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Beshear: Continuing quarantine is a 'test of humanity' for Kentucky

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Posted at 4:55 PM, Apr 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-18 19:38:07-04

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear continued to emphasize a long-haul approach to coronavirus recovery Saturday, again declining to set a date — or date range — for when he expected Kentucky businesses to begin reopening.

Instead, as he had done Friday, Beshear pointed to the White House-approved benchmarks he hopes to meet before attempting a transition to a less isolated version of Kentucky life.

They include:

  • Two weeks of consistent decline in the number of documented COVID-19 cases;
  • Two weeks of consistent decline in positive tests, even as testing capacity expands;
  • Building an accessible testing program for health care workers;
  • Building an adequate supply of personal protective equipment;
  • Ensuring the state can enforce CDC guidelines on large gatherings;
  • Preparedness for the spike that could result once people begin to mingle again.

Even when the benchmarks are met, Kentucky will not reopen all at once, Beshear said. The “normal” that existed in February might not return until February 2021.

“If you’re thinking about going back in the same way as before, you’re not thinking hard enough,” he said.

In the meantime, the state will remain engaged in what Beshear called “a test of humanity” — one that asks Kentuckians to remain indoors when possible and act with others’ safety in mind when they leave for essential errands.

“A test of humanity isn’t going to be easy,” Beshear said. “It’s not going to be just changing our life for a couple days.”

Kentucky recorded 206 new diagnoses between Friday and Saturday afternoons, bringing the statewide total to 2,702 since the beginning of the pandemic. A little over 40% — 1,174 patients — have recovered, Beshear said.

A total of 144 have died. Nearly a third of them have been patients or staff in long-term assisted living facilities for seniors.

The seven new deaths announced Saturday were all over age 70 and included a longtime family friend of Eric Friedlander, the director of Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Friedlander, who has been charged with overseeing a taskforce specifically addressing the health challenges in long-term care facilities, did not name the victim but briefly eulogized her, noting his family had known her for decades and he had attended school with her children.

“This is personal,” he said.

Four new COVID-19 testing sites will be opened in Kentucky during the upcoming week at Kroger stores in Madisonville, Paducah, Somerset and Pikeville.

Kentucky’s numbers might rise sharply when they do, Beshear warned. That does not necessarily mean COVID-19 is spreading at an accelerated rate — only that the health care system has more tools available with which to track it, bringing the state closer to at least one of its benchmarks.