FRANKFORT, Ky. – Gov. Andy Beshear on Tuesday announced the launch of “Healthy at Work,” a new initiative to help Kentucky businesses reopen safely as we fight the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).
The governor has urged all Kentuckians to remain Healthy at Home, following federal and state guidelines on social distancing and limiting contacts. However, Kentucky families and businesses also must prepare for the day when we begin to reopen our economy.
“We want to make sure that when we hit that mark, knowing that we may only know five days in, that we’re ready and that when it is safe to do something, we can immediately start doing it,” Beshear said.
But he warned against opening up too soon.
“When we look at the long-term reopening of the economy, we do it by not being foolish or making risky decisions,” the governor said. “It’s how we come out of this strong.”
Healthy at Work offers a phased approach to reopening Kentucky’s economy. It is based on criteria set by public health experts and advice from industry experts.
“This is going to be a dialogue with your business, your trade associations, employee groups,” said La Tasha Buckner, the governor’s chief of staff and general counsel. “We’re all going to be working on this. We want to make sure we’re doing this the best way and not the quickest way.”
Phase 1 is a state-readiness evaluation. Phase 2 is an individual business-readiness evaluation. This approach will ensure the commonwealth’s citizens can safely return to work while still protecting the most vulnerable Kentuckians.
During Phase 1 of Healthy at Work, the Kentucky Department for Public Health will determine whether Kentucky has met certain public health benchmarks for reopening Kentucky’s economy. These benchmarks closely follow the White House’s Guidelines for Reopening America.
During Phase 2 of Healthy at Work, the Department for Public Health will evaluate individual businesses’ ability to safely reopen.
“Our new normal is not going to be the old normal,” Beshear said. “Every plan has to be really different from what regular operations looked like before.”
Among other things, each business proposal is required to explain its ability to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees, adequate access to hand sanitizer and disinfectant, and minimal direct contact between employees and the public.
“Doing this right is about safety. That’s our number one concern,” the governor said. “It’s also the right thing for the economy. Avoiding a second spike will restore our economy faster.”
As of 5 p.m. April 21, Beshear said there were at least 3,192 coronavirus cases in Kentucky, 177 of which were newly confirmed.
“This suggests that we have likely plateaued,” the governor said. “It means we are not on the increase and we are not decreasing.”
Unfortunately, Beshear also reported 17 new deaths Tuesday, raising the state’s toll to 171 deaths related to the virus.
“Seventeen is a hard number to take. These are 17 individuals to be missed; 17 families that will be grieving; 17 communities that will be grieving,” the governor said. “They are more than just their ages, genders and home counties. Let’s make sure we are doing everything we can to not have days like today.”
The 17 newly reported deaths include an 81-year-old man from Butler County; two women, ages 90 and 94, and a 92-year-old man from Graves County; a 58-year-old woman from Grant County; three men, ages 80, 85 and 90, and two women, ages 80 and 81, from Hopkins County; a 52-year-old man from Jackson County; two men, ages 71 and 81, and an 81-year-old woman from Jefferson County; a 73-year-old man and a 93-year-old woman from Kenton County; and an 86-year-old woman from Lyon County.
At least 1,266 people have recovered from COVID-19 in Kentucky.
To date, at least 33,328 people have been tested. At least 1,076 people have ever been hospitalized with 286 currently hospitalized.
At least 558 have ever been in the ICU with at least 165 people currently in the ICU.
Beshear also offered an update on the racial breakdown of COVID-19 patients and victims, which unfortunately highlights existing disparities in health and health care access.
The governor said with about 77% of the known cases accounted for, 76.91% of Kentuckians who tested positive were Caucasian, 13.56% were African-American, 5.24% were multiracial, 4.23% were Asian and 0.05% were Native American or Alaskan Native.
The governor also said with about 72% of the known cases accounted for, 92.57% of people who tested positive were non-Hispanic and 7.43% were Hispanic.
On fatalities attributed to the coronavirus, with about 84% of the known cases accounted for, Kentucky deaths are about 78.47% Caucasian, 19.44% African-American, 1.39% Asian and 0.69% were multiracial.
On fatalities attributed to the coronavirus, with about 82% of the known cases accounted for, Kentucky deaths are about 99.29% non-Hispanic and 0.71% Hispanic.
Beshear also offered an update on the levels of PPE available in the commonwealth. He praised all of the individuals who have answered the call and donated these essential items for our health care workers.
“In the last week, we have more gloves, surgical masks, face shields, respirator masks and coveralls,” the governor announced.
Among the PPE items where Kentucky has seen growth in inventories, Beshear reported the state has on-hand about 1.5 million surgical masks, 365,000 N95 masks, 930,000 KN95 masks, 446,000 face shields, 4.5 million gloves and 37,000 gowns. All areas showed improved stocks over the past couple of weeks.
“This wouldn’t happen two weeks ago,” the governor said of the boost in available PPE. “These gains were not possible two weeks ago.”
Beshear continues to urge people to sign up for testing at four recently announced new drive-through testing sites in and around the communities of Madisonville, Paducah, Somerset and Pikeville.
Those seeking to obtain a test can get location and registration details at The Little Clinic website.
The governor also announced another drive-through screening site in Christian County. The local health department is partnering with the Kentucky Department for Public Health to provide tests Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Tie Breaker Park. People wishing to sign up for testing should contact the Christian County Health Department.
Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, said the testing capacity still needs to be increased.
“Right now, the testing capacity is only one-third or one-fourth of where we need to be.”