Beshear asks schools to stay closed through May 1, releases 186 inmates, orders quarantine for Ky. visitors, closes state parks to overnight guests; health departments start limiting numbers of shoppers in stores; hospitals worry about keeping staff healthy

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

  • Gov. Andy Beshear reported 11 new deaths in the state from covid-19; that was the largest one-day total yet, but he said the deaths covered a three-day period due to reporting delays. He said it appears that all but one victim had other health conditions, but that case is still being investigated. He said that could be the first death attributable solely to the disease.
  • Beshear recommended to school superintendents that they extend the closure of schools another two weeks, to Friday, May 1. “There’s a real chance” that the school year will have no more in-person classes, he said.
  • Health departments began limiting the number of people in stores, according to the square footage, and limiting shoppers to one per family and one per cart, Lexington’s WTVQ reported.
  • Beshear announced an executive order that says anyone traveling into Kentucky from out of state to stay — not just those passing through — must quarantine for 14 days at their destination.
  • He also said that starting tomorrow, April 3, there can be no overnight stays at state park campgrounds or lodges.
  • To help prevent spread of the coronavirus, Beshear commuted sentences of 186 prisoners convicted of nonviolent and non-sex-related class C and class D felonies. Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown said they have been screened and found to be more vulnerable to getting the virus. He said the state has identified 743 more inmates who are within six months of completing their sentence and could be released next week after a final screening.
  • Kentuckians did not reduce their travel last week as much as people in adjoining states with state-at-home orders, according to a New York Times analysis of cell-phone data.
  • Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the metro health department had received more than 1,100 complaints about non-compliant businesses, mostly non-essential firms that should not be operating. Seven have been ordered to close.
  • Hospital systems say their main worry is that the coronavirus will keep their employees off the front lines as the surge of patients increases. “Our biggest concern right now … is keeping staff healthy and keeping them in the game,” Dr. Jody Prather, chief strategy and marketing officer for Baptist Health, said on Fischer’s daily chat. “We can always find the space and locations but we only have a certain number of health-care professionals.”
  • Dr. Steven Hester, chief medical officer of Norton Healthcare, said in the chat, “The biggest thing I think you can do for the caregivers is follow the recommendations of state and local governments.” He said a big challenge with the virus is “a lot of asymptomatic spread” by people who have the virus but don’t know it because they have no symptoms. At least a fourth of infected people are asymptomatic.
  • Noting data showing that the virus can last on a surface for six to seven days and in the air for three hours, Hester said, “We’ve got to get folks compliant with staying at home . . . If everyone follows self-isolation it’s our greatest chance.”
  • Beshear said the state is moving ahead with plans for a 2,000-bed field hospital at the Louisville Fair Grounds to make sure Kentucky is ready when the surge comes. He said the National Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers will help with this, “and if we don’t need it, hallelujah!”
  • He said no field hospitals are being planned in Lexington at this time. Instead, the state is working on a hotel to use for this purpose if needed, and he promised more information soon.
  • Beshear continues to press for social distancing and against gatherings of any size. “There are not ways to get exceptions around this,” he said at his daily press briefing. “If you are outside exercising [and] 10 people get together six feet apart — that is not OK. We can’t be doing that. We’ve got to make sure that we are avoiding crowds and gatherings entirely.”
  • Beshear called on Kentuckians to donate gloves if they have them. He said the National Guard is coordinating this collection and to call 502-607-6844 if you have some to donate.
  • Beshear explained that the state must sometimes correct the number of new cases on some days because there are many contributors to the final numbers. He pledged transparency in the process and said that would mean the numbers might change from day to day. That said, he reported 100 new cases today, bringing the state’s total to 770.
  • He said while there have been four positive cases reported at Western State Psychiatric Hospital, the state has only been able to confirm three of them so far.
  • Valarie Honeycutt Spears of the Lexington Herald-Leader profiles a father and daughter who are the only two identified covid-19 cases in Breathitt County and have recovered.
  • James Hohmann of The Washington Post writes in his “Daily 202” roundup, “As Americans turn inward and the U.S. government becomes preoccupied by domestic considerations, the world remains a tinderbox. This pandemic could turn out to be a match that lights a brushfire, fueling strife within other countries and raising the probability of wars. There are blinking red lights that the world is on the verge of becoming a more dangerous place.” He gives many examples.
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