Dozens of protesters gathered outside the state Capitol building in Frankfort Wednesday to protest Gov. Andy Beshear’s closures of businesses in response to the coronavirus.
At times it was difficult to hear the governor’s daily briefing over chants, and what sounded like a horn, blaring outside the Capitol.
“Open up Kentucky!” and, “Let us work!” were some of the chants protesters shouted while gathered in direct defiance of Beshear’s order banning events with more than 10 people. Video footage posted by the Courier Journal shows protesters surrounding the building and standing closer than the recommended 6 feet apart.
Over the din, Beshear announced 7 new deaths due to COVID-19, and 88 new cases of the coronavirus, though he said because the state is in the process of moving to a new reporting system, that figure leaves out at least 50 new confirmed cases that will be announced later.
In total, 2,291 people have tested positive for the disease in Kentucky, and 862 have recovered. However, public health officials warn that because testing is still limited, the real number of people who are infected is likely much larger. 122 Kentuckians have died.
Asked to respond to protesters’ demands to “open up Kentucky,” Beshear replied:
“Folks, that would kill people. It would absolutely kill people.”
State Will Work with Ohio and Indiana On Plans To Reopen
Beshear said he will be collaborating with the governors of Ohio and Indiana on a plan to reopen the three states, once public health officials say the time is right.
“We believe that these three states have been doing a good job and that our experience is very similar,” he said. “And so by doing this, we believe that we can have a more effective eventual opening of different parts of our economy.”
The governor said he will be sharing more details Friday on how officials will make decisions about when to reopen.
Vulnerable Populations Still Seeing Increased Cases
The virus has not let up among the state’s residents in long-term care facilities and nursing homes. Beshear announced 39 new cases among residents, 10 new cases among staff and three new deaths. So far the state has recorded 37 deaths due to outbreaks of COVID-19 at long-term care facilities, including 1 staff member.
Beshear said he would not consider reopening visitation to nursing homes, which he said was suggested by a state lawmaker today.
“That would ravage them. That is a very dangerous suggestion,” he said.
An outbreak at the Green River Correctional Complex is still spreading as well. Beshear announced 2 new coronavirus cases among inmates at that facility, and 4 more cases among staff. 31 total people total at the prison have tested positive.
At Western State Hospital, Beshear said there were three new cases confirmed today, for a total of 35 cases, including 13 patients and 22 staff. Two people at that adult psychiatric care facility have died.
The University of Louisville will be conducting research and testing to find health care workers who have recovered from COVID-19, and whose plasma may contain antibodies capable of fighting the virus in other patients.
Beshear announced the initiative during his briefing. It’s a partnership between the state, Louisville Metro Government, U of L, and the Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute.
The goal is to identify healthcare workers who can return to work because they have some measure of immunity, and to find workers who have a particularly strong antibody response who may make good plasma donors. Some early research suggests the plasma of recovered COVID-19 patients may help sicker COVID-19 patients get better faster.
Beshear also announced that the field hospital the National Guard is building at the Kentucky state fairgrounds is now operational, with 250 beds ready and the option to expand if needed.