Beshear calls out Perdue Farms for being uncooperative after virus outbreak at plant; restaurants say they’re being ignored

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

Restaurants are unhappy with Gov. Andy Beshear, and he is unhappy with Perdue Farms.

Kentucky restaurateurs voiced their ire at not being included in Beshear’s first round of reopenings scheduled for this month, and Beshear said Friday that Perdue “has not been as helpful and as responsive” as other meatpackers that have had coronavirus outbreaks.

The Louisville Courier Journal reported Tuesday that 31 of the approximately 1,000 employees at the Perdue plant at Cromwell in Ohio County had come down with covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. The Tyson Foods plant at Robards, in Henderson County, reported 71 cases and shut down through Saturday for cleaning.

Kentucky has 26 meat plants that are inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Asked Friday whether he had considered forcing a shutdown of operations at those with outbreaks, Beshear said the JBS Foods plant in Louisville had also agreed to shut down temporarily for cleeaning.

“Perdue has not been as helpful and as responsive, but we’re going to continue to try work with them to get the right things done,” Beshear said. “We can’t ask people to walk into a very dangerous situation if we and and an employer aren’t doing everything they can to make it safe, so we’re gonna continue to take steps, we’ll do what it takes to make sure that we can make those facilities as safe as we can.”

Then he issued what appeared to be a veiled threat: “I continue to believe that if you have to shut down for three days, but it means that you can create a safe, healthy environment, that may help you from having to shut down for multiple weeks or even a month. I hope those that need to hear that hear that.”

The Kentucky Restaurant Association told the Courier Journal that it had submitted a proposal for reopening restaurants April 24, but hadn’t heard back from Beshear. “We’re just not being paid attention to,” KRA President and CEO Stacy Roof told The Courier Journal on Wednesday. “And our members are fed up.” She said she had expected Beshear to let them begin reopening in late May.

Asked about that Thursday, Beshear said, “We’re trying to reopen an economy, which takes a little time. . . . They’re supposed to push, but I think a whole lot of owners of restaurants out there, while they are in a difficult place, know the challenge of doing this safely. I think the worst thing that any restaurant would want is to be the cause of an outbreak of covid-19. I think that’s not just a temporary shutdown — that causes a permanent (shutdown) to a facility.”

Beshear noted that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has not set a date for reopening restaurants. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee allowed restaurants to reopen at 50% occupancy capacity this week. Indiana is doing likewise, and Beshear was asked what he would say to Kentuckians crossing the Ohio River to dine.

“We’re asking you, stay healthy at home,” he said, not mentioning his order that requires Kentuckians to quarantine themselves for two weeks after making unnecessary trips to other states. He said earlier, “We hope phase two will begin in June and can include significantly more activities.”

Beshear said he is still coordinating with Indiana, Ohio and Illinois, and said they all hope to learn from states that go first on various reopenings. He was implicitly critical of Georgia, which had the most aggressive reopening.

“We’re starting to see some numbers from Georgia that may suggest their decisions were wrong . . . a thousand new cases overnight,” he said, adding later, “It might just be a one-day thing.”

Beshear said he would not hold a briefing Saturday, the first break he has taken since starting the daily sessions March 7. He urged Kentuckians to do likewise and even avoid checking social media coronavirus news. “Turn everything off for a little while, invest in your mental and emotional health.” he said. “I’m going to do it too.” The Central Kentucky Tea Party has scheduled a protest of Beshear’s policies at the Capitol Saturday.

