Beshear News Conference - 3-16-20

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — A 66-year-old man from Bourbon County is Kentucky's first coronavirus-related death, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday morning. 

"We are thinking about him and his family," Beshear said at a briefing in the state Capitol. "While the coronavirus wasn't the only cause, it was a contributing factor."

The Associated Press is reporting that the man was taken to Baptist Health Lexington for a stroke and was tested for the virus after being admitted, a hospital spokeswoman told the Lexington Herald-Leader. The man also had pneumonia.

But the man's death underscores how the COVID-19 illness can be spread from relatively healthy and young people with mild or no symptoms to vulnerable Kentuckians, including older people and those with underlying health conditions.

"Think about the ramifications as an individual if you're not following this guidance," Beshear said. "It's probably somebody else's loved one that might end up in harm's way."

The governor also announced he plans to issue an executive order Monday closing in-person dining and drinking at all restaurants and bars across Kentucky, although there will be exceptions to carry-out orders, deliveries and drive-through service.

The order is expected to take effect around 5 p.m. Monday.

"We are asking so many people to make sacrifices from the school system and others, this is a step that we have to take," Beshear said.

The governor said he realized the impact that the decision would have on those establishments, most of which are small businesses whose owners have invested time and perhaps even their life savings.

"We're going to be there for you. I want you to know that I realize the impact that it's going to have," he said. "But we have to take the steps to make sure we are protecting our people -- and this is a necessary one."

Beshear said he will waive the waiting period for unemployment benefits for workers who lose their jobs as a result of the virus' impact, including eliminating any work search requirements.

"We want you to be able to qualify for unemployment and we don't want to create impediments from keeping you from getting through this," Beshear said.

The governor also said starting Tuesday the state Capitol will be closed to "non-essential personnel."

"I am a person who ran on these doors being open for everyone all the time," he said. "We're dealing with something that we could have never anticipated and at the end my obligation is to keep people safe as we move forward."

He said more details will be released later. Beshear said he spoke over the weekend with House Speaker David Osborne and Senate President Robert Stivers in separate phone calls about the legislative session, which was suspended last week until Tuesday. 

Beshear said two state officials -- Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray and Kentucky Infrastructure Authority executive director Edith Halbleib -- are in "self isolation." 

"Both are feeling just fine," Beshear said. "It is out of an abundance of caution. Again, we are trying to model as best we can the behavior we need from everybody else."

This story will be updated.

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