FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX19) - Ky. Gov. Andy Beshear said Wednesday a person contracted COVID-19 while on spring break in Florida, then brought it back to the commonwealth.
“We cannot do that,” Beshear said heatedly. “We are in the midst of a worldwide health pandemic, so the answer is no, we cannot go on spring break.”
The governor continued: “They ought to be shutting things down in Florida. I can’t control that. Do not go on spring break. You are going to put your health and the health of your family and everyone around you at risk.”
In the same Wednesday briefing, Beshear said Kentucky now has 198 confirmed cases of the virus.
The figure represents an increase of 35 over Tuesday’s total, which itself represented an increase of 36 over Monday’s, marking a rare day-on-day decline in new cases.
Beshear celebrated the marginal decline, adding that hopeful data was beginning to trickle in about Kentucky’s performance fighting the virus as compared to other states.
Speaking to those staying home amid the pandemic, the governor said, “What you are doing, the approach you are taking appears to be having the effect we hope.”
At the same time, Beshear warned the next several weeks will be “absolutely critical," as states across the country are seeing cases double every two days.
This period “may be the biggest difference in terms of the number of Kentuckians we can protect” from COVID-19, he said.
“I need you to ratchet it up multiple notches. I need you over the next couple weeks to be as diligent as you possibly can.”
College kids going on spring break is one example of something that would “frustrate the sacrifices” of their fellow Kentuckians during this “crunch time,” he said. Other examples include folks having group play dates for their kids and people going to the grocery store “just to be around other people.”
Beshear also announced the state’s fifth COVID-19-related death, a 75-year-old man from Jefferson County.
The governor will light his house green tonight, he said, as he has done previously, to evoke compassion and renewal.
Effective 8 p.m. Thursday, all non-life sustaining businesses will be forced to close to in-person traffic, the governor said.
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.
Most professional services, including attorneys, accountants and those in real estate, can be performed at home, the governor said.
Restaurants can remain open for delivery, curbside pickup and even carry out if they follow guidelines on social distancing.
“We want everyone to be Healthy at Home, which means we want you to go to the grocery store, bank and pharmacy, but what we don’t want you to do is stay in the bank or a grocery store just to be out of the house,” Beshear’s chief of staff and general counsel La Tasha Buckner said. “As you need those things, please go there and spend the minimum time you need to get what you need and move on.”
Beshear also said, as of Wednesday, individuals typically not covered by unemployment insurance will qualify: self-employed, freelance workers, independent contractors, substitute teachers, gig-economy works and childcare workers employed by religious affiliated organizations and non-profits.
Those who left their job for “good cause” because of reasonable risk of exposure (self-quarantine) or due to caring for a family member affected by the virus are also eligible, the governor said.
To file a claim, visit kcc.ky.gov.
By executive order, Beshear has suspended residential evictions in Kentucky as long as the state of emergency is in effect.
“We can’t kick people out of their homes, not right now,” he said.
Tenants will still owe rent, his spokesperson clarified, but they cannot be displaced.
Beshear said the state’s first drive-thru testing facility will be open Monday, significantly expanding the number of tests the state can perform.
Beshear did not reveal the location Wednesday afternoon, but called the facility a ‘proof-of-concept’ that could precede several more facilities in the following days.