FRANKFORT — Kentucky has seen its first death related to the coronavirus and Andy Beshear announced more restrictions in order to comb at the spread of the disease in the state, which has seen 21 positive cases to this point.
During a Monday morning press conference, Beshear told reporters, “We are reporting that we lost the individual that we knew was in bad shape. It was the Bourbon County resident who passed away. I want to give my sympathies to that family, and I hope everybody out there is praying for them.”
The victim was a 66-year-old man, who Beshear says had other health issues and that the coronavirus was only one factor. He passed away on Sunday.
“We have to expect more cases and that’s why we are taking the steps we have taken to date,” Beshear said.
He also announced some new ones.
“I am going to put out the order today to close all restaurants and bars to in-person traffic,” Beshear said. “We are going to have exceptions in there for drive-thru, for delivery; but we are at the point now where this is a step we have to take.”
He urged people to patronize restaurants for carry-out or drive-thru service and vowed that his family will commit to do so at least three times a week.
Beshear said the state will do everything it can to help with the financial impact to that industry. “It’s not lost on me that most of these are small businesses, who have spent your sweat equity and maybe your life savings to open that small business.”
He also announced the waiving of the waiting period for unemployment benefits to those who are losing their jobs due to the coronavirus.
“And we will waive any work search requirements while the state of emergency is in effect. We know the steps we are taking are going to cause people to lose their jobs. We want you to be able to qualify for unemployment and we don’t want to create impediments that keep you from being able to get through this.”
Starting Tuesday morning, he says the State Capitol will be closed to non-essential personnel. “That is a big step, and I am a person who ran on these doors being open for everyone all the time. We are dealing with something that we could never had anticipated, and at the end my job is to keep people safe as we move forward.”
He has already told state offices to keep staffing levels at 50 percent or less, by allowing as many people as possible to telecommute from home. He has urged private industry to do the same.
Beshear says two state officials are in self-isolation, including Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray, due to possible exposure to the Coronavirus. Both are feeling fine, he said, but this was being done out of an abundance of caution.
He is also issuing an order to extend people’s drivers licenses, if they are going to be expiring, by an additional 90 days. “We don’t want you to come in person to renew your license. We have so much we do that requires person to person right now. We are going to take each one as they come.”
Lawmakers postponed Friday and Monday’s sessions of the General Assembly, and the Governor said we can expect to hear from legislative leadership on steps they will take. “It would certainly be my guidance to them to get us a budget as quickly as they can.”
Beshear said one of the reasons they are being so aggressive, “We have so many folks who are at-risk because of heart, lung or kidney disease; and everything we can do in this to model good physical, mental and emotional health, is going to be helpful as we move into the future.”
The governor did have some good news, regarding people aboard a cruise ship who tested negative for the Coronavirus although there were some positive readings on the ship.
“Fourteen of the 16 Kentuckians who were aboard the Grand Princess are now home,” Beshear said. “I know it took too long to get them home, but we are happy to have them home. They arrived last night.”
He said a motor coach is on the way to pick up the other two, who had to be flown from Lackland Air Force Base to Dobbins AFB and that he looked forward to them getting home sometime later in the day.
The governor also repeated that the state’s special website has up to the information on guidance both on the state level and with information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That web address is http://kycovid19.ky.gov/.
Those without internet access or who may need more information and guidance can call their hotline at (800) 722-5725.