Beshear pleads for social distancing as Kentuckians flock to stores and recreation; Trump extends guidelines to April 30

Chart illustrates the spread of contagion with and without social distancing.

As news develops in Kentucky about the coronavirus and its covid-19 disease, this item will be updated. Official state guidance is at

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

It’s yet to be proven that warm weather will be bad for the coronavirus, but it’s becoming clear that it can be bad for fighting it. Gov. Andy Beshear warned at his daily conference Sunday that he may have to close places of outdoor recreation and home-improvement stores if they can’t enforce the social distancing that health experts say is needed to limit spread of the virus.

“I know it was a beautiful weekend, but we can’t, if we’re gonna keep these open, have large groups of people, and a large group can be six of you very close together. We can’t allow any crowds in Kentucky right now,” Beshear said.

“Where social distancing is not being followed, we’re gonna have to close golf courses and other places like it. . . . If two dozen if you are standing around the practice putting green, then you’ve frustrated everything you’ve done throughout the entire week. I know it’s beautiful outside, but folks, this is real.”

Warm weather also fills home-improvement stores, which Beshear has allowed to remain open as essential, life-sustaining businesses. He said there have been reports, “mainly from home-improvement stores, that we’re gonna have to look into, and we’re gonna have to have calls with those that run those facilities. We’re gonna have to ask that either those stores find a way to enforce social distancing, or we’re gonna have to see how essential they are.”

The governor said that under his social-distancing order, “If there are that many people in the store, you’ve gotta close the front door until the store thins out. This is an absolute requirement that ought to be met.”

He said shoppers also have a responsibility to avoid crowded stores and be careful about getting close to others: “You ought to treat yourself as if you have the coronavirus, and you ought to treat them as somebody whose spouse works in a nursing home.”

Beshear said keeping away from other people “is against everything that we feel, every way that we’re raised, pretty much every way our society is put together, but . . . I want everybody to start thinking about the fact that if they don’t follow the guidelines, then doing what they just think is social can result in real harm to another Kentuckian.”

He acknowledged, “We’re never gonna be able to enforce our way into the type of behavior we need to protect people. Instead, we’re gonna have to have to encourage people. . . . As the days get nicer and the weekends are incredibly pleasant, I need you to be incredibly strong.”

Other news about the coronavirus and its covid-19 disease included:

  • President Trump said the federal government’s social-distancing guidelines, which were set March 16 and were set to expire Tuesday, will be extended to April 30.
  • Dr. Scott Gottleib, who ran the Food and Drug Administration for Trump, said the guidelines should not be eased “until you see sustained reduction in the number of cases for 14 days.”
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, estimated that it “would be a matter of weeks” before the guidelines could be relaxed. He also said testing speed must improve to provide better data for decisions.
  • Beshear said 45 new cases of covid-19 were reported in the state Sunday, half as many as the day before, with no new deaths, but he said that shouldn’t allow Kentuckians to let down their guard. He also said the daily numbers are “very preliminary information” subject to correction, and suggested that the number of reported covid-19 cases in a county is largely irrelevant. “There are cases of the coronavirus in every county,” he said.
  • The most new cases were reported in Fayette (15), Jefferson (9), Hopkins (5) and Boyd (4) counties.
  • The state has reported 439 cases out of an estimated 15,000 tests. Beshear said the number of tests is imprecise because the 15 to 16 labs doing tests are not reporting all their negative results. Asked about the University of Louisville lab, he said “We could use some more improvement.”
  • A negative test doesn’t mean you don’t have the coronavirus, because the false-negative rate is as high as 40 percent. However, that may improve. “Larger samples may show a lower rate of false negatives, reports the Louisville Courier Journal. “Former Stanford University pathologist Dr. Bruce Patterson told San Francisco’s KGO-TV he expects false negatives of coronavirus to range between 10% and 15%, in line with testing for other viruses.”
  • Health Commissioner Steven Stack said they had heard of churches in Graves County having services. “You can’t be doing that,” he said. “If you have a parish of 600 people and are having services right now, how are you gonna feel if only 500 show up for Christmas services this year? This is not a game; this is real.”
  • Stack said a Mercer County man tested positive for the virus but has refused to help the local health department by naming the people with whom he had contact. “You can’t be doing that stuff,” Stack said. “Assume everybody around you has the coronavirus.”
  • “Prosecutors, public defenders and judges have reduced the number of county inmates in jails by 28 percent” in response to a call from Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton to “safely release as many inmates as possible, saying defendants who can await the outcome of their cases at home should do so,” reports Andrew Wolfson of the Louisville Courier Journal. Beshear said he was working on a plan for releases from state correctional facilities, but it would not be as extensive as the chief public defender requested.
  • Kentucky hospitals that are “burning through” personal protective equipment to fight the coronavirus have turned to “extreme measures,” Tessa Duvall of the Courier Journal reports.
  • “In Harrison County, the site of the state’s first confirmed coronavirus case, a group of, thus far, 40 volunteers were trying to sew through a request of 1,000 face masks to be donated to Harrison Memorial Hospital,” Rick Childress reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader.
    Read more here.
  • The coronavirus and social distancing haven’t kept many Americans from reaching out to their neighbors “with gifts, music and whatever they have to offer,” The Washington Post reports.
  • Republican Mitch McConnell, leader of the U.S. Senate’s Republican majority, got advice from Democrat Beshear in drafting the $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package, Eric Bradner reports for CNN. “It has been really helpful to get ground truth on this while developing a bill of this magnitude,” Phil Maxson, McConnell’s chief of staff, told Bradner.
  • U.S. Reps. John Yarmuth (D-Louisville) and Andy Barr (R-Lexington) say they are leading a bipartisan effort to get the Food and Drug Administration to allow distillers to keep making hand sanitizer with their current supplies of undenatured alcohol. FDA’s current guidance requires use of denatured alcohol, which has been chemically altered to be unfit for human consumption. “This will ensure distillers do not face a tax bill for filling a vital need in their communities,” they wrote. The letter was signed by 87 House members, including five of the six from Kentucky; Rep. Thomas Massie was not a signatory.
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