FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced plans Wednesday to ramp up coronavirus testing as he considers a timetable to start reopening the state’s battered economy.
The governor announced that new drive-thru testing locations, in a partnership with Kroger, will open next week in the state’s two largest cities — Louisville and Lexington — as well as in Owensboro and Bowling Green. The testing will be offered to the general public.
The goal is to expand to about 20,000 tests per week statewide, Beshear said during his daily briefing. So far, about 36,000 people have been tested in Kentucky, he said. It will take time to reach that goal, but the state had a 7% increase in testing from Tuesday to Wednesday, he said.
“Testing in Kentucky and everywhere has been a challenge, and we and every other state continue to worry,” Beshear said. “But also to work to ensure we can increase our capacity day over day.”
The governor has listed increased testing as one of the guidelines to meet before reopening a cross-section of Kentucky businesses now shuttered to try to contain the virus’s spread.
The testing ramp-up was announced as Beshear reported 14 more virus-related deaths in Kentucky, raising the statewide death count to 185 since the pandemic began. Total virus cases approached 3,400 statewide as the governor announced nearly 200 more cases. The governor reiterated that the numbers are indicating that the state's overall virus cases appear to be plateauing.
More than 1,300 people have recovered from COVID-19 in Kentucky, he said.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in weeks. For some, it can cause life-threatening illness.
Beshear is reaching out to local leaders and business groups, asking for their input in formulating plans to gradually reopen the state’s economy. The governor said Wednesday that his office has already received several proposals, which he termed as “well thought out.”
“It gives me a lot of hope that we will move through this in a smart, deliberate and gradual fashion,” he said. “Where we can do everything we can to prevent a future spike (in virus cases), which will open up our economy in a way to where I believe we can be more successful than many others who are currently taking different steps.”
Beshear announced the state’s “single-largest testing commitment” since the pandemic began.
Testing sites will open starting Monday in or near predominantly black neighborhoods in Louisville and Lexington, he said. Minorities have been hit disproportionately hard by the virus, he said.
Also in Lexington, another new testing site will open Friday and run seven days a week in partnership with Walgreens, the governor said.
Drive-thru testing in the ongoing partnership with Kroger is underway this week in Madisonville, Paducah, Somerset and Pikeville.
Meanwhile, Beshear announced that an initial phase of resuming health care services currently halted because of the virus will start next week. The initial easing of restrictions will allow for resumption of such services as diagnostic and radiology testing, he said. The governor halted elective medical procedures to ensure hospitals have enough capacity and personal protective equipment to deal with the virus.
Beshear said his administration is close to reaching an agreement on guidelines for the gradual reopening of many hospital and health care services.
“We know that it’s incredibly important, that it’s hit the bottom line of our health care institutions,” the governor said.
In another development, state police on Tuesday arrested a Louisville man accused of posting statements on social media that appeared to threaten Beshear. Police traced the statements to 53-year-old Greg Troutman, a lawyer. He was charged with third-degree terroristic threatening. Troutman’s attorney, Steve Romines, told WDRB-TV that his client's post was “not a threat.”
Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.