In wake of Michigan arrests, Beshear says militia groups won’t intimidate him; seeks new-case decline to avoid more restrictions

Kentucky Health News graph, based on state health department reports

By Al Cross and Lisa Gillespie
Kentucky Health News

Gov. Andy Beshear said his actions to fight the rising coronavirus pandemic would not be affected by militia groups like one whose members were charged yesterday with planning to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

“This is a group very similar to those that we have seen people who are supposed to be leaders in this state standing with,” Beshear said, referring to legislators who have spoken at such groups’ rallies. At other points, he said, “All political leaders need to denounce these groups. . . . If they’re embraced by different leaders, then they’re emboldened and more likely to cause violence.”

The governor noted that he was hung in effigy on the Capitol grounds, and “Another man who made threats against me and Kentucky State Police was arrested at his home, where he was making grenades. These groups are not freedom fighters, they are terrorists.”

Asked if he felt pressured, Beshear said, “No, I don’t feel it. I got people around me, and I’m gonna do the right thing.”

Beshear announced 884 new cases of the virus, and reiterated that this week is likely to have a record number of cases. That prompted yet another question about what it would take to keep him from imposing more restrictions.

“Our expectation ought to be a stabilization first,” he said, adding, “We do need to see a decrease … over a period of three weeks, maybe four weeks.” He said the last month “looks very, very concerning.”

He said 884 cases “is about 20 cases less than we had this day last week, but about 200 more than what we had in the two proceeding weeks before that. So even excluding some of the backlog cases that came in yesterday, we’re on the track to have the single highest rate this week.”

The seven-day rolling average of new cases, a better indicator of trends than daily reports, stands at 905. It has dropped in the last two days since breaking 900 on Sunday and setting a record of 920 on Tuesday.

An even better sign was a drop in the share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the last seven days, to 4.1 percent.

However, hospitalizations rose again; the state’s daily report said 701 people were hospitalized in Kentucky for covid-19, with 174 of them in intensive care.

Testing: Noting new tests that produce results in about 15 minutes, but are not as accurate as the standard test, Beshear said the new tests will be used with the most vulnerable, including employees of prisons and long-term-care facilities.

He noted that a long-term care resident in Maine died because of an outbreak that spread from a wedding that has gained nationwide attention because it exceeded capacity limits were broken and people violated social-distancing rules.

“An individual that was at the wedding that lives in a home with someone who works at a long-term-care facility, and ultimately it got in that that care facility,” Beshear said. “These things don’t pop up in a nursing or other facility; they get there by us not doing what it takes to keep the virus from spreading.”

The governor also addressed questions about health providers who bill for tests. He said testing sponsored by the state is free, but other providers can charge.

“People need to ask and get an answer if you’re unsure; many groups will bill insurance,” he said. “If anyone is worried about the cost of a test, please call the Department For Public Health and we will find a place where you can get one.”

Asked about the availability of tests in rural areas, he said “We’ll talk about a program to address that” on Monday. “We’re working with rural health districts to create mobile units to hit parts of counties where there hasn’t been as much testing.”

The state is also keeping close track of potential shortages of testing components and personal protective equipment. Beshear said the state recently had a delayed shipment of gloves.

“We have a little bit of concern that the PPE market might be tightening,” he said, adding, “There are dozens of testing platforms that are facing shortages of supplies. But in Kentucky we have a healthy supply of testing capabilities.”

Beshear acknowledged that there’s not much of a coordinated effort by the state to streamline testing.

“In the future it does suggest that one coordinated system, where you can track all the results, would not only be preferable, but it would get people their results sooner,” he said. “It’s certainly something that, if we need to face another pandemic, our response would be better.”

In other covid-19 news Wednesday:

  • Beshear reported 11 more deaths from covid-19, raising the state’s death toll to 1,234. The fatalities were a 62-year-old woman from Bell County; a 95-year-old woman from Boyd County; a 60-year-old woman from Bullitt County; an 80-year-old woman from Fayette County; two women, 63 and 85, and a 58-year-old man from Jefferson County; a 65-year-old man from Lincoln County; an 86-year-old woman and an 83-year-old man from Scott County; and a 31-year-old man from Warren County.
  • Counties with more than 10 new cases were: Jefferson, 161; Fayette, 48; Daviess, 34; Hopkins, 32; Henderson, 31; Whitley, 28; Warren, 25; Calloway, 22; Hardin, 22; Laurel and Madison, 19 each; Jessamine, 17; Bullitt, Kenton and Nelson, 13 each; Ohio and Scott, 12 each; and Barren, Graves, McCracken, Webster and Letcher, 10 each.
  • In long-term care facilities, 69 more residents and 62 more staff have tested positive for the virus, making for 711 active resident cases and 440 active staff cases. The daily report shows 719 residents and five staff have died of covid-19.
  • Beshear said 33 veterans have tested positive for the coronavirus – eight more than Wednesday –at the Thompson-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore. He said the facility has created a covid-19 unit and 10 veterans have been transferred to the VA Medical Center in Lexington.
  • Asked why Kentucky’s covid-19 mortality is lower than those of Indiana and Ohio, Beshear said it is largely attributable to the expansion of Medicaid by his father, Steve Beshear, who was governor in 2007-2015, which eased access to health care. He also credited “a phenomenal job” by hospitals, good communication on “when people need to get care,” and Kentuckians looking out for each other.
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