Beshear sets first reopenings, in health care; reveals expanded testing; U of L researchers developing therapy to block virus

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

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Slow and steady goes Gov. Andy Beshear’s plan for opening the state’s economy, with only a few health-care services being allowed to open Monday. But he also announced Wednesday that testing for the coronavirus, a key step needed for more opening, would expand significantly next week.

“We are very close to coming to a consensus and an agreement in being able to put out guidelines for the gradual re-opening of many of our hospital and health-care services,” Beshear said at his daily briefing.

He said plans were being made based on health-care capacity and whether there would be enough personal protective equipment to protect everyone. He said final guidelines are still being worked on, but said he felt confident enough about it to announced that diagnostic radiology and non-urgent but  emergent doctor visits could resume Monday.

He said pre-anesthesia testing services will also resume, to prepare for the “ramp-up” of surgical procedures over the next few weeks, starting with outpatient and ambulatory procedures. Kentucky hospitals have said they are losing $20.4 million a day because they can’t do elective procedures.

“We know that it is incredibly important, that it has hit the bottom line of our health-care institutions,” Beshear said. But he cautioned that medicine will not look the same; for example, no general waiting rooms: “The new regular waiting room is your car.”

And when asked if it would be OK to make plans for summer camps and other children’s activities, he said it is too early to say for sure, but “Those are gonna be very difficult to do safely.” He noted that the three-phase White House reopening guidelines call for avoiding such activities in the first phase. “My goal is to have us as close to the new normal going into the school year,” he said.

Beshear said the state has “passed the test of sacrifice; now we’re in the second part of that test, planning and patience,” which he said would take “the next month to month and a half. . . .We have to be sure were doing it right and we’re rolling it out right.”

The governor’s third phase is perseverance. “until we get to a vaccine or very effective treatment,” he said. “Perseverance is gonna be that new normal.”
Progress on testing

The White House guidelines say reopening should be preceded by widespread testing for the virus, and not just of people with symptoms. Beshear announced several steps in that direction Wednesday.

He said state is ramping up its testing capacity, announcing several new sites, and for the first time issued a clear, general invitation for people who don’t have symptoms to sign up for tests.

He said the Kroger-sponsored drive-through testing that runs through Thursday in Madisonville, Somerset, Paducah and Pikeville completed about 571 tests Wednesday, much less than the 1,000 tests available at each location.

“We will now test anybody that wants a test” at those locations and new ones that will be open for the next two weeks in Lexington, Louisville, Owensboro and Bowling Green.  At Shawnee Park in Louisville and the Bluegrass Community and Technical College on Newtown Pike in Lexington, those being tested will also receive a mask and hand sanitizer.

Those two locations were chosen to serve predominately African-American communities, Beshear said: “We have seen the disproportionate impact, especially in the death rate of this virus,” among black Kentuckians, who make up about 8.5 percent of the state’s population.

He gave the latest statistics, with about 84% of the known cases accounted for: 77.2 percent of Kentuckians who have tested positive are white, 13.4% were black, 4.8% were multiracial, 4.6% were Asian and 0.04% were Native Americans or Alaska Natives.

The disparity in deaths is even worse. With about 85% of the known cases accounted for, Kentucky deaths have been 79.7% white, 17.7% black, 1.9% Asian and 0.64% multiracial.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher said African Americans’ covid-19 death rate in Louisville Metro is about 40% higher than their share of the population. “That is something that is just completely unacceptable,” he said.

In Lexington, Walgreens at 2296 Executive Drive will offer drive-thru testing seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but only for adults with symptoms, health-care workers and first responders. Beshear said another testing partner would be announced later this week.
Listing the current testing capacity in the state, Beshear said,”Our goal is to be able to use this capacity and to try to start being able to deploy about 20,000 tests, this would be a start, per week.” He noted that the state has only done 36,075 tests so far.
Beshear again asked associations, businesses and industries to keep submitting plans for how they could open under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Plans can be sent to He said the state has already received a number of well-thought-out proposals.
“It gives me a lot of hope that we will move through this in a smart, deliberate, and gradual fashion where we can do everything we can to prevent a future spike, which will open up our economy in a way to where I believe we can be more successful than many others who are currently taking different steps,” he said, alluding to other Southern states that are moving faster.

In other covid-19 news Wednesday:

  • The state reported 196 new cases of the coronavirus, for a corrected total of 3,373. Beshear reiterated that the number of new cases has plateaued.
  • The governor announced 14 new deaths from covid-19, raising the state’s total to 185. They were 68-year-old woman from Boyd County; a 74-year-old woman from Campbell County; a 71-year-old man from Fayette County; a 96-year-old woman from Graves County; a 76-year-old woman from Grant County; an 88-year-old woman from Hopkins County; and a 68-year-old man and an 83-year-old woman from Kenton County; and from Jefferson County, three men aged 50, 74, 87; two women aged 85 and 80; and a 58-year-old victim of undisclosed gender.
  • University of Louisville researchers have developed a technology that they believe can keep the coronavirus from infecting human cells. The university says it wants to “fast track” development of the therapy, including an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval to start treating seriously ill covid-19 patients.
  • In a wide-ranging interview, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield told The Washington Post that the second wave of covid-19 is likely to be even more devastating than the first because it will likely coincide with the start of flu season.
  • The Kentucky Rural Health Association said the latest coronavirus relief package includes a new $225 million grant program exclusively for federally certified rural health clinics, for testing and related expenses associated with the pandemic. The Senate passed the bill Tuesday and the House is expected to do so Thursday.
  • Two nursing homes in Kentucky have had at least 10 residents die from covid-19, and at least 14 of them have had a death from it, Daniel Desrochers reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader, along with an easy-to-read list of all of the nursing homes that have been affected.
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps, has been expanded during the pandemic, giving families the maximum monthly benefit regardless of “reportable income and other factors” that would otherwise reduce it, a Department of Agriculture release said. “For households with two adults and three children with no income, the maximum benefit is $768 but can be $528,” the Herald-Leader reports.
  • In a separate story, the Herald-Leader reports that Walmart and Amazon will soon allow people with SNAP benefit cards to use them online. Jeremy Chisenhall reports that Kentucky was one of three states to get federal approval for the pilot program.
  • The Herald-Leader reports on yet another complication for some with severe cases: blood clots. “The number of clotting problems I’m seeing in the ICU, all related to covid-19, is unprecedented,” Dr. Jeffrey Laurence, a hematologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, told CNN, calling the problem “widespread.”
  • Bill Estep and Will Wright of the Herald-Leader report on Kroger-sponsored coronavirus testing in rural Kentucky, including sites in Somerset, Pikeville, Paducah and Madisonville. Testing will continue there through Thursday.
  • The Herald-Leader reports that Louisville lawyer James Gregory Troutman, 53, “was charged with threatening Gov. Andy Beshear after he allegedly referenced an assassinated governor in a Facebook post before saying he hoped people would shoot at Beshear, police said.” Troutman’s lawyer, Steve Romines, told WDRB that Troutman’s social-media comment was “not a threat” to kill Beshear.
  • Morgan Eads of the Herald-Leader tells the story of a family who had to say goodbye to a loved one who died from covid-19 on FaceTime. Eads reports that three family members got sick after being visited by a home-health nurse, cautioning that people without symptoms can still spread the disease.
  • The Lexington History Museum wants your covid-19 pictures, stories,letters and memorabilia for a Pandemic History Project, the Herald-Leader reports.
  • Click here to see the Kentucky Department of Public Health Covid-19 Dashboard found at
  • Click here for a Kentucky Chamber of Commerce webinar titled, “How Can Business Re-open and Protect Public Heath?”
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