have reopened and people are gathering more after three months of social isolation, Kentucky’s health departments are finally getting extra help to help track down people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus and ask them to self-isolate.

The “contact tracers” will allow health-department employees who have been reassigned to covid-19 work to get back to their normal work in public health. But most of the new workers haven’t been hired yet, because officials expect a surge of cases when school begins.

Congress gave states money to hire temporary contact tracers. Sara Jo Best, public-health director at the Lincoln Trail District Health Department in Elizabethtown, said contact tracing has been done for decades, but it might be a new term people haven’t heard of.

“If you’ve ever seen in a newspaper, ‘If you ate this food product between this date and this date, you need to call us,’ that’s contact tracing,” Best said. “No one ever thought anything about that; it was almost expected. It would be unethical for public health to know that you’re at higher risk of a disease or injury and withhold that information from you.”

But some legislators at the June 24 meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on State Government expressed privacy concerns.

“I know we’ve been doing contact tracing at local health departments for a long time, but at the level that we’re doing it here . . . it could very much infringe on people’s freedom and liberty,” said Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown.

Mark Carter, the state official leading Kentucky’s contact-tracing efforts, said “We are not going to be tracking people’s movements. The purpose for this contact tracing effort is simply to help people protect their family, friends, loved ones from the spread of covid.”

The state covid-19 website says contact tracing is completely confidential. When someone is contacted, they’re only informed that they may have been exposed to someone who has the virus, and aren’t told the identity of that patient.

Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green, spoke up for contact tracing: “We have been a hotspot in Warren County, so one of the reasons we’re not a hotspot anymore has been the heroic work that has been done in the eight-county area by Barren River health department, and contact tracing has been a very big part of that.”

Some job slots wait for start of school

So far, the state Department for Public Health has hired 180 contact tracers and investigators to work in health departments across the state but is waiting to fill another 520 jobs, Carter said.

“The staffing is ahead of the disease,” he said. “We kind of want to see what the virus is going to do, because it wouldn’t make sense if they had 500 people right now, because most of them would be sitting around with nothing to do. But they’re probably going to be busy in September and October with schools back.”

Robert Redfield, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a congressional committee June 23 that tracing the contacts of infected people and getting them to self-isolate will be “critical” as schools open.

For the Barren River District Health Department, the new help will mean the staff reassigned to covid-19 work can go back to their original work in public health; things like health education or work to reduce infant mortality rates.

About 80 of the Bowling Green-based agency’s approximately 100 employees were reassigned in March, Director Matt Hunt said. Before the pandemic, he said, only seven full-time staff notified members of the public if there was a possibility of contracting a communicable disease.

“We had to move very, very quickly to repurpose nearly 80 percent of our staff to work on covid,” Hunt said.

At the Lincoln Trail department, Best said her staff were moved to contact tracing and other covid-19 tasks. Night and weekend work became the norm, with many hours of overtime or comp time. Meanwhile, unemployment from the pandemic restrictions brought more clients into the department’s Women, Infants and Children food program.

“It’s nice to have the ability to bring in the additional staff to be able to relieve our staff so they don’t burn out,” Best said.

Asked if permanent staff would now give more attention to enforcing covid-19 preventive measures like limits on business’ space capacity, Best said her environmentalists working with restaurants try education first.

“You’re treating it as a partnership,” she said. “Because we’re good at educating people on risks, most people comply and do all right. Also, with restaurants, there is a liability issue; they want to know how to operate so they can successfully follow the rules.”

State-local dispute caused delay

Each state handled the federal money for contact tracing differently. Health departments said the money should go directly to them. They have years of experience tracing diseases, from food-borne illnesses caused by bad grocery food to wide outbreaks of diseases such as hepatitis.

“We do this all the time for things like pertussis [whooping cough], hepatitis, tuberculosis, and we’re actually still doing that right now while we’re doing covid-19; other diseases didn’t take a vacation when covid-19 came to town,” said Best.

Kentucky decided to use staffing agencies to hire tracers. But these agencies only conduct initial resume screenings, interviews and background checks. Health departments do the final hiring and supervision of contact tracers and investigators.

Best and Hunt said their district health departments could have used extra dollars for contact tracers much earlier, but they made do with the employees they had.

Most of Barren River District’s eight counties have relatively high per-capita infection rates. Hunt said he doesn’t think the delay led to more infection or negative health outcomes, mostly because his district didn’t wait for federal funds to arrive. He said he has hired 26 people, with five slots left to fill.

