Gov. Andy Beshear has released plans for the first phase of reopening the state, which involves reopening healthcare services and facilities starting this Monday under certain conditions.
On March 23, Beshear signed an executive order ceasing all elective procedures to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and increase hospital capacity to treat patients. Starting this Monday, April 27, the state will begin a “gradual restart and reopening of Phase 1 healthcare services and facilities.”
However, Beshear and other state officials said that as healthcare services and facilities reopen, they will need to “operate vastly different than they did before the outbreak.”
“To do this safely, make sure you are going above and beyond,” Beshear said in a statement. “This is our proof of concept in the medical community. We have to prove that we can do this the right way. Doing this right is about saving lives, making employees safe and making sure the people they serve are safe when we reopen.”
On Monday, health care practitioners can resume non-urgent/emergent health care services, diagnostic radiology and lab services in settings that include hospital outpatient setting, health care clinics and medical offices, physical therapy settings, chiropractic offices, optometrists and dental offices, though dental offices will need enhanced aerosol protections.
According to the governor’s office, this guidance does not apply to long-term care settings, prisons, other industries or other settings for which separate guidance has already or will be provided in the future. This guidance also does not apply to elective surgeries or procedures which will be addressed in a subsequent phase.
Health care practitioners should still maximize Telehealth, rather than in-person services, during all phases of the state’s reopening. Health care facilities also should not allow visitors, except when necessary in end-of-life situations or for vulnerable populations or minors. Even then, state officials said that visitation should be kept to a minimum.
Health care facilities should eliminate traditional waiting room or common seating areas and use non-traditional alternatives, like a parking lot “lobby.”
Health care facilities should maintain social distancing and keep people at least six feet apart in all possible settings, and they should employ other steps to minimize direct contact between individuals within the health care setting.
Health care facilities should screen all health care workers, patients and others for temperature and COVID-19 symptoms upon arrival for their shifts or visits. Staff should be required to stay home if they are sick. Staff should plan for and ensure enhanced workplace sanitizing, enhanced hand hygiene compliance and easily accessible hand sanitizer throughout the facility.
Each health care setting must be able to procure necessary PPE through normal supply chains. All health care providers and staff must wear surgical or procedural masks and gloves while in the health care office or facility.
All patients and other persons in the health care offices or facilities must wear a surgical or procedural mask while they are in the health care facility and wear either a surgical or procedural mask or cloth mask/face covering in all other health care settings.
According to the governor’s office, In high-touch clinical settings, including physical therapy and chiropractic, health care workers should wear non-latex gloves and should continue practicing enhanced hand hygiene practices. Any objects and contact surfaces used for clinical services should be sanitized between patients.
In high-aerosol risk outpatient settings — including dentistry, oral surgery, pulmonary services, etc. — the state is seeking additional input from those professionals regarding steps to assure the safety of both their patients and clinical staff.
Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner for the Kentucky Department of Public Health, emphasized during Thursday’s briefing that this is a phased, gradual reopening of services and that a “COVID-19 surge may require adjustment.
“This is intended to be a phased, gradual reopening so that we can do this thoughtfully, safely and see the consequences of our actions to make the necessary adjustments,” Stack said.
The easing of restrictions is part of Beshear’s “Healthy at Work” initiative that he introduced Tuesday during his COVID-19 briefing, which is aimed to help businesses reopen “safely when the time is right.” According to the governor’s office, the initiative set out public health benchmarks for reopening Kentucky’s economy, and the benchmarks closely follow the White House’s “Guidelines for Reopening America.”
For more information about the state’s Phase 1 Healthcare Service Reopening or the “Healthy At Work” initiative, visit, kycovid19.ky.gov.
For the full list of Gov. Andy Beshear’s actions to address the spread of COVID-19, visit, governor.ky.gov/covid19. Watch Beshear’s social media accounts at 5 p.m. ET each day for his regular COVID-19 briefing.
For all up-to-date information on Kentucky COVID-19 cases, visit, kycovid19.ky.gov.
For all up-to-date information on COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website at, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/.
Kentuckians can call the state’s COVID-19 hotline, 1-(800)722-5725, for questions or additional help.