Beshear says spread of virus is controlled, but easy absentee voting and more polling places will be needed for Nov. election

Kentucky Health News chart shows coronavirus cases for the last four weeks and the seven-day rolling average accumulated on each day. For a larger version of the chart, click on it.

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

By Al Cross and Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

The recent upward trend in coronavirus cases in Kentucky is “within a range that is controlled” and “doesn’t rise to the high-concern level,” Gov. Andy Beshear said yesterday after reporting a number of new cases that made average for the last week 218 per day. The rolling seven-day average had hit a record of 256 last Saturday, the Louisville Courier Journal initially reported.

Beshear also said the November election will need the same expanded form of absentee voting being allowed for the rescheduled June 23 primary, and more polling locations. And he said that he wants to get everyone without health insurance covered, not just African Americans.

The governor reported 191 new cases of the virus yesterday, raising the state’s adjusted total to 11,883, and seven more deaths, raising the state’s toll to 482.

Jefferson County had 49 of the new cases, or 25.7 percent of the daily total, which Beshear said was the county’s “lowest share in a while.” Fayette County had 36, partly due to an outbreak at the federal prison there, and Warren County continued its “significant outbreak” with 22, the governor said.

State map, enhanced and labeled by Kentucky Health News; for a larger version, click on it.

Three of the deaths were of long-term-care patients from adjoining Logan County: a 78-year-old woman, a 66-year-old man and and 79-year-old woman. Other fatalities were a 55-year-old woman in adjoining Simpson County, a 63-year-old woman in LaRue County, and 83-year-old women in Jefferson and Hardin counties.

Beshear noted that more deaths have been reported recently among people in their 50s and 60s, which he said should remind people in at-risk categories (over 60 or with underlying medical conditions) that “just because things are open doesn’t mean you should be going to them.”

Asked if he felt pressure to relax business restrictions because adjoining states are doing so, he said, “Certainly we want our economy to be competitive with the economies of the surrounding states; by many indications we’re doing as well if not better addressing the coronavirus than some of our surrounding states. I don’t want to be the fastest; I want to be the safest. . . . Our state fair’s gonna be on while many others are not. While I believe we’re being smart and deliberate and careful. I don’t think there are vast differences” with other states.

He reiterated the “absolutely critical” need for testing to reopen the economy safely, saying people should get a test if they have not had one; if they have not had one in a month or so; if they have recently gone back to work; or if they have been engaged in several activities, including protests.

People of color: The governor reported that 17 percent of Kentucky’s covid-19 deaths have been among African Americans, just more than double their share of the state’s population, the main reason he has cited for a special effort to get all of them covered by some form of health insurance. In 2018, 5.8% were not covered, compared to 5.6% of the total population.

Apparently responding to questions about the non-black uninsured, Beshear broadened his pledge: “While I’m governor, we’re gonna work to ensure that everybody across Kentucky has some form of health-care coverage. But when we’ve got people dying … at twice the makeup of the population, even more, we all ought to understand the priority of where we start signing people up.”

Asked if he had considered focusing more attention on Hispanics, since their infection rate (but not their death rate) is much than the rest of the population, Beshear said many of those cases have been in meatpacking facilities and are being addressed by local and regional health departments.

At the end of his daily briefing, he said, “Remember, there is health-care coverage out there for everyone; we just have to connect you with what type of coverage is best for you.”

Elections: Asked what Georgia’s troubles with primary voting Tuesday say about Kentucky’s voting, Beshear said the main problem appeared to be failure to get absentee ballots to voters in time. He said his own ballot took “about a week” to arrive in the mail, and “You have to do better than that in the last week,” which will begin next Tuesday. “Right now I believe that they are on track” in county clerk’s offices that send and receive the ballots.

The election is being held under an agreement between Beshear, a Democrat, and Secretary of State Michael Adams, a Republican, that the pandemic falls under the medical excuse for absentee voting, and each voter was mailed a postcard with instructions on how to apply for an absentee ballot.

Each county generally has just one polling location for the primary, but Beshear said the November election for president, Congress and other offices will attract many more voters, and “We would need more polling locations.” He also said “This same form of absentee ballots is gonna be necessary” because “We’re basically disenfranchising people who could die from covid if we make them to go into a polling place if the virus is as aggressive as it is right now.”

In other covid-19 news Wednesday:

  • Beshear and Health Secretary Eric Friedlander essentially dismissed a complaint by Kentucky’s largest nursing-home operator, Signature HealthCare, that it has to lay off 100 employees in Louisville due to lack of state funding while the state was building a field hospital. Beshear said the two funding streams are not related; Friedlander said the state had taken financial steps to help nursing homes not taken by other states or that were as generous as any state.
  • The governor said the state is “doing better” at processing a record number of claims for unemployment benefits now that the Labor Cabinet is in charge of them, “but there’s still a large number of people out there who need to be helped.”
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told biotech executives Tuesday that the pandemic is far from over, The New York Times reports. Fauci said that the broad range of severe effects caused by the virus is of concern, and that it is still unknown if survivors who were seriously ill will ever fully recover.
  • He said the virus has been a “double whammy” for African Americans, because they are more likely to be exposed to the disease by way of their employment in jobs that cannot be done remotely, and because they have higher rates of underlying conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
  • While many recover from covid-19, the road to full recovery is often long and hard, often taking months, reports Shari Rudavsky of the Indianapolis Star. She tells the story of recovery from the perspective of rehabilitation centers and several patients.
  • Movie theaters opened June 1 in Kentucky, but are they safe? The Lexington Herald-Leader talked to experts about the risks, steps they’re taking to keep you safe, and whether they will survive.
  • Holly Yan of CNN reports reports on where we stand on getting a coronavirus vaccine in an easy-to-read question and answer format.
  • Cleveland’s public-health system has created a hotline that connects covid-19 patients not only with nurses and doctors, but also services that take care of a family’s immediate needs if they are asked to quarantine at home. It started offering the hotline in mid-March to keep the hospital system from being overwhelmed by a surge of covid-19 patients, and is a model they hope to keep up even after the pandemic is over, Kaiser Health News reports.
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