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Malls Get Reopenign Date; NKY COVID-19 Cases Top 900

Malls are to be included in Kentucky's reopening plan, if they meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Governor Andy Beshear said on Monday during his daily briefing.

Retail operations were already slated to resume on Wednesday, May 20, at 33 percent of the maximum capacity for customers. Beshear said Monday that malls must also follow that requirement, remaining at only 33 percent capacity. Retail shops within the malls must also maintain that capacity limit.

Food courts at malls must all meet restaurant requirements. Currently, restaurants are still restricted to carryout or delivery options, but on Friday, in-person dining is set to resume with 33 percent capacity restrictions, with social distancing of six-feet required for outdoor dining.

Beshear also pushed for the public to embrace "contact tracing". According to the CDC, contact tracing is when "public health staff work with a patient to help them recall everyone with whom they have had close contact during the timeframe while they may have been infectious." Exposed individuals, or contacts, are then notified of their potential exposure.

These measures are all in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which largely shuttered the global economy, including local businesses considered to be non-essential.

The governor also announced the appointment of Mark Carter as executive adviser leading the contact tracing efforts in the Office of the Secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS).

“We are excited to have Mark leverage his vast Kentucky health care experience to lead COVID-19 contact tracing. His leadership, along with the team at the Department for Public Health and Kentuckians’ support, will help protect the health and safety of more Kentucky families,” Beshear said.

“I do sincerely appreciate the opportunity to serve the commonwealth in this capacity," Carter said. "I have long been an admirer of our state Department for Public Health and the local health departments and the work they do every day that is completely unsung.

“We must reopen the economy, but we have to protect our children, our families and friends from another outbreak of COVID-19, and we do that through contact tracing.”

Carter will work closely with Department for Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack and public health staff. Carter is a certified public accountant and has 40 years of experience in the health care industry.

“We are going to hire about 700 people and we will have to deploy these folks very effectively to help contain the infection," Dr. Stack said. "Contact tracing is the way we get back to as much as possible what normal used to be like. Contact tracing is the way we act very quickly to localize infection to keep it from spreading and enable us to get back to interacting with each other as much as we can.”

The governor said that every step would be taken to protect Kentuckians’ privacy. 

On May 1, a request for proposal (RFP) was posted for prospective vendors to fulfill staffing for three job classifications, disease investigators, contact tracers, and social support connectors. Currently $112 million in CARES Act funding for additional contact tracing staffing is effective through Dec. 31, 2020. A final list of all approved vendors will be posted to KYCOVID19.ky.gov.

Meanwhile, 138 new cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, were confirmed on Monday statewide. 122 additional cases were reported Sunday. Twelve more people died across the state over the course of those two days, Beshear said. 

“Let’s continue to shine those green lights,” the governor said, referencing the effort to memorialize the dead through lighting green bulbs. “Let’s continue to be a really good neighbor and help each other out.”

At least 2,785 Kentuckians have recovered from the virus. 7,935 cases have been reported in the state since the pandemic began.

In Northern Kentucky, the number of confirmed cases since the pandemic began topped 900. Four more local deaths were reported in Northern Kentucky on Monday.

There have been 952 cases confirmed in the four-county region. The latest deaths include two Kenton County residents in their 80s and two Boone County residents in their 80s and 90s. 55 people have died hear from causes related to the coronavirus.

The Northern Kentucky Health Department urged local residents to remember that as more businesses resume operations, even at a reduced capacity, the coronavirus is still here.

“As we go back to work and our contact with others increase, it may seem normal, but don’t be fooled. It is not normal. COVID-19 continues to spread in Northern Kentucky," said Dr. Lynne Saddler, Northern Kentucky district director of health. "I cannot stress this enough - it is critically important now more than ever to not become lax in protecting ourselves.”

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo via Florence Mall

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