Carter said he and other state officials decided to use temp agencies for several reasons. While most health departments will hire local contact tracers, the state is also hiring regional tracers who can work anywhere within a broad region.

“If you had an outbreak in Bowling Green, for example, and it was quiet in Somerset, what that [our model] allows us to do very easily is to redirect some of those resources in Somerset to focus on the problem in Bowling Green,” he said.

Though the strategy might work best for state control of the contact tracing project, Best hopes the legislature will help increase staffing levels to help health departments prepare better.

“Local health departments have been carrying the bulk of the load of this since March; that’s a long time,” Best said. “I hope this is enough to highlight the necessity to invest in our infrastructure, like our staffing levels, so that we’re nimble and able to respond quickly to the next thing, because there will be a next thing … that would reduce negative health impacts.”

Information for this story was also gathered by Melissa Patrick of Kentucky Health News.

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. For details, contact Al.Cross@uky.edu.

Beshear moves up business re-opening schedule

Beshear moves up business re-opening schedule

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

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.

Gov. Andy Beshear moved up the date for Kentucky to begin the second phase of its reopening, announcing Thursday that Kentucky’s restaurants can reopen May 22 at one-third capacity, and a goal of limited child care on June 15.

He said restaurants will be allowed unlimited outdoor seating as long as they keep tables six feet apart, the standard social-distance guideline.

“I know this isn’t the capacity that our restaurants probably want, but the studies that we look at show that we’ve got to be really careful about this step,” Beshear said at his daily briefing. “This allows it to be open for Memorial Day weekend, but please be careful. . . . This is the best compromise between public health and making sure we can restart this part of the economy.”

Beshear has been under pressure from Kentucky restaurants, especially in Louisville, because Indiana has allowed its restaurants to reopen. He noted that Indiana and Tennessee have reopened restaurants, but said his conversations with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine “were a big part of it.” Ohio will open its restaurants before Kentucky does, and that would likely have brought the same sort of complaints from Northern Kentucky that have been heard in Louisville.

“We had planned it for a little bit later, but I think this is partial harm reduction,” Beshear said. He also cited “the belief that those that we have worked with sincerely want to do this right and only want to re-open if they can do it right. Many will find that they won’t be ready for that date. Don’t rush.”

He added that it’s important for restaurants to meet their industry-specific guidance, which will be forthcoming, and the 10 state requirements for opening, including such things as thorough, repeated cleaning; mask-wearing; taking on-site temperature checks of employees; making sure there is adequate hand cleaning access; and having a testing plan for employees with elevated temperatures.

“These aren’t easy,” Beshear said, adding later, “If we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do it safe.”

Beshear also announced that movie theaters and fitness centers will be able to reopen June 1, campgrounds will be able to reopen June 11, and some child care with reduced capacity and potentially low-touch, outdoor youth sports on June 15. But he said that wasn’t guaranteed.

“This is a goal, a goal, we are pushing for,” he said. “We want to have a safe plan for child care, knowing that it is such a challenge for folks. I will tell you that it will be significantly reduced capacity and it will be very monitored to make sure that it’s safe.”

The gradual reopening of businesses that will begin Monday has increased calls to reopen child-care centers, but Beshear has said that would be risky. Unemployed people who get called back to work but can’t find child care will be allowed to keep getting unemployment benefits.

Beshear said bars and groups of 50 or more people may be able to open in July. Groups of 10 or fewer will be able to gather on May 25.

Beshear said Thursday, “Our goal in having a gradual plan is to be able to pause. And that would be our first step. If we saw a spike, we would pause where we are. We would look at where we’ve seen them, what type of businesses that we have; we would try to be surgical on those areas.”

The governor says another reason the state can start reopening is it will be able to test 2 percent of its population each month, as federal guidelines call for.

He spent a fair amount of time Thursday discussing the state’s increased capacity for testing, saying it would soon be able to do 30,000 tests a week. So far the state has only confirmed tests of 81,391 people; Beshear said the actual number is higher, since some labs have not been reporting negative results.

Kentucky now has at least 72 covid-19 testing locations, listed on the kycovid19.ky.gov website. Beshear announced a new partnership with First Care Clinics, which can now provide tests at 13 locations across the state, seven days a week, at no cost.

“Folks, this is big news,” Beshear said. “There’s now no excuse” to not get a test. “Now we all have the tools to do the right thing and protect one another.”

