Gov. Andy Beshear on Wednesday announced that drive-thru coronavirus testing sites across the state will be open to the general public. The tests were initially reserved for health care workers, first responders and those especially vulnerable to the virus.
New sites will also open in Louisville, Lexington, Owensboro and Bowling Green next week.
Beshear said the expansion is an important step as Kentucky tries to increase its testing capacity before reopening its economy.
“At this point we want to use our capacity, we want to get some extra data, too, about what’s out there, maybe learn a little bit about some asymptomatic rates,” Beshear said.
Kentucky currently has drive-thru sites in Frankfort, Kenton County, Paducah, Madisonville, Pikeville and Somerset.
Beshear said the sites in Louisville and Lexington will be located in predominantly African American neighborhoods — Louisville’s will be set up in Shawnee Park and Lexington’s will be at the Bluegrass Community and Technical College campus on Newtown Pike.
Black people have been hit especially hard by coronavirus — African Americans make up about 18 percent of Kentucky’s coronavirus deaths but are only 8 percent of the state’s population.
“It is a significant disparity that is based on hundreds of years of inequality and certainly unequal access to health care,” Beshear said. “It is our hope that we can provide at least some help during this epidemic.”
Beshear said the Louisville and Lexington sites will aim for 1,500 tests per week for the next two weeks.
The governor also announced that some hospital and health care services that have been shut down during the coronavirus pandemic will reopen on Monday as part of the state’s gradual reopening.
Diagnostic radiology, in-person doctor visits and pre-anesthesia testing appointments will be allowed starting Monday. Beshear said that there would be a broader reopening of health care providers in the coming weeks.
Beshear said health care will look different going forward and that people will have to pay special attention to social distancing guidelines.
“The new waiting room is your car,” Beshear said.
Beshear announced 749 state prison inmates who were within six months of completing their sentences for non-violent or non-sexual crimes have been released.
There were 196 new coronavirus cases in Kentucky on Wednesday, for a total of 3,373. There were 14 new deaths, for a total of 185.