FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear on Wednesday tightened restrictions on businesses and banned residential evictions under a state of emergency declaration aimed at addressing the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. He also said Kentuckians will begin to see National Guard and additional law enforcement at local hospitals beginning this week.
“This isn’t something to be concerned about. No one is patrolling your neighborhood,” Beshear said. “We are just making sure everyone inside our hospitals is safe as we see a surge in coronavirus cases. Remember, the National Guard are people you work with and see every day; they just don’t wear their uniform. They are going to help us get through this time to make sure we can help everyone who needs help.”
Beshear also offered details about a new executive order as he warned against complacency in Kentucky’s fight against the COVID-19 outbreak. The order states that only life-sustaining businesses may remain open, effective Thursday at 8 p.m.
“The next two to three weeks are going to be absolutely critical in our battle against the coronavirus,” he said. “What you are doing is working. Your sacrifice is helpful. What we have done and the steps we are taking are helping. I am proud of what we are doing, but in these next two weeks we have to do even better.”
Since the first case was detected in the commonwealth, Beshear has encouraged all Kentuckians to remain “Healthy at Home.” Wednesday’s order expands efforts to limit in-person contacts to help prevent the spread of the virus. Beginning at 8 p.m. Thursday, all non-life-sustaining businesses must close to in-person services.
Exempted businesses include grocery stores, gas stations, hardware stores and media outlets, among many others. The sale of firearms and ammunition also is exempted. The executive order outlines the types of businesses that are exempted.
La Tasha Buckner, the governor’s chief of staff and general counsel, provided additional information on the order.
“We want everyone to be ‘Healthy at Home,’ which means we want you to go to the grocery store, bank and pharmacy, but what we don’t want you to do is stay in the bank or a grocery store just to be out of the house,” Buckner said. “As you need those things, please go there and spend the minimum time you need to get what you need and move on.”
The businesses that can stay open include: grocery stores, drug stores and pharmacies, banks, hardware stores, agricultural operations, gas stations, media, businesses needed for transportation, logistics, shipping, delivery and pick up, housing, building and construction, laundry, financial services, home-based care and services, professional services, manufacturing and other businesses key to national interests or life-sustaining goods or services, and those covered under the federal critical infrastructure sector.
Most professional services, including attorneys, accountants and those in real estate, can be performed at home. As the governor has said previously, restaurants can remain open for delivery, curbside pickup and even carry out if they follow guidelines on social distancing
In addition, to protect Kentuckians whose livelihoods have been affected by the coronavirus response, Beshear ordered a halt to all residential evictions as long as the state of emergency remains in effect.
Dr. Steven Stack, Commissioner of the Department for Public Health, said Kentuckians are doing a lot to stop the spread of the virus, but everyone needs to do more as the state reaches a critical point in the battle.
“We are in crunch time and the next two to three weeks are critical,” Stack said.
“Kentucky – these next two weeks are about us – about us doing everything we can to blunt the curve,” Beshear said. “This is our time and we must absolutely pass this test.”
Beshear said Kentucky has its first case of someone going on spring break and testing positive for COVID-19 after returning. The governor and Stack told those who went on spring break around gatherings of other people that they should self-isolate when they return so they do not spread COVID-19.
“Don’t go on spring break. You are going to put your health, the health of your family and the health of those around you at risk,” Beshear admonished.
With the number of positive cases rising quickly across both the country and the commonwealth as more testing capabilities come online, the governor is urging everyone to stand firm against any rollbacks or lessening of defenses.
As of 5 p.m. March 25, the governor said there are at least 198 confirmed positive cases with 35 of those being new. Kentucky is one of only a few states that have been able to give a report of fewer cases than the day before. Beshear also said a 75-year-old male from Jefferson County has passed away related to the virus. There are now five deaths attributed to the virus.
New actions and updates
Unemployment insurance expanded
The governor said unemployment eligibility has been expanded effective immediately due to COVID-19. Individuals typically not covered by unemployment insurance, including self-employed, independent contractors, freelance workers, substitute teachers, childcare workers employed by religious affiliated organizations and non-profits can now file. Those who left their job for “good cause” because of reasonable risk of exposure (self-quarantine) or due to caring for a family member affected by the virus are also eligible. To file a claim, visit kcc.ky.gov.
“Beginning next week we will have the first drive-through facility for the coronavirus in the commonwealth. It will start hopefully on Monday with a single location that will be for very specific individuals that are showing symptoms,” Beshear said. “This is a proof of concept. Provided the proof of concept works we may be able to expand it further from there.”
The governor said more details on the drive-through facility would be out Thursday.
“Understand at the beginning, resources are still going to be limited. Even though we will see significantly more tests than we’ve seen on a large scale, we will still need to use those resources to go to those most in danger and those who are the most sick,” he said.
The state entered new orders to allow for more telehealth than ever in Kentucky.
State providers have a new best practice and that is to not spread the coronavirus, said Acting Secretary Eric Friedlander of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. From substance use services to case management, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services is implementing additional telehealth options.
“We can do so much through virtual means and connect with health care providers and we are making it easier for everyone,” Friedlander said. “We have cleared all the obstacles for providers so they can provide telehealth and virtual in-home services to more Kentuckians to keep everyone safe.”
Video for pre-school children
Gov. Beshear shared a video aimed at young preschool children to help them understand and process being at home during this time.
To read the full list of actions Beshear has taken to help Kentuckians limit the spread of COVID-19, visit governor.ky.gov/covid19.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages people to follow these steps to prevent illness. Kentuckians who want advice can call the state hotline at 800-722-5725 or call their local health care provider. To read Beshear’s news releases and watch other news regarding COVID-19 visit governor.ky.gov. To listen to questions from Kentuckians and media and answers from the governor, watch his news conferences online on Facebook and YouTube.
Beshear urges Kentuckians to be cautious of rumors and depend on proven and good sources of news, including governor.ky.gov, kycovid19.ky.gov and the governor’s official social media accounts Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.