134 new cases, eight deaths; state starts discussing ‘new normal’ toward reopening; school decision coming Monday

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The number of new coronavirus cases in Kentucky were not as high as feared Friday and the number of people in the hospital and ICU was down slightly from Thursday, Gov. Andy Beshear reported.

But the state suffered eight new deaths as the number of cases in nursing homes spiked. One of those deaths was a prison inmate, the governor said during his daily briefing.

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Beshear said he wanted to talk to school superintendents Monday before announcing a recommendation on the rest of the school year.

Perhaps the most-anticipated discussion was the administration’s outlook on President Donald Trump’s reopening the economy guidelines released Thursday night.

And near the end of an almost hour discussion, in response to a question, Beshear said if the world doesn’t have a vaccine by next year, ” The world will be very different….the way we deal with it will be different” and the impact will be different but still present.

(For a look at all the discussion in detail, see the bottom of this article)

The state, along with most other governors, have been discussing many of the metrics for sometime in preparation for the day when they could start easing restrictions that have shut down the economy, cost millions of jobs and recently sparked protests demanding the economy be reopened.

“Life won’t be normal again,” Beshear warned, talking about future discussions about procedures that will be required on large and small job sites.

“It will be part of a new normal until a vaccine or successful treatments are widely available,” he continued, noting industries will have to have steps in place such as taking temperatures, tracking contacts and other steps and suggesting businesses continue to use tele-work as much and as long as possible.

“These things certainly aren’t overnight…they are gradual,” Beshear said of the White House guidelines. “A lot of us are on the same page.”

The initial benchmarks will require 14 straight days of downward new cases, patients being handled by the “normal health care capacity,” significant testing and contact tracking, among other things.

State Health Director Steven Stack noted the state will have to be able to test about 30,000 people in three days. That’s the number that have been tested in the last 30 days.

“We don’t disagree with just about anything in here. But first we have thresholds we have to meet,” Beshear said stressing businesses should start taking steps now and the things the public can watch to see “what will guide” the state.

“It doesn’t change what we need to do. In fact, it makes it more important. We still are going to have a dangerous virus out there. We must maintain significant personal responsibility or we will cause a spike and have to step back again,” he advised, trying to fight off the temptation to return to normal immediately.

Some things like hairdressers, salons and small doctor’s offices may be better able to meet some of the guidelines outlined by the White House than others which may mean they can open earlier.

“I think those groups are hungry for the dialogue. It has been amazing,” he said.

Slack warned a vaccine probably would not be available until 2021 and treatments are still weeks if not longer away.

“We have to be prepared to manage and monitor and if we see things pop back up, respond,” Stack said.

Beshear and Stack said the state will have to hire numerous news worker — more than 100 — to meet the contact tracking guidelines and demands.

“There are going to be some significant budget implications and hiring,” Beshear said.

Furthermore, the ability to produce PPEs is now a “matter of national security,” Beshear said, echoing what governors across the state have said.

The new cases announced Friday brought to 2,522 in the state. Of those, 979 have recovered. Of the current total, 360 are in the hospital and 227 are in ICU, both of which are down from Thursday.

And the now-11-day-old baby that brought gasps when it was announced Thursday is now at home and “doing OK,” the governor said.

The average age of coronavirus patients in the state has been 52.

Of the new cases, four were in Jefferson, two in Fayette, and one each in Lincoln, Pulaski, Boyle, Jessamine and other counties.

He also noted of the new cases, 30 were in nursing home patients and 10 in nursing home staff. Five of the eight deaths were among nursing home patients. Of the deaths, which brought the state total to 137, four were from Jefferson.

SUMMARY OF BENCHMARK DISCUSSION OTHER ISSUES

FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 17, 2020) On Friday, Gov. Andy Beshear discussed benchmarks that the commonwealth must meet in order to start reopening the states economy while keeping Kentuckians safe from the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). The steps reflect federal guidance announced Thursday by the White House.

We believe our approach is very much in line with the White House. The plan put out by the White House has certain thresholds that states should meet before we start taking certain steps, Gov. Beshear said. The benchmarks are being driven by public health. We are all on the same page about what keeps people safe.

The Governor acknowledged Kentuckians sacrifices and said we must all stay resilient as we work our way out of this.

We have to make sure we do it smart, we do it safely, he said. That we dont let our guard down, that we dont start focusing on the next game until we win this game.

Gov. Beshear said that the states seven benchmarks to be assessed will determine the phases for reopening parts of the economy.

Benchmark criteria for Kentucky to move to the first stage

  • 14 days where cases are decreasing
  • Increased testing capacity and contact tracing
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) availability
  • Ability to protect at-risk populations
  • Ability to social distance and follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on large gatherings
  • Preparedness for possible future spike
  • Status of vaccine and treatment

Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Department for Public Health said, Normal going forward is not the same as normal going into this. When we start lifting restrictions, I want to be very clear, there will be more disease. More people will get infected. There is a counterbalancing need with peoples need to go on with life and peoples need to remain safe. We have recognized that all along.

