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Beshear Announces More Anti-Coronavirus Measures As Deaths Top 30

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced new steps in the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday evening, as the number of confirmed cases to date rose to 770 and total deaths reached 31.

In his daily press briefing, Beshear unveiled changes ranging from the release of vulnerable inmates to restricting overnight stays at state parks. He also announced some measures aimed at planning ahead for shortages of supplies and capacity at hospitals.

More than 900 inmates could be released from state institutions to protect those who are incarcerated as well as those who work at those facilities. Cabinet Secretary Michael Brown said the first group is comprised of 186 individuals serving sentences for the lowest level felonies, and who have health issues that make them vulnerable to the virus. He said they must have a residence to be released to, where they will have to self-quarantine for 14 days. If they commit other offenses, their sentence could be re-imposed. He also said they would be screened before their release, but did not provide details.

"We've stepped up all of our efforts as far as sanitation goes. We're working on creating, even the inmates themselves are making some PPE -- although it may not be medical-grade -- to help protect them," Brown said. "And we are imposing social distancing at our institutions as much as possible."

Another 743 inmates who are within six months of completing their sentences could be released as well, pending final vetting. Beshear said all of those considered for release were convicted of committing non-violent, non-sexual crimes.

Here are the the other guidelines and orders Beshear announced today:

  • He recommended to public and some private schools that in-person classes be canceled through at least May 1. "This is further sacrifice by our kids and by our educators. But it's absolutely necessary," he said. Later, he said it was a real possibility that kids would not return to schools this academic year.
  • The state is working to set up a 2,000-bed field hospital at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, working with the National Guard and Army Corps of Engineers. Beshear said this move is in anticipation of the number of cases surging past existing hospital capacity. He said it's possible a hotel in Lexington could also be converted into a field hospital.
  • Those traveling to Kentucky from out of state to stay will have to quarantine for 14 days regardless of their origin, he said, though he did not say how this would be enforced nor exactly who it would apply to. "If somebody's got a family member from out of state, and they want to come and ride it out with their family members, that's fine," he said. "But once you get here, you quarantine for 14 days. And you don't go anywhere else."
  • As of tomorrow, state parks will be closed for overnight stays, including campgrounds and lodges.
  • The governor called for those with gloves to donate them for use by medical workers. He predicted there would be a major shortage of gloves in the United States and asked those who have them to call the National Guard to coordinate a donation.
  • He encouraged those who can to go grocery shopping alone, and said he would considering placing a limit of one adult per shopping cart in the future.
  • Regarding medical interpreters working in-person, Beshear did not comment on practices at the University of Louisville hospital, but said that anyone who can work remotely should.
Amina Elahi is LPM's City Editor. Email Amina at aelahi@lpm.org.

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