Covid-19 update: Beshear again touts state’s performance, voices more concern about cases in long-term-care facilities and prisons

Gov. Andy Beshear showed this chart of cases by state, highlighting Kentucky and South Dakota. The scale is logarithmic; rising numeric values occupy increasingly less vertical space. Note case numbers on left. For a larger version, click on it or go to

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

Two days after acknowledging that he may have burned his bridges with Tennessee by unfavorably comparing that state’s coronavirus response with Kentucky’s, Gov. Andy Beshear yesterday singled out another, more distant state that has been even slower to impose the sort of restrictions he has.

Beshear showed a graph of cases by state, highlighting the lines of Kentucky and South Dakota, which has been highlighted in national news stories since a huge Sioux Falls pork processing plant sparked an outbreak of cases. He only briefly mentioned South Dakota, but said “We are doing better than virtually every other state in this country.”

Some think Beshear’s emergency orders have gone too far or lasted too long. Asked if he feels pressure to relax them due to President Trump’s statements encouraging protests like those seen in Kentucky this week, Beshear said he does not, because he is following written guidelines Trump issued. Earlier, he said, “Our decisions are going to be made data-driven, with science.”

Friday, as they laid out benchmarks for easing restrictions, which included widespread testing, Beshear and Health Commissioner Steven Stack said Kentuckians would have to get used to the idea of isolating themselves for 14 days not just if they tested positive for the virus, but also if found to have had contact with someone who tested positive.

Asked Saturday how he would enforce that, he said it would remain up to local officials. “We trust that to those local health departments,” he said.

The first benchmark is 14 days of decline in new daily cases or the positive test rate. “Even though I think we’ve plateaued . . . we still need to start seeing a decrease,” Beshear said.

The governor and acting Health Secretary Eric Friedlander said the biggest challenge in Kentucky and the nation is in nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities, where three more deaths were reported in Kentucky yesterday, along with 40 new cases among residents and six among staff.

So far, Kentucky LTC facilities have had 46 deaths (including one staffer), 353 cases among residents and 164 among staff. The deaths are 32 percent of the state’s total, higher than the national average of about 25 percent calculated by The New York Times.

“This is personal; one of the deaths reported was a friend of mine,” Friedlander said. “It should be personal to us all.”

He said the state is sending more medical staff to facilities tomorrow to provide support, and will keep sending them guidance memos, with recommendations of a long-term-care task force of experts. He said he has taken the group’s advice and changed regulations to make medications available as needed, as well as changing some Medicaid policies, and will work on behavioral-health care for staff, who are suffering trauma as the deal with the situation.

Beshear said the situation in prisons “continues to be of great concern,” a day after he announced the first covid-19 death of a Kentucky inmate, a 49-year-old man at the Green River Correctional Complex in Central City. He reported five new cases from the prison.

Statewide, the state counted 206 new cases (for a corrected total of 2,707), the second largest daily total so far, but Beshear said the better metric is the three-day rolling average, which indicates the state’s curve has reached a plateau.

In other covid-19 news Saturday:

  • Beshear reported seven more deaths, ranging in age from 63 to 96, and reiterated a significant racial disparity: 21 percent of the 144 deaths have been among African Americans though they make up only 8 percent of the state’s population.
  • The deaths were of two 95-year-old women and a 63-year-old man in Jefferson County, a 96-year-old man in Grayson County, an 83-year-old man in Butler County, an 85-year-old woman in Kenton County, a 90-year-old man in Campbell County and a 78-year-old woman in Pike County.
  • Counties reporting the most new cases were Jefferson, 96; Warren, 15; Graves, 12; Framklin, nine; Kenton, seven; Butler, six; Fayette, six; and Hopkins, five.
  • Beshear reminded his audience that Kroger-sponsored testing facilities will be open Tuesday through Thursday in Paducah, Madisonville, Somerset and Pikeville, and urged people to sign up at
  • The Bullitt County church that Beshear says was the only one in Kentucky to hold inside services on Easter filed suit against him Friday, saying it had been “explicitly targeted, singled out, and punished for participating in a religious or ‘faith-based’ gathering.” Maryville Baptist Church of Hillview and its pastor, Jack Roberts, filed the suit in federal court in Louisville. They say proper social distancing was practiced in the service, but Beshear said Saturday, “I think what we’ll see is there was no social distancing, and that’s of great concern.” He added, “We are treating all mass gatherings the same,” and state police answered more than 30 calls about violations of his order against such gatherings but found “no one as there” or they were doing a drive-in service.
  • Walmart employee in Hazard apologized on social media to people he may have exposed to the virus. He apparently was the employee whom the Kentucky River District Health Department referred to as testing positive, advising people who visited the store between March 14 and April 9 that they “may have been exposed. It said anyone with symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath should call their primary care provider and that public health officials were working to notify anyone who had come in contact with the patient,” the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. Department Director Scott Lockard “said because so many people in the area were worried, he posted a Facebook video saying that the risk was low for shoppers to contract the virus, but that shoppers and workers at the Walmart in Hazard at Perry County should self-monitor for symptoms. Lockard said Walmart was not required to close but was taking precautions. And he said the patient, who Lockard noted had posted about his condition on Facebook, was self-quarantining at home and doing well.”
  • “Although retail sales plunged a record 8.7 percent in March, Walmart’s business is booming. The big-box chain has been hiring 5,000 people a day and says it needs 50,000 more,” McClatchy Newspapers report. “Walmart is also requiring that all employees wear masks.
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