In other covid-19 news Friday:

  • Beshear announced 177 more confirmed cases of the coronavirius, bringing the state’s adjusted total to 4,879. He said the number of new cases in the state continues to “hold steady.” He said 334 people are in the hospital, with 178 of those in intensive care. At least 1,752 have recovered.
  • Counties with the highest number of new cases include: Jefferson, with 41; Butler, with 25; Warren, with 13; and Kenton, with 11.
  • Beshear announced eight more deaths, bringing the state’s total to 248. One was the second employee at a nursing home to die of covid-19; the 58-year-old woman was from Adair County, just like the first one. Six deaths were reported in long-term-care facilities, which have accounted for 51 percent of the state’s total deaths.
  • The other deaths were of a 90-year-old woman in Graves County; an 86-year-old woman in Marshall County; an 80-year-old woman in Butler County; a 67-year-old woman in Jackson County; a 93-year-old man in Carlisle County; and two from Jefferson County, an 81-year-old woman and a 42-year-old man — the same age as Beshear, the governor noted, to point out that the virus can kill younger people, too.
  • Beshear said 25 more residents and four more staffers in long-term-care facilities had tested positive for the virus. In all, 752 residents and 311 staffers have tested positive, in 75 facilities. Click here for a list with data on each of them.
  • Beshear said 1,200 tests of prisoners and employees had been completed at the Green River Correctional Complex in Central City, and results are expected back early next week.
  • He said the state continues to add testing capacity, with hopes of getting close to 30,000 test a week.
  • The first week of Kroger-sponsored testing in Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green and Owensboro resulted in 5,128 people getting tested. Beshear asked those who have signed up to show up, noting that there were nearly 400 no-shows in these locations. “It is really important that we use every one of these tests, so if you sign up, please make sure you go and get tested,” he said. “Remember, there is not enough testing nationwide; we are ramping up ours to get it into a place that we need to. Every test is so important; it can teach us so much and it can make sure that you are safe and healthy.” Click here to see all of the testing locations in the state.
  • The pandemic is likely to last as long as two years and won’t be controlled until about two-thirds of the world’s population is immune, says a report from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “Because of its ability to spread from people who don’t appear to be ill, the virus may be harder to control than influenza, the cause of most pandemics in recent history,” Bloomberg News reports.”People may actually be at their most infectious before symptoms appear, according to the report.”
  • University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto said he plans to reopen the campus to in-person classes in August; UK HealthCare, researchers and facilities management are working on a restart plan; and UK Athletics is creating an “operations Plan” with the rest of the SEC, Rick Childress reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader.
  • Pregnant women among first without covid-19 symptoms to be tested in Kentucky, Alex Acquisto reports for the Herald-Leader. She writes that Norton HealthCare in Louisville has already started the practice, and that UK HealthCareBaptist Health and CHI Saint Joseph will begin universally testing certain groups of patients, including expectant moms admitted for delivery. Health experts say more testing is needed to determine how widespread the virus is.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is offering a “Coronavirus Self-Checker” to help you make decisions about seeking appropriate medical care.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseasestold Bloomberg that it would be “extremely unusual” if recovered patients didn’t develop antibodies, though the World Health Organization has said it is still unclear. “Before anybody tells me that there is no antibody, I want to make sure that it was measured with a validated test,” Fauci said, noting that many antibody tests haven’t been approved by the FDA.
  • Terry DeMio of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that nearly 30,000 counterfeit or unapproved covid-19 test kits have been shipped through the mail system and seized at the DHL Express hub near the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport, officials said Friday.
  • Kentucky moved up to 13th from 16th among states for estimated percentage  of residents filling out the census, Beshear said. Everyday he asks Kentuckians to do this, saying, for example, “We’re looking at a future where every federal dollar is going to be absolutely critical, probably more so than at any time in my lifetime. Everybody that signs up, everybody that fills out their census, it will take two minutes at most, will help us in the rebuilding effort.”
  • SouthwestDeltaAmericanFrontierJetBlue and Alaska airlines are among the companies with a face mask policy for customers, the Herald-Leader reports.
  • Beshear said there were 24,840 March unemployment insurance claims still left to process. He said 8,000 of had identity-verification issues, and e-mails had been sent to this group; and the rest of them had substantive issues to work through.
  • Other than the tourism-dependent state of Hawaii, Kentucky leads the nation in the percentage of its workforce that has filed for unemployment benefits, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Here’s the top of a chart from The Washington Post:

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