Once Kentucky meets certain first stage benchmarks, the White House provided guidance on what the first stage of reopening could like, which could include:

Guidance for the first stage of reopening

Individuals

  • Individuals should continue to practice good hygiene
  • People who feel sick should stay home
  • All vulnerable individuals should continue to shelter in place
  • All individuals, when in public, should maximize physical distance from others
  • All individuals should avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, unless precautionary measures can be strictly observed
  • Minimize non-essential travel and adhere to CDC guidelines regarding isolation following travel

Employers

  • Should continue to encourage telework
  • If possible, should return to work in phases
  • Close common areas
  • Minimize non-essential travel and adhere to CDC guidelines regarding isolation following travel
  • Strongly consider special accommodations for personnel who are members of a vulnerable population

Specific types of employers

  • Schools and organized youth activities that are currently closed should remain closed
  • Visits to senior living facilities and hospitals should still be prohibited
  • Large venues (sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues, places of worship) can operate under strict physical distancing protocols
  • Elective surgeries can resume, as clinically appropriate, on an outpatient basis at facilities that adhere to CMS guidelines
  • Gyms can reopen if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols
  • Bars should remain closed

For more information on the White Houses criteria and all three proposed phases of reopening, visit whitehouse.gov/openingamerica.

The Governor reminded Kentuckians how important it is to stay fluid and flexible based on the severity and number of cases in the state and the status of a vaccine and treatment options.

We think that following these benchmarks, possibly before May we could see some loosening in the health care area, Gov. Beshear said. We could see the ability to open up in some small ways before May, during May and beyond, but this will be a phased approach based on our benchmarks and recommendations from many groups. We have to ensure any actions we take protect the sacrifices that so many Kentuckians have made.

Kentucky reports first incarcerated offender death related to COVID-19

Friday morning, an offender from Green River Correctional Complex passed away in the hospital after battling COVID-19. The 49-year-old man was admitted to the hospital on April 8, and tested positive for COVID-19 the following day. His family has been notified.

The offender was serving a nine-year sentence out of Jefferson County for assault second and escape second and had approximately three years left to serve of his sentence. He was not eligible for the conditional commutations issued by Gov. Beshear.

The Kentucky Department of Corrections has approximately 12,000 incarcerated offenders in 13 prisons and 4,000 employees. Currently, 19 inmates and 15 staff have tested positive for COVID-19. Five have recovered. The agency also supervises about 50,000 offenders in the community through probation and parole.

The Kentucky DOC is working closely with the Kentucky Department for Public Health and is committed to following the proposed guidance from the CDC on Correctional and Detention Facilities.

4.6 million meals

Kentucky schools provided more than 4.65 million meals, including breakfasts, lunches and dinners, to students in March through feeding sites, according to the Kentucky Department of Education. On average, 230,000 children were served meals each day.

Case information

As of 5 p.m. April 17, Gov. Beshear said there were at least 2,522 coronavirus cases in Kentucky, 134 of which were newly confirmed. Gov. Beshear said the now 11-day-old baby, who had tested positive and announced yesterday, is now at home. He said he was very thankful for that news.

Unfortunately, Gov. Beshear also reported eight new deaths Friday, raising the states toll to 137 deaths related to the virus.

Gov. Beshear continued to encourage Kentuckians to light up their homes and businesses green for those we have lost as a sign of compassion and renewal.

The newly reported deaths include two 80-year-old women from Jefferson, a 64-year-old man from Jefferson, an 83-year-old man from Russell, a 93-year-old woman from Graves, a 96-year-old man from Russell, a 73-year-old man from Jefferson and a 49-year-old man from Muhlenberg.

At least 979 people have recovered from COVID-19 in Kentucky.

To date, at least 30,596 people have been tested. At least 1,008 people have ever been hospitalized with 360currently hospitalized.

At least 514 have ever been in the ICU with at least 227 people currently in the ICU.

Gov. Beshear also offered an update on the racial breakdown of COVID-19 patients and victims, which unfortunately highlights existing disparities in health and health care access.

The Governor said with about 76.38% of the known cases accounted for, 79.30% of Kentuckians who tested positive were Caucasian, 12.33% were African-American, 4.87% were multiracial, 3.43% were Asian and 0.06% were Native American or Alaskan Native.

The Governor also said with about 69.99% of the known cases accounted for, 93.11% of people who tested positive were non-Hispanic and 6.89% were Hispanic.

On fatalities attributed to the coronavirus, with about 81.75% of the known cases accounted for, Kentucky deaths are about 77.68% Caucasian, 21.43% African-American and 0.89% Asian.

On fatalities attributed to the coronavirus, with about 81.75% of the known cases accounted for, Kentucky deaths are about 99.11% non-Hispanic and 0.89% Hispanic.