FRANKFORT – Gov. Andy Beshear on Wednesday updated Kentuckians on the state’s actions to fight the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).
“We are going to get through this because we have shown, even with a worldwide health pandemic, we can come together, unite, know what it takes, and manage something as aggressive and deadly as COVID-19,” the governor said. “The only way we can reopen safely is if we continue to test and people work with our contact tracers.”
Beshear and administration officials offered new guidance for Kentucky schools looking to open safely in the fall, new sites for in-person unemployment insurance claims service and new drive-through testing locations as part of the commonwealth’s partnership with Kroger. Information was also provided about a major settlement that will provide millions of dollars to Kentucky’s rural hospitals and major announcements aimed at making Kentucky’s Appalachian region the AgriTech center of America.
As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, Beshear said there were at least 14,363 coronavirus cases in Kentucky, 229 of which were newly reported Wednesday.
Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky’s commissioner for public health, warned that health officials have tied many cases to travel outside of the state.
“We have now identified here in Kentucky numerous people that have returned from Myrtle Beach (South Carolina) with COVID-19,” Stack said. “I have to continue to urge and beg folks to be careful. It is not the time to be cavalier because we have a scenario where a place that was just starting the reopening process went from being fine to a state of emergency in three weeks.”
Beshear reported one new death Wednesday, raising the total to 538 Kentuckians lost to the virus. The death reported Wednesday was an 89-year-old man from Laurel County.
“It sounds when we say, ‘Only one death,’ like it is a good day, but it’s not a good day for that family. Let’s remember that and continue to light our homes up green. Compassion is needed more in this world than ever for so many reasons. Let’s make sure we keep showing it as Kentuckians,” the governor said.
As of Wednesday, there have been at least 368,152 coronavirus tests performed in Kentucky. At least 3,706 Kentuckians had recovered from the virus.
School Opening Guidance
Gov. Beshear, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman and Kevin Brown, interim commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education, on Wednesday released long-awaited initial guidance for Kentucky schools looking ahead to opening this coming autumn.
“One of my top priorities as we have fought against the coronavirus is ensuring our children can safely return to school in the fall,” said Beshear. “Our top health experts and our educators have worked together to craft this guidance to take the necessary steps to protect our children and our dedicated staff as they return to school.”
The interim “Guidance on Safety Expectations and Best Practices for Kentucky Schools” covers kindergarten through 12th-grade instruction in the commonwealth.
“It is critical for everyone to do their part as good neighbors and good Americans to follow this guidance to protect our children, teachers and school personnel, and stop coronavirus outbreaks that would spread the disease, cost us more Kentuckians and further damage our economy,” Beshear said.
These safety expectations were written with input from the Education Continuation Task Force as well as the Governor’s Office, Department for Public Health, Kentucky Department of Education, the Cabinet of Education and Workforce Development and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Throughout this process, stakeholders from all areas of education have been engaged to provide input and expertise.
Brown stressed the importance of wearing masks to keep schools open and students, teachers and staff members safe. He noted that we’ve already lost people key to our education community to COVID-19.
“I want to re-emphasize why it is important to have these expectations, why it is important that your child wears a mask at school. It’s important because we need to protect teachers like John Page,” Brown said, noting that Page – a welding instructor at Monroe County Area Technology Center – died recently of coronavirus at only 47. “Our welding instructors, our teachers, our students, our staff deserve to work and learn in an environment with a reduced risk of a disease without a vaccine and without a treatment. That’s why the document we are releasing today is so important and that’s why I know our districts and our teachers are going to act in good faith to reopen our schools with these expectations.”
Coleman said the state was working to ensure waivers will be granted to schools needing to use non-traditional instruction (NTI) days.
She also announced that through Expanded Care, schools can take advantage of federal funding that covers Medicaid-eligible students for services including nursing, audiology, occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, interpreters, mobility and mental health. n