Police tell those at in-person church services to self-quarantine for 14 days; Kroger to start free testing for Ky. seniors and others

State police put these notices on windshields of vehicles at Maryville Baptist Church in Hillview. (Courier Journal photo)

As news develops in Kentucky about the coronavirus and its covid-19 disease, this item may be updated. Official state guidance is at https://kycovid19.ky.gov.

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

Gov. Andy Beshear wanted the covid-19 news on Easter to be a new program of testing for the coronavirus, but he spent most of the question time at his daily briefing dealing reaction to his decision to ask people who attended in-person church services to self-quarantine for two weeks, under threat of a jail term.

“They’re not being charged with anything at this time,” he said. “It was a very small group of folks,” and only seven churches. “I’m not sure we’ll have to take this enforcement step again because we’re down to such a small group.”

Beshear said he was counting on people in Bullitt County, site of the most prominent church in violation of his order against mass gatherings, to “suggest” that those who went to Maryville Baptist Church in Hillview “need to stay home for 14 days,” as a notice placed on their windshields tells them to do.

But some told Sarah Ladd of the Courier Journal that they did not intend to self-quarantine, so Beshear was asked if he would support equipping them with ankle monitors, a step Jefferson County has used to enforce self-quarantine of people who tested positive for the coronavirus and refused to stay home.

“It’s not gonna come to that,” the governor said of ankle monitors. “I believe that the community … in Bullitt County is going to respond in a positive way.”

He first responded to a question about the issue by saying he had seen video showing the service attracted two people from New Jersey, “maybe the new epicenter” of the pandemic. “If you’re somebody living in Bullitt County or just over the line in Jefferson, how do you feel about that?” He said it could result in “thousands upon thousands upon thousands” of virus transmissions.

Earlier, he said, “What I hope beyond hope doesn’t happen is that we don’t start seeing the results of this decision in ways that are painful to the congregation.” He and Health Commissioner Steven Stack noted the outbreak that was sparked by a mid-March revival in Hopkins County.

Saying more than 50 people were sickened and six died as a result, Stack said people who violate Beshear’s order should ask themselves, “Does our right to gather together entitle us to have other people die as a result?”

Stack said Kentucky’s numbers look good compared to other states only “because of the steps we took,” and Bullitt County “now runs the risk of going bight with all kinds of positive tests and cases.”

The windshield notices tell recipients that health officials will contact them, asking that they and members of their household agree to self-quarantine for 14 days, and that “Failure to sign or comply with the agreement may result in further enforcement measures” and that violation of an emergency order is a class A misdemeanor. That is punishable by up to a year in jail.

The notices were placed by state police, who recorded license plates. Maryville Baptist Pastor Jack Roberts and some others at the church covered their plates. Earlier, someone had dumped piles of nails in the church’s parking lot.

Many churches held drive-in Easter services, but Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said even that was risky, and said he would have police record license plates at such services. At On Fire Christian Church, which got a restraining order against Fischer, “pastor Chuck Salvo stood on a podium above 100 or so cars in the parking lot, starting the Easter morning service by singing ‘God Bless the U.S.A.’ and waving the red, white and blue flag to a chorus of honks from churchgoers,” Ladd reports. “Before getting into his resurrection sermon, Salvo said he recognized that government officials ‘are up against a tremendous challenge’ and led the congregation in a prayer. He then recited the CDC guidelines for drive-in services.”

Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley told Ladd state police had met with pastors there, and several shifted to drive-in services: “Mosley had said in a Facebook post on Saturday that he was aware of 10 churches in his county that were planning in-person Easter services,” Ladd reports.

Beshear thanked the 5,000-plus churches that he said didn’t have services Sunday, saying, “I think you lived your faith today … Because of your work, so many people are safer today than they otherwise would have been.”

