By Drew Bergman
With daily changes to our lives and routines, it is important that we remember how far we have come in the first three weeks of this month. While new tasks and challenges lie ahead of us as we press on into spring, this article will review the pronouncements of the past three weeks from Governor Andy Beshear and his ASL translator Virginia Moore.
Beginning with March 6, when Kentucky had its first confirmed case and continuing on through press time Wednesday, each day (save Sunday, March 8) has had some news or turn come from Frankfort. To track the response with the number of cases, the number of confirmed Kentucky cases appears in parenthesis after the date.
March 6, 2020 (1): Gov. Beshear declared a State of Emergency in the Commonwealth, activating the Emergency Management Operations Center.
March 7, 2020 (1): Gov. Beshear activated the State Health Operations Center; announced Kentucky’s COVID-19 hotline and information website (800-722-5725, kykovid19.ky.gov); issued his first executive order prohibiting price gouging, coordinating with AG Daniel Cameron (hotline 888-432-9257); adjusted state sick leave policy ensuring state employees who are sick can stay home even if they have not accrued leave time and encouraged businesses to do likewise; published the CDC guidelines with warnings to high-risk individuals (people over 60, people that have heart, lung, or kidney disease, or have compromised immune systems) to not go into large crowds, to not fly, and especially to not get on a cruise ship; recommended social distancing for high-risk individuals.
March 9, 2020 (4): Gov. Beshear issued an executive order to waive copays, deductibles, cost-sharing, and diagnostic testing fees for private insurance and state employees; directed providers to expand their network to patients that may go outside their normal providers; first shared the now-familiar when-to-seek-care infographic; announced that he had contacted all 120 county judges to discuss the emergency management network to get it operational; initiated changes to Medicaid, including eliminating prior authorization and any fees associated with testing or treatment for the coronavirus.
March 10, 2020 (8): Gov. Beshear officially limited visits to long-term care facilities and nursing homes, except in an end-of-life situation, signed an executive order that allows pharmacists to refill prescriptions for up to 30 days, and closed all state prisons to visitors.
March 11, 2020 (8): Gov. Beshear cancelled the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast; recommended social distancing for everyone, not just high-risk individuals; instructed school districts to be prepared to close on short notice (72 hours); recommended all community gatherings be cancelled or postponed; suspended out-of-state travel for state employees; encouraged all businesses to allow employees to work from home if at all possible, and to practice social distancing if not.
March 12, 2020 (11): Gov. Beshear recommended that all Kentucky school superintendents cease in-person classes for an extended period of time beginning Monday, March 16.
March 13, 2020 (14): Gov. Beshear advised senior centers to temporarily close, but said that meals would still be available at many senior centers via drive through pick-up or delivery; announced that Kentucky Employers’ Mutual Insurance (KEMI) would immediately provide wage replacement benefits for first responders and medical personnel who have been quarantined for COVID-19 as a result of their increased risk of exposure in the course of their work; announced that civic boards and commissions will cancel any scheduled in-person meetings, and instead use video teleconference technology and provide the public with the appropriate links.
March 14, 2020 (16): Gov. Beshear followed the emergency declaration from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which provides regulatory relief for commercial drivers who are providing direct assistance to COVID-19 relief effort; got approval from the USDA of a waiver to be able to serve meals to students during Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI); directed state agencies to decrease on-site staffing by at least 50 percent; asked Kentucky hospitals to cease elective procedures by close of business Wednesday, March 18th; guaranteed that COVID-19 testing would be free to all Kentuckians, even if they are uninsured; asked the childcare centers of Kentucky to create plans for closure that they could implement within 72 hours; forced the home isolation of a Nelson County COVID-19 patient when they initially refused to self-quarantine; issued tips and guidance to help support good mental health and relieve anxiety.
March 15, 2020 (20): Gov. Beshear brought Kentuckians on the Grand Princess cruise ship back home.
March 16, 2020 (22): Gov. Beshear moved the Emergency Operations Center to level 3 to assist with preparation and response; signed an executive order to close all restaurants and bars to in-person traffic, excepting for drive-through, delivery, and limited carry out; waived the waiting period for unemployment for people that are losing their jobs due to coronavirus, and announced that the commonwealth will waive any work search requirements while the state of emergency is in effect; asked childcare centers across Kentucky to close by end of business on March 20, with some exceptions in the policy for health care workers and on-site employers; announced a three-month extension on driver’s licenses; applied for an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan Declaration; with the recommendation from Secretary of State Michael Adams, postponed the primary elections by the 35 days allowed under state law (June 23, 2020).
