2 more Kentucky state parks closed as Beshear issues warning against mass gatherings

Gov. Beshear provides update on COVID-19 in Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX19) - Kentucky has six new COVID-19 deaths, Gov. Andy Beshear said during his Thursday press briefing.

Two of those deaths are from Hopkins County in the western part of the state.

The county has been “hit hard," according to Beshear, with 54 confirmed cases and six total deaths all tracing back to a single recent mass gathering event.

The governor highlighted the situation in Hopkins County Thursday while speaking about Passover and Easter, saying the traditional in-person gatherings that usually mark such holidays cannot occur.

Fewer than a dozen churches across the Commonwealth are considering holding in-person services this weekend, Beshear said, meaning “almost everyone is doing the right thing.”

“Our faith community is leading during this time,” the governor said. “I couldn’t be more grateful and I couldn’t be more proud of our pastors, ministers, rabbis, imams, deacons and everyone else for not only recognizing that we need to be worshipping at home, but for all that they offer.”

Complete coronavirus coverage | Interactive map: Coronavirus cases by zip code in Cincinnati, Hamilton County

More parks closed

Beshear also announced Thursday the closure of Natural Bridge and Cumberland Falls state parks.

The orders came following requests from county judges because people were reportedly using the parks to congregate in violation of the governor’s orders.

“We’re trying to keep as many state parks open as possible,” Beshear said, “but where we have seen crowds gather (...) we have to take action in those individual places.”

Beshear gave county judge, city mayors and state park officials authority to shut down parks at the end of March.

Workers compensation

Beshear’s Chief of Staff LaTasha Buckner announced Thursday more Kentuckians will receive disability payments under workers compensation benefits thanks to an executive order from the governor.

A new category of beneficiaries has been added to include those whose jobs exposes them to a large number of people, including frontline workers in healthcare, police and fire, childcare, grocery stores, the postal service, the national guard, the military, corrections institutions and social workers.

The workers do not need to be sick to receive the benefits, Buckner explained. They qualify based on the amount of exposure inherent to their jobs.

The new executive order can be found here.

Case update

Beshear reported 134 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday.

Meanwhile, Wednesday’s case total was revised downward by 28 due to inaccurate reporting, bringing Thursday’s case total to 1,452, Beshear said.

The governor added 228 patients are currently hospitalized and 105 are currently in the ICU.

Some 395 patients have recovered from the virus, though the governor said that figure is destined to be low and that there are “a whole lot of people that are close to recovering.”

Caution amid progress

The governor continued his praise of Kentucky’s growth curve, which he says is flatter than elsewhere.

“Our escalation is growing slower, our doubling rate is lower, even when you look at it as a percentage of tests,” he said. “We absolutely know your sacrifice is working. Take pride in it, knowing you are helping your fellow human being.”

But the governor cautioned, even as Kentucky is faring better than other states, the battle isn’t over.

“We are nowhere near out of the woods,” he said.

Of concern now is where specifically the virus is spreading: senior care facilities.

Thursday the governor announced 32 additional residents and 13 additional staff members had contracted the virus in facilities statewide, bringing the totals to 104 and 48 cases respectively, with 16 total deaths.

“That is why we took such aggressive action early on,” he said. “Had we not restricted visitation, this could have been much worse.”

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