Kentucky now has over 2,500 COVID-19 cases; death toll has reached at least 137

Gov. Andy Beshear announced 134 new cases of the novel coronavirus in Kentucky on Friday, making the total now at least 2,522.

“While [134 new cases] is high compared to a number of other days, I expected it to be much worse,” he said. “That is, all in all, a good sign.”

Beshear also said eight more people had died from COVID-19 complications across the state, including five more nursing home residents. The death toll is at least 137, he said.

In total, 30,596 people have been tested for the virus, 360 people are currently hospitalized, 227 people are in intensive care units, and 979 people have fully recovered.

The average age of Kentuckians who have contracted the new coronavirus so far is 52, Beshear said.

When to reopen the economy

Facing growing pressure to reopen parts of the economy, Beshear also unveiled on Friday the prerequisites Kentucky must meet  before that “very gradual” process can begin, relying heavily on recommendations handed down by the White House. Though the governor said he hopes some health care services could be resume as early as late April or early May, he was otherwise vague about when other industries may begin reopening.

Those necessary metrics, most of which Kentucky does not currently meet, and some the state is still far from meeting, include ramped up testing at a volume and frequency no states in the country are presently capable of, Public Health Commissioner Steven Stack said; extensive contact tracing capacity; and guaranteed health care capacity to withstand another surge in cases.

The approximate number of tests that would be required daily to screen frontline health care workers would equate to roughly 13,500 tests — almost half of the total number of tests that have been conducted over weeks so far in Kentucky, Stack said.

Hospitals would also have to, through independent suppliers, prove they can procure a steady stream of personal protective equipment without relying on the state as an intermediary, Stack said — a feat few hospitals are able to currently sustain, as there is a chronic shortage of this equipment nationwide.

Dr. Stack and Beshear said before any forward momentum can be made to reopen parts of the economy, Kentucky would have to chart a clear reduction in the number of new COVID-19 cases over a 14-day period. This sustained trend would ensure the decline isn’t “just a day-to-day variation,” and would be a “long enough duration to feel confident about,” Stack said.

Kentucky has partnered with six midwestern states— Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin — to work together to reopen the regional economies. Some states will begin that incremental process before others — Ohio and Indiana governors, for example, said they would begin opening their states in early May.

“Depending on how the PPE is, there may be some loosening in the earlier part of May, but it would be very targeted,” Beshear said. “While I admit that is not a date, certainly I hope it does give you [an idea] of what we’re looking at, [and] where we need to be.”

Visit Kentucky’s coronavirus website, kycovid19.ky.gov, for more guidance about the disease.

 

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