March 17, 2020 (26): Gov. Beshear closed the State Capitol to non-essential personnel, closed state government buildings to in-person services; signed an executive order stating that by 5 p.m. on March 18, “all public-facing businesses that encourage public congregation or that by the nature of their service to the public cannot comply with the CDC guidelines concerning social distancing are going to have to cease their operations. These businesses must include: entertainment and recreational facilities, community and recreation centers, gyms and exercise facilities, hair salons, nail salons, spas, concert venues, theaters, and sporting event facilities;” announced that the state is working with federal partners to continue CCAP payments for qualified families and that the state will be covering co-pays; discouraged all visitors from acute care facilities except for end-of-life-circumstances; encouraged senior care facilities to limit visitation to the loved one of those who are receiving end-of-life care; encouraged psychiatric facilities to restrict visitation to situations “deemed medically necessary by the attending physician, administrator, and medical director;” announced that all licensed adult day centers should prepare to close beginning March 20; and posted guidance on providing remote service.
March 18, 2020 (35): Gov. Beshear announced that the food chain was safe and secure.
March 19, 2020 (40): Gov. Beshear issued guidance for establishing childcare programs in support of “employees of health care entities, first responders (Law Enforcement, EMS, Fire Departments), corrections officers and Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) workers. The guidance is online at chfs.ky.gov;” announced that restaurants with an active liquor license and are doing delivery or carry-out can also deliver alcoholic beverages in their original, unopened, containers; issued a letter banning all mass gatherings including: “community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based or sporting events; parades; concerts; festivals; conventions; fundraisers; and similar activities.”
March 20, 2020 (48): Gov. Beshear recommended Kentucky schools extend their closure to in-person instruction until April 20; successfully qualified the state for SBA disaster certification allowing “for-profit contractors and private non-profits anywhere in Kentucky that have been harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” to apply for low-interest Economic Injury Disaster Loans at www.sba.gov/disaster (call 1-800-659-2955 or email email@example.com for more assistance); delayed the tax filing deadline by three months to July 15, mirroring the federal government’s extension; announced that “Kentucky’s bourbon distillers are working with the state to produce and distribute hand sanitizer;” announced that businesses have stepped up to donate N95 masks including 1,827 from Toyota, 50 from Gray Construction, and 40 from AE Electrical Solutions; and announced that many plumbers and pipefitters have donated respirators.
March 21, 2020 (63): Gov. Beshear extended his executive order to prohibit price gouging for 15 more days (the Consumer Protection hotline number is 888-432-9257).
March 22, 2020 (99): Gov. Beshear announced that “all in-person retail businesses that are not life sustaining will close effective Monday, March 23, 2020, at 8 p.m.,” those include entertainment, sporting goods, clothing, shoe, jewelry and furniture stores, florists, bookstores, and automotive dealerships (as with restaurants, curbside service was still allowed); retail businesses that remain open must follow, to the fullest extent practicable, social distancing and hygiene guidance.
March 23, 2020 (124): Gov. Beshear signed an executive order to cease all elective medical procedures after several groups did not follow the original recommendation; announced that the parameters regarding mass layoffs would change and encouraged any employer with 50 or more employees who is laying off at least 15 of them to file a claim on behalf of their employees (the state has trained 138 workers to alleviate the case backlog); established the Team Kentucky Fund, a fundraising platform providing financial assistance to Kentuckians whose employment has been affected by the pandemic, the governor encouraged those who could to donate to the Fund; established the COVID-19 Reporting Hotline to combat non-compliance (833-597-2337); and encouraged all TV and radio stations to conduct PSAs about social distancing and other state guidelines to combat the coronavirus.
March 24, 2020 (163): Gov. Beshear signed an executive order closing all non-life-sustaining businesses to in-person traffic by March 26 at 8 p.m., 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,” as “most professional services, including attorneys, accountants and those in real estate, can be performed at home,” they should be; announced that the Kentucky Department of Education has canceled K-PREP assessment for the 2019-2020 school year after receiving a waiver from the Department of Education (testing will resume next school year); announced that “Kentucky is significantly ahead of other Southern states in preparedness, volunteer coordination and meal delivery programs for seniors” and that on “March 23, 11,825 meals were served statewide, an increase of 3,825 meals (150%), according to the Department of Health and Family Services;” announced state workers would begin helping at food banks due to low volunteer turnout.