Gov. Beshear releases plan for phased reopening of businesses in Kentucky

Gov. Beshear releases plan for phased reopening of businesses in Kentucky

By Melissa Patrick and Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

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.

Gov. Andy Beshear announced details of the first broad phase of his plan to re-open Kentucky’s economy in May, while saying child care, restaurants, and businesses that require increased human contact are not yet on the list of what will be allowed to open.

“I hope everybody also sees that these are cautious steps that are going to be done with strict compliance, and I would not be suggesting these if I did not think that we could not do them safely,” he said. “And if it proves that we can’t do any of them safely, it is always subject to pause.”

Beshear stressed that it’s important that the state not open up in such a way that it causes a second spike of cases, a common occurrence in pandemics.

Beshear went over a list of 10 rules that he said will apply to every group that is planning to reopen, including such things as continuing to allow telework when possible; opening gradually, in phases; doing daily onsite temperature checks; providing access to personal protective gear if needed; maintaining and enforcing social distancing; and making special accommodations for those who need it, such as those who do not have child care or who are over 60 with underlying health conditions.

He said it’s also important to have immediate testing of those who show up to work with a temperature, and systems for tracing contacts of those who test positive for the coronavirus.

The big day is May 11, when non-essential manufacturing, construction companies, and vehicle and vessel dealerships can open, Beshear said. Auto and boat dealers will be doing business differently, he said; for example, test drives will have to be done solo.

Professional services will be allowed to open, at half-staff, and pet grooming and boarding will be allowed to resume, but with no person-to-person contact.

Beshear also announced that horse racing will be allowed to open on May 11, starting at Churchill Downs — but with no fans. “This is one of the most detailed plans that we have seen,” he said.

On May 20, retail may re-open and churches may hold in-person services, both at reduced capacity. Beshear said they are working on details, and it will likely be a percentage of normal occupancy. He said they are also working with churches to make plans for things like Sunday school, and “All of this is contingent on being able to keep social distancing, on the type of cleaning that needs to occur.”

On May 25, “provided the virus is where we think it will be at that stage,” he said, social gatherings of 10 or fewer people will be allowed, with social distancing and masking where necessary.

“We want you to know that we think this is possible, but it is all contingent on all of us doing this right, on making sure that we don’t see a spike in the virus,” he said “But there is at least a light, I hope you see at the end of the tunnel where we can get together a little more.”

Barbers, salons, cosmetology businesses and similar services will also be allowed to open May 25.

Beshear said restaurant openings would have to come later, and the state is working with them to figure out how to they can open safely.

He said day-care centers will also not be allowed to open this month because they increase contacts to a level that can easily spread the virus: “We go from a controlled amount of contacts to almost exponential growth.”

He said gyms, movies, camp grounds, youth sports are also scheduled to open in the second phase. As for youth sports, he said he is hopeful some of these sports can resume in June or July, but “Public pools will not be in phase one or phase two.” He said summer camps will not open in phase one, and it will be hard to open them in phase two.

Beshear said the “healthy at home” approach and social distancing are still keys to defeating the virus, “so healthy-at-work doesn’t stop being healthy-at-home.”

Reopening plans also presume that testing will continue to increase, to keep better track of the virus. Asked why Kentucky lags in testing behind other states, particularly Tennessee, Beshear said one differences is that large health-care companies that are in Tennessee are doing almost all the testing, with only 5 percent done by the state. “With us, it’s over 30 percent.”

He said the state hopes to see more private-sector testing, to increase the state’s capacity much faster. He said the rates of infection seen in Kentucky’s testing are promising and compare well to other states.

Kentucky begins soft opening of businesses

Kentucky begins soft opening of businesses

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

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.

As Kentucky takes small steps toward reopening businesses, starting gingerly with much of health care, you can almost see top officials crossing their fingers.

“As hard as it was to say no to so many things, it will be challenging to say ‘yes, but’ to a lot more things,” Health Commissioner Steven Stack said at Gov. Andy Beshear’s Sunday daily briefing, recalling the early days of the crisis.

“We would probably prefer to wait even longer before lifting any restrictions but we’re trying to balance competing societal needs – people’s need to get back to work, people’s need to perform other important functions in society, people’s need to pursue their lives — with the need to also keep people safe. So as we work through this, I ask everyone’s patience and everyone’s tolerance …. ”

Click here for Stack’s guidance on health services resuming.

Stack and Beshear both said they, and their counterparts in other states, are doing something that’s ever been done.

