‘Your business cannot look the same,’ officials tell health-care providers; ‘Expect masks to be a greater part of your life’

A slide of Owensboro Health employees was displayed at Gov. Andy Beshear’s daily briefing.

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

By Al Cross and Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

State officials detailed their plans for reopening some health-care providers, saying Thursday that the process will be their “proof of concept” for opening other businesses and warning that “Your business cannot look the same.”

That’s what Gov. Andy Beshear said after Health Commissioner Steven Stack laid out protective measures to be followed Monday by medical offices, clinics, chiropractors, optometrists, physical therapists and, especially, dentists.

Addressing dentists, Stack said, “You are constantly spraying oral secretions, so there’s probably gonna have to be extra protections. . . . You have unique challenges that have to be addressed.” He asked them for suggestions.

Stack said officials still want health-care providers to use telehealth when possible, and screen all arrivals for temperature and symptoms of covid-19. “You can expect masks to be a greater part of your life,” he said.

Beshear said health-care workers should be most aware of the need to use personal protective equipment and follow other safety procedures, but suggested they need to do better than they did when he recommended they stop elective procedures. He said he had to make that mandatory because a few wouldn’t go along.

“Just a couple of folks not doing it right can ruin it for everybody else, and spread the virus … and set our timetable back,” he warned, adding later, “We gotta prove we can do this and we can do it the right way . . . These aren’t going to be suggestions; they’re going to be requirements.”

He said as more businesses are allowed to reopen, the Labor Cabinet and local officials will enforce restrictions he will put in his emergency orders. “We’re gonna reopen this economy,” he said. “We’re gonna be the smartest; not the fastest, but the smartest.”

Patsy Carol Stith of Kenton County
was spotlighted Thursday. Beshear
said “she seemed to be recovering
but declined,” then rallied and went
off ventilator; “too much damage
had been done and she passed
away about two days later.”

Beshear announced nine more covid-19 deaths in Kentucky long-term-care facilities, for a total of 86. That is 45 percent of the state’s overall death toll of 191. That total grew by only six yesterday; Beshear said some reports from the facilities are delayed.

Acting Health Secretary Eric Friedlander said, “We are working very hard to address the issues we’ve seen in long-term-care facilities. . . . This is not an area were talking about opening. This is an area where we’re talking about giving greater scrutiny.”

Friedlander said the health cabinet has been testing all residents of some facilities, starting with those that need the most help, and works with all facilities (53 as of Tuesday) that have a case. Beshear announced positive tests for 32 residents and 27 staff members, bringing those totals to 530 and 251, respectively.

He said the cabinet has provided staffing support to several facilities, and referred to “communication problems,” reminding the facilities that they need to make daily reports, including data on personal protective equipment.
In other covid-19 news Thursday:

  • The House passed and sent to President Trump a $484 million package of funding for small-business loans and health-care providers, including coronavirus testing. “Many lawmakers wore masks on the House floor, some even speaking through face coverings as they delivered impassioned remarks,” The Washington Post reports. Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky’s Fourth District was one of five members who voted no.
  • Beshear said state and local governments must get aid in the next relief package or “We will be hit with a rougher recession . . . We will have to cut vital services . . It’ll hit public safety in a really significant way.” Asked about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s suggestion that states could take bankruptcy, Beshear said he has been in touch with McConnell’s office but the last time the two spoke was a week ago. He said bankruptcy “puts a judge in a place to potentially raise taxes.”
  • Researchers at the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville are working on rolling out coronavirus-antibody blood tests for clinical trials, Alex Acqisto reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Researchers say they hope to determine who is immune to the virus as well as to locate plasma donors, which is used to help treat covid-19 patients.
  • UK announced that it is furloughing 1,700 workers, 1,500 of them in UK HealthCare, but hopes the furloughs will be short as hospitals are allowed to resume elective procedures.
  • Target workers are planning a sickout in protest of unsafe work conditions during then pandemic, Dawson White reports for the Herald-Leader. “The foot traffic and guest behavior have been atrocious, putting us at needless risk when greater safety measures are required to ensure social distancing,” the group wrote online. “Workers nor guests have been required to wear masks.”
  • Andrew Wolfson reports in detail for the Louisville Courier Journal about the poor conditions at  Green River Correctional Complex in Central City, where 32 inmates have tested positive for the virus. Five have been hospitalized and one has died. Beshear said Justice Secretary Mary Noble would make a report on the prison system Friday.
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