A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky surpasses 5,000 coronavirus cases; five additional deaths Saturday, none reported Sunday

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Gov. Andy Beshear returned to holding his daily press briefing on the coronavirus Sunday after taking the first day off since early March on Saturday.

He announced there were 173 new cases reported to state health officials on Saturday and another 80 on Sunday, bringing the pandemic total to at least 5,130.

There were five deaths reported on Saturday, two each in Adair and Jefferson counties and one in Logan County.

For Sunday, “Based on times of reporting, I get to announce zero new deaths,” Beshear said. “I already know of at least one death that is going to be reported tomorrow. Just for one day, even if it’s just the official count, that feels pretty good to read.”

He noted Saturday’s number is stable with what they have been seeing, but Sunday’s is probably lower due to the number of labs that are closed and don’t report.

Still, he said he was heartened by the numbers and everything Kentuckians have done to keep from having more cases. “We have something that we have never seen in history when we look at these pandemics. You are saving thousands of lives. I’m very proud to be your governor and I’m very proud of you.”

Long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, continue to experience the brunt of the pandemic, especially in the number of deaths.

Beshear said 43 new resident cases have been reported this weekend, nine staff members and four resident deaths. That means since the start of the pandemic there have been 795 cases at these facilities among residents, 320 of the staff and 132 deaths, all but two being residents. Deaths at long-term care facilities make up 52 percent of the total deaths in Kentucky. Cases have been reported at 77 facilities.

“Obviously, this is one of the areas where there’s a great deal of challenge within that community,” said Eric Friedlander, Acting Secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. “We’ve seen that across the world, we’ve seen that in this country, and we’ve seen that in Kentucky.”

His efforts to combat the trend include establishing a long-term care task force with medical directors around the state and working with Norton Healthcare, who have had strike teams and done testing in various facilities. The Cabinet has also increased the reimbursement rate to facilities who are taking care of residents with the coronavirus.

Several hundred protesters, some carrying American and confederate flags and some armed with assault rifles, were at the Capitol on Saturday, demanding Kentucky totally reopen immediately. Beshear offered his response.

“All I asked is that folks who disagree do it safely,” he said. “What I heard is that speakers and leaders, even state representatives and senators, asked people to take off their masks, told people that social distancing was optional. One even said they were not going to take the vaccine when it’s created. That’s just reckless.”

Beshear said he has several goals for the coming week. “Number one, to get all the guidance up for businesses that start on May 11. We want to get that up Monday and talk a lot about it in the coming week, because we want to be healthy at work and we want to do it right. We’re also going to be working heavily with those who are in phase two of the healthy at work program, which will be retail and houses of worship,” which is May 20.

Phase two of relaxing healthcare restrictions is also on the agenda, as well as continuing to ramp up testing with new partnerships. “We hope we can announce them this week. We’re working on one in northern Kentucky to have a regular stable testing presence up there.”

The governor has been conducting his press briefings in the Emergency Operations Center at the Boone National Guard Center since this past Wednesday. He announced Sunday they will resume at the Capitol on Monday.

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