“None of us have ever had to reopen an economy during a worldwide pandemic before, Beshear said. “Some of the time, our decisions are not going to be fully consistent with others … What we’re trying to do is do it safely. … I’m gonna make the best decisions I can, treating your family like they were my family.”

Beshear and Stack said health care is the logical business area to start opening first because it is best equipped to control infection, it can provide a gauge for reopening other areas, and people are in need of medical attention and showing up at emergency rooms in worse shape than usual.

Beshear said Saturday that dentists wouldn’t open Monday because rules for them had not been agreed on. Stack said Sunday he had received “a very well thought-out proposal” from dental groups and, “We will use this in coming up with more detailed requirements. … You should use this as a guiding place to start your preparations. … Don’t open until you’re ready to comply.”

Stack said Beshear’s order detailing the rules for health-care providers wouldn’t be issued until Monday, probably in the afternoon. “We’ve got things backward a little bit,” he said, but are responding to “societal demands.”

Stack, an emergency-room doctor who has been president of the American Medical Association, said he wanted to make clear that the first phase of reopening health care will not include elective surgeries or invasive procedures. Those are the chief moneymakers for hospitals, which have been pressing for a green light to restart them.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a Wednesday interview, broadcast Sunday, that hospitals “need to be able to engage in elective surgery” and said of Beshear, “Hopefully, he’ll take a look at the regions of Kentucky that are less impacted and begin to let them begin to open up.”

Beshear said Saturday that there could come a time when reopenings could be done regionally, but “It’ll still have to have a lot of thought.”

Beshear said Sunday that Kentucky’s houses of worship are doing better than those in any other state at complying with his social-distancing orders, which unlike some states allow drive-in services. “It’s one of the reasons we have flattened the curve,” he said, “and it’s one of the reasons I believe we get to our new normal faster than other places.”

Beshear concluded his briefing by saying “I feel hopeful, because we are in a better place today, a far better place, than any thing, any model, any expectation, I was ever given. … We need you to stick with us and stay strong.”

In other covid-19 news Sunday:
Beshear announced 202 new coronavirus cases in Kentucky, for a corrected total 4,074. “As we increase our testing we are gonna see more cases,” he said. Counties reporting 10 or more new cases were Warren, 35; Jefferson, 28; Grayson, 16; Muhlenberg, Boone, 11; and Hopkins, 10.

The governor announced the state’s lowest daily death toll “in a while,” three. All were 88 years old; two were in Adair County and one was in Jackson County; both have had major covid-19 outbreaks in nursing homes.

Beshear said long-term-care facilities had the fewest additional cases “in a number of days, partly due to reporting” that can be spotty on weekends: eight residents and seven staff. The state’s daily report is at https://chfs.ky.gov/agencies/dph/covid19/LTCupdate.pdf.

“Social distancing will be with us through the summer to really ensure that we protect one another as we move through these phases,” Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” She was answering a question about Vice President Pence’s notion that the pandemic would be “largely behind us” by Memorial Day.

McConnell made another suggestion on “Newsmakers” on Lexington’s WKYT-TV, citing the leading federal experts: “As we open up, people need to listen to Dr. [Anthony] Fauci and Dr. Birx and practice social distancing and don’t be stigmatized by wearing a mask. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re sick; it means you’re concerned about others.”

Beshear displayed a mask and said wearing the devices will be “incredibly important” in preventing a resurgence of covid-19.

Beshear updates covid-19’s impact on Kentucky

Beshear updates covid-19’s impact on Kentucky

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

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.

Projections of covid-19’s impact on Kentucky continue to bounce around, but one model has begun to estimate how individual counties will deal with the disease.

Those projections rely on data that is even more scant than the earlier models, but they are being updated frequently and are intended to be a guide to local and state officials in planning for the expected surge of covid-19 patients.

Statewide, that surge is expected to peak on April 24, according to the latest projection by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. That is during the period that IHME predicts to be the peak for deaths, April 23-27, with 28 deaths per day.

The IHME projection of total deaths, which is based on patterns of deaths in other locations, has fluctuated widely. Its latest projection is that 933 Kentuckians will die of covid-19, about half the 1,750 it predicted a week earlier but about the same number it projected a week before that. When it estimated the higher figure, it projected 54 deaths per day at the peak, with approximately the same dates for the peak.

