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Beshear: Restart can’t happen on local basis

Kentucky’s plan to reopen businesses can’t happen on a county-by-county basis because testing and contact tracing are not confined by county lines.

That was Gov. Andy Beshear’s response Tuesday in his daily briefing to a question The Winchester Sun asked regarding the Clark County Fiscal Court’s recent resolution urging him to allow businesses here to restart sooner than those in some other places.

The Fiscal Court passed a resolution by a 5-2 vote April 23 asking the governor to consider each county individually and let Clark County to enter phase one.

Magistrate Chris Davis, who offered the resolution, said the county was asking the governor to recognize that Clark County had met the benchmarks for containing the novel coronavirus so allow it to begin reopening businesses.

Magistrate Travis Thompson said that the Clark County Health Department had informed him the county was nowhere near having met the benchmarks, which include a 14-day decline in the number of cases reported and adequate availability of testing and personal protective equipment.

County Judge-Executive Chris Pace said late last week in an interview that, although he hadn’t gotten a response from the governor regarding the resolution, Beshear’s timing in announcing the beginning of the first phase of reopening the economy led him to believe the resolution, or support of the idea by other counties’ officials, may have influenced the governor’s decision.

In an email, The Sun asked the governor’s communications staff whether the Clark County Fiscal Court’s resolution had any bearing on the timing of his announced Healthy at Work outline, and the governor answered the question in his Tuesday afternoon briefing.

“We read all of them,” Beshear said, referencing proposals he had received from local governments. “A lot of them were based on the White House plan, just like ours. But the reason we’ve got to move forward as one state is we’ve got to be able to test and contact trace. And the testing we’re ramping up. The counties can’t bear that load. So we’re making sure we do this gradually as we build up that capacity.”

Until recently, there was nowhere in Clark County that people could be tested for COVID-19. Now, First Care, an urgent treatment center on the Bypass, is offering testing, and local residents can be tested in Lexington and Mount Sterling.

Contact tracing is the process in which public health officials talk with a patient to get them to recall everyone they’ve had close contact with during the time they’ve been infected so the spread of a disease can be traced.

Pace was asked whether he had any comment on the governor’s statement, and replied in an email Wednesday afternoon.

“I appreciate that Governor Beshear reviewed our resolution, and I note that he announced his plan for phase one reopening shortly thereafter,” he said.

While county officials had requested an effective date 10 days earlier than the governor’s date for beginning phase one, Pace said, he was glad the governor had decided to “take steps in what the majority of our court deemed to be the right direction.”

Pace said he is still of the opinion that a county-by-county approach “would be more appropriate for places like Clark County,” where, at last count, there were only two active coronavirus cases despite more available testing to detect cases.

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at randy.patrick@bluegrassnewsmedia.com.

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