A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Outbreak in correctional facilities leads to record day as Kentucky reports 625 new coronavirus cases

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Kentucky reported the highest single-day total of new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday with 625, bringing the pandemic total to 5,822, although there was a reason for the record number, said Gov. Andy Beshear.

“The way that number breaks down is 309 of those new cases are from Green River Correctional Facility alone,” he said.

The state has tested some 1,000 people who are incarcerated or working there, with over 400 individuals testing positive. Beshear says the 40 percent positive rate is similar to what he hears from other states. The good news is, other than one inmate at the Roederer Correctional Complex in Oldham County, no other state prison has seen any cases.

The governor noted many labs don’t submit results to state health officials over the weekend, so there is often a big spike in cases early in the week. “Saturday and Monday were a little below what we see as our plateau. Each Tuesday we have seen as tests roll in higher numbers, though this one is higher than last week,” which was 230.

The Governor’s Mansion is glowing green. Fourteen deaths were reported Tuesday. (Kentucky Today/Tom Latek)

It was also one of the deadliest days, as 14 Kentuckians lost their lives to COVID-19. Jefferson and Kenton counties each had four deaths, two were from Boone and Jackson counties, and one apiece in Hopkins and Henderson counties.

Tuesday was another bad day for long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes. Sixteen new cases were reported involving residents, 10 staff members and 13 more deaths. The pandemic total is now 828 residents, 331 staff and 152 deaths, all but two were residents.

“This is what the virus does,” Beshear said. “While we have so many heroes in these facilities and our hospitals working to save folks, this is what the virus does. That’s why we have to continue taking the actions that we’ve been taking, and not let up, not even for a minute.”

Deputy Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Josh Benton gave an update on unemployment due to business closings caused by restrictions put in place to try and stop the pandemic from getting worse.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, primarily for those who would not typically qualify for employment, and now totals approximately 100,000 people, will see some changes coming by the end of the week. “The U. S. Department of Labor sets the minimum benefit amount for pandemic unemployment assistance. The original amount was $180 per week. They are decreasing that to $176 a week.”

However, he added, “Those now on PUA will be able to submit their earnings from the previous year. That will allow us to do a monetary determination on those benefits and in more cases than not, it’s going to increase their benefit amount above the $176 per week.”

He said the system will be updated by the end of the week with more information about payments when people can request their payment every other week. He said they will send out mail and email notices of the change this week.

Employers will be able to post return to work dates for their employees on the website, as some businesses will be allowed to re-open next week. The website is kews.ky.gov.

Benton says there are two groups of people who can decline to return to work, and retain their unemployment benefits, “If they are taking care of a dependent and the childcare care facility that takes care of their child is closed, or if they are in an at-risk category, due to health or age.”

He also said they are still working on people who lost their jobs in March and haven’t yet received benefits. “Ninety-five percent of the left in March have not been approved because they either identified that they were discharged from their employer, meaning they were fired, or quit.”

According to Benton, if their employer did not protest their filing for benefits, his agency is now sending out an email, so they can make a modification to their claim and identify that their separation was COVID-19 related.” That should clear up the issues, allowing them to move to those who lost their jobs in April.

Benton says the number of unemployed in Kentucky is approaching 600,000.

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