The model predicts that Kentucky’s health system is likely to have enough hospital beds, intensive-care beds and ventilators to handle the surge, but its projections have a wide range of possibilities, many of them exceeding capacity. Its projections are based on the assumption that social-distancing rules now in place will remain through May.

Another model, which Gov. Andy Beshear has used in simplified form at his daily briefings, projects a much later peak of stress on Kentucky hospitals, and a lower number of hospitalizations: 841, on June 7, if there is strict compliance with social-distancing rules. If there is poor compliance, it estimates a peak of 15,105 hospitalizations on June 23. That would be near system capacity, but the state is working on temporary field hospitals and other measures to increase capacity.

The model, developed and updated by a group of epidemiologists across the country, projects that with strict compliance, 2,000 Kentuckians would die of covid-19, and that with poor compliance, 16,000 would die. The latter number is 3,000 higher than it was a week ago.

The model has begun to project the county-by-county impact of covid-19, based on limited data. Here is an enlargement of its national map, focused on Kentucky, along with the map legend. The colors are based on poor compliance; most counties at high or moderate in that case are in a lower category under strict compliance. The model has, for each county, bell-curve charts like the one above.

In other covid-19 news Sunday:

Beshear announced that the Kroger Co. will begin a free program designed to test 20,000 Kentuckians for the virus over the next five weeks, beginning Monday in Frankfort. He said the Cincinnati-based grocer will provide medical staff, personal protective equipment an an online portal, KrogerHealth.com/covidtesting; the state will pay for test kits and shipping, and the Gravity Diagnostics lab of Covington will provide support to provide results in 48 hours.

The Kroger tests will be limited to health-care workers, first responders and people who are over 65 or a chronic health condition such as heart or lung disease, or an immune-lowering condition such as diabetes. Beshear said he hopes to announce more locations next week.

Beshear reported 134 new covid-19 cases, for a corrected total of 1,963, and three more deaths: a 72-year-old man in Jefferson County, a 74-year-old woman in Hopkins County and a 62-year-old man who lives in Pike County or is being cared for there. “We’re still not seeing the type of increases that we’re seeing in other states,” he said. “Still. we’re in that phase where the coronavirus is increasing . . . and we’ve got to do everything we can to stop it.”

Adair County led the list of new cases with 35, reflecting an outbreak at its only nursing home. Statewide, Beshear said, 19 more residents and 11 more employees of long-term-care facilities tested positive for the virus, and four more deaths had been identified as occurring in such facilities. The totals are 172 residents, 103 employees and 25 deaths. “This virus comes for the most vulnerable,” Beshear said.

The governor said 667 Kentuckians have hospitalized with covid-19 and 289 remain so. He said 256 have been in intensive care and 136 still are. He said at least 607 have recovered, and displayed a social-media post about a man going home from a Bowling Green hospital.

Beshear said African Americans account for 21.51 percent of cases in which race has been determined, about four-fifths of the total, which he called “really concerning data… There’s a lot more we should have done before now and unfortunately a lot of people in our society are paying for it.”

Four shipments of personal protective equipment for a group of Northern Kentucky hospitals were seized or redirected by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to Garren Colvin, CEO of St. Elizabeth Healthcare, The Washington Post reports: The first order, from Texas, was diverted to St. Louis at the demand of FEMA, Colvin wrote in an email. “In another case, a deposit had already been made for supplies from China when, Colvin wrote, “we were told that the order was canceled at the request of the U.S. Government.”

Colvin wrote U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, “and other lawmakers,” the Post reports. Yarmuth told the newspaper, “Stories from FEMA are contradicted by what we’re hearing on the ground, namely that they deny that they’re confiscating or redirecting PPE while they’re clearly commandeering it for their distribution system.” The Post story has several examples from other states; Gov. Andy Beshear has said he spends much of his time trying to find PPE.

Beshear said Saturday that some Kentucky manufacturers have helped by making PPE, especially face shields, but donations have been more help. Donations can be arranged by calling 833-GIVE-PPE or going to givePPE.ky.gov, or made by delivery to any of the 16 state police posts.

Health experts hope that social-distancing rules can be pulled back “at least in some ways, maybe next month,” in certain places, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN. “There’s an extraordinary risk of there being a rebound” if too much is relaxed too soon, he said.

Musician Sturgill Simpson, born and raised in Kentucky, said on Instagram that he had tested positive for the coronavirus on April 6 and would self-quarantine through April 19. He said his symptoms arose after a tour of Western Europe and the eastern U.S., which was ended due to the pandemic.