In other covid-19 news Sunday:

  • Beshear announced that the Kroger Co. will begin a free program designed to test 20,000 Kentuckians for the virus over the next five weeks, beginning Monday in Frankfort and expanding next week. He said the Cincinnati-based grocer will provide medical staff, protective equipment and an online portal, KrogerHealth.com/covidtesting; the state will pay for test kits and shipping, and the Gravity Diagnostics lab of Covington will provide support to provide results in 48 hours.
  • The Kroger tests will be limited to health-care workers, first responders and people who are over 65 or have a chronic health condition such as heart or lung disease, or an immune-lowering condition such as diabetes.
  • Beshear reported 134 new covid-19 cases in the state, for a corrected total of 1,963, and three more deaths: a 72-year-old man in Jefferson County, a 74-year-old woman in Hopkins County and a 62-year-old man who lives in Pike County or is being cared for there. “We’re still not seeing the type of increases that we’re seeing in other states,” he said. “Still. we’re in that phase where the coronavirus is increasing . . . and we’ve got to do everything we can to stop it.”
  • Adair County led the list of new cases with 35, reflecting an outbreak at its only nursing home. Statewide, Beshear said, 19 more residents and 11 more employees of long-term-care facilities tested positive for the virus, and four more deaths had been identified as occurring in such facilities. The totals are 172 residents, 103 employees and 25 deaths. “This virus comes for the most vulnerable,” Beshear said.
  • The governor said 667 Kentuckians have hospitalized with covid-19 and 289 remain so. He said 256 have been in intensive care and 136 still are. He said at least 607 have recovered, and displayed a social-media post about a man going home from a Bowling Green hospital.
  • Beshear said African Americans account for 21.51 percent of cases in which race has been determined, about four-fifths of the total, which he called “really concerning data. . . There’s a lot more we should have done before now and unfortunately a lot of people in our society are paying for it.”
  • Four shipments of personal protective equipment for a group of Northern Kentucky hospitals were seized or redirected by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to Garren Colvin, CEO of St. Elizabeth Healthcare, The Washington Post reports: The first order, from Texas, was diverted to St. Louis at the demand of FEMA, Colvin wrote in an email. “In another case, a deposit had already been made for supplies from China when, Colvin wrote, “we were told that the order was canceled at the request of the U.S. Government.”
  • Colvin wrote U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, “and other lawmakers,” the Post reports. Yarmuth told the newspaper, “Stories from FEMA are contradicted by what we’re hearing on the ground, namely that they deny that they’re confiscating or redirecting PPE while they’re clearly commandeering it for their distribution system.” The Post story has several examples from other states; Gov. Andy Beshear has said he spends much of his time trying to find PPE.
  • Beshear said Saturday that some Kentucky manufacturers have helped by making PPE, especially face shields, but donations have been more help. Donations can be arranged by calling 833-GIVE-PPE or going to givePPE.ky.gov, or made by delivery to any of the 16 state police posts.
  • Health experts hope that social-distancing rules can be pulled back “at least in some ways, maybe next month,” in certain places, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN. “There’s an extraordinary risk of there being a rebound” if too much is relaxed too soon, he said.
  • Fauci “appeared on Sunday to confirm a bombshell New York Times report which said he and other Trump administration officials recommended the implementation of physical distancing to combat the coronavirus in February, but were rebuffed for almost a month,” The Guardian reports. Asked about that on CNN, Fauci said: “As I have said many times, we look at it from a pure health standpoint. We make a recommendation. Often, the recommendation is taken. Sometimes, it’s not.” Sunday night, President Trump shared a tweet critical of FauciThe New York Times reports.
  • “The Trump administration still has no clear plan for ending the coronavirus crisis,” The Washington Post reports. Among other things, “There is still no concerted plan for getting vital medical supplies to states, which are left to fight among themselves or seek favors from Trump. . . . Jack Chow, a U.S. ambassador for global HIV/AIDS during the George W. Bush administration and former World Health Organization assistant director-general, said the problem is that the administration has yet to decide what the national recovery should look like.”
  • “Blood tests for the coronavirus could play a key role in deciding whether millions of Americans can safely return to work and school,” reports Matthew Perrone of The Associated Press. “But public health officials warn that the current ‘Wild West’ of unregulated tests is creating confusion that could ultimately slow the path to recovery.” The tests are for antibodies to the virus, a relative simple technology, so the Food and Drug Administration let them go to market without a review, but FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said Sunday on NBC‘s “Meet the Press” that he was concerned that some tests “may not be as accurate as we’d like them to be.”
  • Musician Sturgill Simpson, born and raised in Kentucky, said on Instagram that he had tested positive for the coronavirus on April 6 and would self-quarantine through April 19. He said his symptoms arose after a tour of Western Europe and the eastern U.S., which was ended due to the pandemic.
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