Gov. Andy Beshear recommended Thursday that school districts statewide extend the suspension of in-person instruction until at least May 1 in the latest intensification of efforts to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The Governor spoke earlier in the day with school superintendents from across the commonwealth about the need to keep the restrictions in place as positive cases of the disease surge. He said he expects private schools to follow the guidance as well.
“I have encouraged all of our school districts to extend that nontraditional instruction, making sure that our kids out there have learning activities and meal service,” Gov. Beshear said. “This is further sacrifice by our kids and by our educators, but it’s absolutely necessary.”
He said officials are watching data coming in from across the state and nation and studying how other cities are dealing with the surge of cases. He said a decision to further extend the restrictions, perhaps even canceling the rest of the school year for in-person instruction, was possible.
“There is a real chance that we don’t go back to in-person instruction this year, but we’re not there yet,” Gov. Beshear said.
Sentences commuted for non-violent offenders
Honoring his commitment to safeguard the health and safety of all Kentuckians, including corrections staff and those in custody, Gov. Beshear announced Thursday plans to commute the sentences for hundreds of non-violent offenders. The move reduces the risk of virus transmission for an at-risk population as well as for Department of Corrections officers and other personnel.
“This is lightening the load on our corrections system and at the same time protecting some of the most vulnerable individuals who are in the corrections system,” said J. Michael Brown, Secretary of the Executive Cabinet.
Gov. Beshear commuted the sentences of 186 inmates identified as being medically vulnerable to the coronavirus, and plans to commute the sentences of another 743 inmates in state custody who are due to complete their sentences within the next six months.
The Governor said all of those receiving commutations were being held for non-violent, non-sexual offenses.
The Governor said plans are moving ahead to convert the state fairgrounds in Louisville into a 2,000-bed makeshift hospital.
“Our goal is to be ready when the surge comes,” Gov. Beshear said. “I want to have it ready before we need even one of those single beds. And if we don’t end up needing it: Hallelujah!”
Call to action on gloves
Gov. Beshear issued a call to action as the state works to keep stocks of personal protective equipment (PPE) amid dwindling supplies.
“What we need right now in Kentucky, and I know there’s a lot out there, is gloves for our medical professionals,” he said. “We believe this is the next area where there’s going to be another big run in the United States.”
The Governor asked anyone who could make donations of gloves or other PPE supplies to call the National Guard Hotline at 502-607-6844 or go to tinyurl.com/KYEMCOVID.
Travel into Kentucky
Gov. Beshear expanded a recent order restricting travel to include people from out of state coming into the commonwealth. Anyone from out of state has to follow the same travel restrictions as Kentuckians.
“We have to make sure we don’t have people traveling in, staying two days and then leaving, because that frustrates everything we are trying to do right now,” the Governor said. “If someone has a family member from out of state and they want to come and ride it out with their family members, that’s fine. But once you get here, you quarantine for 14 days and you don’t go anywhere else. It’s no different than any other state is doing. It’s a precaution that all states should do and most states are doing.”
As of 5 p.m. April 2, the Governor said there were 770 cases of COVID-19 in Kentucky, 100 of which were newly confirmed. There were 11 new deaths reported Wednesday, raising the state’s toll to 31 deaths related to the virus.
Gov. Beshear said all but one of the deaths, and possibly all of them, were people with other health conditions.
“That is what this virus does. It goes after people who have other health conditions,” the Governor said, adding that he wanted Kentuckians to join him in lighting their homes green in honor of the lives lost. “Let’s recommit to making sure we do everything we can to make sure we don’t have too many more days like today.”
Orders help grocery workers, nursing industry
Grocery store workers can now receive the same emergency child care benefits that previously were extended to first responders and health care workers. Gov. Beshear said while the food supply remains safe, his administration wants to support the workers stocking shelves and manning the checkouts. Gov. Beshear also praised the Kentucky Board of Nursing for working with officials to moderate enforcement of some training and licensing requirements during the emergency. Among the issues addressed by a new order from the Governor: It eases restrictions on nurses who live out of state and makes it quicker to obtain a license.