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Governor To Health Providers: Don’t Reopen Unless You Can Follow Safety Rules

J. Tyler Franklin

Starting Monday, certain health care providers will be allowed to reopen for non-urgent, non-emergent services in Kentucky. But state officials said that can’t happen unless they are able to follow guidelines including temperature checks for staff and appropriate protective gear.

Gov. Andy Beshear made it clear: if your practice can’t meet the guidelines, it can’t reopen.

He said Kentucky is starting its phased reopening with health care for a few reasons, including that people are delaying care for other illnesses and that he wants more health care workers to be active so the state can continue increasing testing capacity. Another factor: health care workers may be best prepared, given their access to PPE and their training.

“They give us an opportunity to both have a model in how we do it, but also to gauge very early in how well we’re doing it, and to learn — for types of industries that have never had to do this — the types of lessons that we need,” Beshear said.

He said he will provide dates and details Monday regarding the reopening of other, non-health care businesses. All who reopen will have to adhere to specific regulations. Those who do not comply cannot open and should be reported, he said.

“We want businesses, if they’re safe, to be able to open on a gradual timeline,” Beshear said. “But if they can’t open in a safe manner, they just can’t open.”

Steven Stack, Kentucky’s public health commissioner, said officials would prefer to wait longer before allowing any businesses to open, but they’re trying to balance health concerns with people’s need to work and live their lives.

“This is obviously a very complicated undertaking, and though history could tell us we had to shut things down to keep us safe, history’s not a very good guide for rebooting a modern day health care system that has been shut down in a way it’s never been shut down before in any of our living memories,” Stack said.

Stack said Beshear would issue an executive order on Monday with more detailed guidelines for health care service providers to follow. He acknowledged the timing of providing those guidelines was not ideal, and said he would continue to provide clarification going forward. The existing guidelines are available online.

Beshear reported three new deaths and 202 new cases in Kentucky as of Sunday, bringing the state’s total to 4,074 out of nearly 48,500 tested. Altogether, 208 Kentuckians have died related to COVID-19. To date, about 1,500 people have recovered, he said.

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