Beshear rejects Trump idea of scaling distancing by county risk; hospitals cut staff in ‘lull’; Ky. board limits drugs Trump promoted

As news develops in Kentucky about the coronavirus and its covid-19 disease, this item will be updated. Official state guidance is at
  • Kentucky confirmed 50 more cases of covid-19 Thursday, raising its total to 248. That was the “single largest increase in a day, though it is not escalating as quickly as in other states,” Gov. Andy Beshear said in announcing the figures.
  • Asked what percentage of the state’s population will get the coronavirus, Beshear said he had not seen any projection, but it will “depends on how much we reduce contacts” between people. “I believe that we are doing better than other states” at that and managing health-care resources, he said.
  • Beshear said he has had “a better week than last week” in his efforts to procure personal protective equipment that is needed to expand testing and withstand the surge of covid-19 cases in hospitals. He said he has spent more than $8 million on PPE, and “I’m gonna spend what it takes.”
  • President Trump said the federal government will publish new guidelines, based on testing data, for state and local officials to decide “about maintaining, increasing or relaxing social distancing and other mitigation measures,” including criteria “to help classify counties with respect to continued risks posed by the virus,” as high, medium or low risk.
  • Asked about that, Beshear said, “A county line is something we put on a map; it’s not real.” Noting that he had voiced concern a few minutes earlier about Kentuckians traveling to states with less strict measures, he said, “We’re gonna make sure that the entire state is operating under the very same game plan.” Later, he said returns of test results can take as much as a week.
  • Asked if Trump should use the Defense Procurement Act to force and control production of PPE, Beshear didn’t answer directly, saying “I’m working with businesses here in the state.”
  • He declined to say just how much PPE the state had, saying that giving detailed numbers “would give a competitive advantage to others . . . We are procuring in different ways that we ever have before . . . We still don’t have what we need for a sustained surge.”
  • “Our first responders do not have enough personal protective equipment,” so they and health-care workers will get top priority for drive-through testing that will begin next week, along with “people in most vulnerable groups” who show symptoms,” Beshear said.
  • A third Kentuckian was quarantined at home after testing positive for the virus and refusing to self-isolate. She was the first person in her county to test positive. County Attorney Austin Price “said McCreary County doesn’t have enough police to post a guard outside the woman’s house, but that people in the community are likely to report it quickly if she doesn’t stay in,” reports Bill Estep of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
  • With warm weather arriving, Beshear said he has asked local officials to “very closely monitor the park areas and public congregation areas, and if people aren’t observing social distancing, to shut them down.” He said large gatherings in state parks would not be permitted. “Everyone needs to treat themselves like they could be a carrier of it,” he said.
  • St. Claire HealthCare in Morehead is furloughing staff “not directly involved in the delivery of care or participating in the covid-19 response,” about a fourth of its employees. It’s an example of the squeeze that many Kentucky hospitals are going through after stopping elective procedures in anticipation of a surge of patients. State Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, said that city’s Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center, which he once ran, is laying off workers.
  • A state Senate committee approved a bill that it revised to allow Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron to stop abortions in Kentucky during the pandemic, Louisville’s WFPL reports. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s order banning elective medical procedures apparently does not apply to abortions.
  • How does a coronavirus test work? It starts with a cotton swab 10 inches up your nose, writes Daniel Desrochers of the Herald-Leader, in a story about tests at the University of Kentucky. Thursday, UK started drive-through tests for symptomatic “frontline employees” and those who provide patient care.
  • “Reports of doctors stockpiling medicine that may treat the covid-19 disease led the Kentucky Board of Pharmacy on Wednesday to adopt new measures restricting when pharmacists can dispense the drugs,” including a written diagnosis, WFPL reports. “The drugs are not yet proven to treat the virus, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Despite that, President Donald Trump has promoted several of them as treatments, and there’s been a nationwide run on the medications. . . . The board wanted to prevent any abuse and ensure supplies remain for people who rely on the drugs to treat other conditions including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, malaria and HIV.”
  • Refuting reports that ibuprofen (leading brand name Advil) could worsen the severity of covid-19, the World Health Organization said it “does not recommend against the use of ibuprofen,” based on current information. Frank Romanelli, associate dean of the UK College of Pharmacysaid in a UK news release, “There is no direct data to support the original negative claims that were circulated,” the reports have prompted data gathering “so that, in time, more evidence-based recommendations can be made.”
  • Medicine used to control blood pressure could make covid-19 symptoms worse. Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, generally called ACE inhibitors, “may be a primary driver of the severe symptoms” of the disease caused by the coronavirus, Dr. Kevin Kavanagh of Health Watch USA writes in Infection Control Today, citing recent research. ACE inhibitors increase a protein that the virus “uses to attack the lungs,” Kavanagh notes.
  • “A Lexington-based company that uses three-dimensional scanning for industrial pipelines has started helping UK HealthCare make custom and much-needed masks using 3-D printing, the Herald-Leader reports.
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  • Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Bluegrass has temporarily suspended acceptance of additional families and its mobile program, but is working with Kentucky Children’s Hospital to re-purpose some space to “provide a place of respite for health-care professionals who are tirelessly working the frontlines of this pandemic,” it said.
  • The Kentucky business community “is stepping up to answer the call to be a good neighbor and are showing leadership in an incredibly trying time,” writes Ashli Watts, president and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. The chamber has created a “one-stop-shop” for businesses at, with daily updates and latest information.
  • Kentucky Voices for Health has published an explainer chart describing public-assistance programs available to help Kentuckians weather the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, incorporating recent policy changes. It has also published a list of frequently asked questions, with answers, that can be used for talking about covid-19. “It includes basic facts about the virus and touches on transmission, who’s at risk, prevention, testing, when to seek care, social distancing, flattening the curve, the economic impact, available resources, and how people can help in their communities,” the group says.
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