FRANKFORT – Gov. Andy Beshear announced the state’s first death related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) during his update to Kentuckians from the state Capitol Monday morning.
“Sadly, last night, we lost a Bourbon County man who was treated for multiple medical conditions and tested positive for COVID-19, which was a contributing factor,” Beshear said. “My family and every Kentuckian is lifting up his friends, family and community in our thoughts and prayers. While we have taken aggressive action to combat this world health pandemic, in the days and weeks ahead, we must continue to pull together as Kentuckians to stop the spread of this virus. We are a resilient people. We will beat this virus.”
Beshear said Bill Sisson, the president of Baptist Health Lexington, relayed his sympathy.
“We are deeply saddened to share the news that the Bourbon County resident who tested positive for COVID-19 at Baptist Health Lexington has passed away from complications due to multiple medical conditions,” said Ruth Ann Childers a spokesperson with Baptist Health Lexington. “Our sympathies are with the family for their loss.”
Following the announcement Monday, Beshear’s office issued a news release outlining new, aggressive steps he is taking to contain the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and protect Kentucky families, which include:
• Closing restaurants and bars to in-person service
Beshear said he will direct restaurants and bars to close, although there will be expectations for drive through and delivery. The governor urged people to order take out when possible and support local businesses and their employees.
“We are to the point now where this is a step we have to take” he said. “I want to thank everyone that stepped up and did this voluntarily. We are asking so many people to make sacrifices. It is not lost on me that most of these are small businesses. We are going to do everything we can to be there for you. We realize the impact this will have and we will be there for you.”
• Unemployment insurance
Beshear said the state is taking steps to waive the waiting period for unemployment for those who are losing their jobs because of COVID-19 and will waive any work search requirements while the state of emergency is in effect.
“We know the steps we are taking are going to cause people to lose their jobs,” he said. “We want you to be able to qualify for unemployment and we don’t want to create impediments that keep you from being able to get through this. We are going to make sure we get through this together.”
• State Capitol closing to nonessential personnel
“This is a big step. I am a person who ran on these doors being open for everyone at all times,” Beshear said. “We’re dealing with something we could have never anticipated and, in the end, my obligation is to keep people safe.”
“We are taking aggressive action to protect you and the people around you,” he said. “I am asking you to do your duty as a Kentuckian and as an American to take care of the people around you. We are going to take steps to stop any in-person service from state government and make sure we can provide those services remotely.”
Other Monday morning updates
Beshear also said that Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray and Kentucky Infrastructure Authority Executive Director Edith Halbleib are self-isolating because they were in the presence of someone who has tested positive in Louisville.
Fourteen Kentuckians on the Grand Princess cruise are home and the last two, who were at a different location, are on their way home today.
Beshear said the news update Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern/3 p.m. Central would begin with a special segment for children to help them better understand the COVID-19 virus and the state’s response.
Beshear implored people, with all of the anxiety and disruptions, to fill social media with positive content about helping others, doing their part or supporting a small business. He urged people to use the hashtags #TeamKentucky and #TogetherKy.
“We need to model good citizenship and we need to understand it is all of our jobs to do what it takes to protect our people,” Beshear said. “This is a test of our compassion. We need to step up and still look out for each other. There are no Democrats, no Republicans. There are just Kentuckians.”
As of 8 a.m. Central time Monday, the state still had a total of 21 positive cases. One Harrison County woman had recovered and one Bourbon County man, who had other medical conditions, died Sunday night.
As of 4 p.m. CT, March 15, the state’s current COVID-19 patient information includes:
• 66-year-old male, Bourbon, died Sunday, March 15
• 40-year-old female, Fayette
• 46-year-old male, Fayette
• 31-year-old female, Fayette
• 47-year-old male, Fayette
• 31-year-old male, Fayette
• 27-year-old female, Harrison, out of the hospital and fully recovered
• 67-year-old female, Harrison
• 68-year-old male, Harrison
• 54-year-old female, Harrison
• 60-year-old male, Harrison
• 51-year-old male, Harrison
• 69-year-old male, Jefferson
• 67-year-old female, Jefferson
• 68-year-old female, Jefferson
• 80-year-old female, Jefferson
• 73-year-old female, Jefferson
• 56-year-old male, Montgomery
• 53-year-old male, Nelson
• 49-year-old male, Clark
• 54-year-old male, Jefferson
Actions by Gov. Beshear
The news release listed actions Beshear has taken since the first case was confirmed in Kentucky. To date, he has:
• Declared a state of emergency to ensure the state has every resource available to respond
• Issued an executive order to prohibit price gouging
• Announced Kentucky’s COVID-19 informational website, kycovid19.ky.gov and issued extensive guidance on when to seek care and when to call the state’s hotline, 1-800-722-5725
• Issued an executive order to waive copays, deductibles, cost-sharing and diagnostic testing fees for private insurance and state employees and asked providers to expand their networks to patients that may go outside their normal providers
• Announced that those without insurance will be able to get a test in Kentucky
• Announced strong actions to protect the state’s most vulnerable populations by limiting visitation to senior care and long-term care facilities
• Signed an executive order allowing pharmacies to refill prescriptions for up to 30 days to ensure those vulnerable communities or those who need to self-isolate will have their needed prescriptions
• Closed all state prisons to visitors
• Activated the State Health Operations Center and the State Emergency Operations Center, currently at level three
• Recommended the temporary closure of senior centers to help halt the spread of the virus for those most vulnerable
• Announced that Kentucky Employers’ Mutual Insurance (KEMI) will provide wage replacement benefits for first responders and medical personnel who have been quarantined for COVID-19
• Announced new guidance that state boards and commissions cancel any scheduled in-person meetings and instead use video teleconference technology
• Recommended schools cease in-person classes beginning Monday, March 16, and as of Friday, March 14, all 172 school districts, the Kentucky School for the Blind and Kentucky School for the Deaf had announced closures
• Announced USDA approved the state’s waiver to serve meals during non-traditional instruction days
• Announced the state is taking swift action to get the passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship back home
• Issued guidance to state agencies to allow telecommuting where possible to decrease on-site staffing by up to 50 percent to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and suspended out-of-state travel for state employees
• Recommended businesses also utilize telecommuting and allow employees to work from home if possible
• Advised that all community gatherings be canceled
• Provided tips and guidance to assist with physical and mental health during a pandemic
• Recommended childcare centers create plans so if needed they can close within 72 hours
• Asked hospitals cease elective procedures by Wednesday, March 18
• Held daily and most days, twice-a-day media and Facebook live briefings to inform Kentuckians and provide recommended health and safety guidance