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Kentucky governor moves primary election date

March 16, 2020 GMT

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s governor has pushed back the May primary election and halted bar and restaurant in-person visits as he took aggressive steps to contain the new coronavirus.

Gov. Andy Beshear also announced the state’s first death linked to the illness

The 66-year-old Bourbon County man had other health conditions but his death was counted as a coronavirus fatality, Beshear said Monday. He offered his sympathy to the man’s family.

“There were numerous factors that led to this point,” the governor said. “The coronavirus was only a factor. But what it means is that it’s very important that we all do our patriotic duty as we move forward to model the type of behavior that we need.”

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Beshear announced a postponement of the May primary election to June 23 after consulting with Secretary of State Michael Adams on Monday. Hall said that would give state officials time to prepare for an election if things aren’t yet back to normal.

For most people, coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.

Beshear has preached the importance of social distancing, the need to postpone community gatherings and proper hygiene to help curb spread of the virus.

“We all have a duty to do everything we can that it takes to beat this virus,” he said. “This is our duty as Kentuckians. This is our patriotic duty. ... And to me, it is our Christian duty.”

Kentucky has had 22 confirmed cases of the virus. The latest case Monday was that of a woman in Jefferson County.

In his latest step to try to minimize its spread, Beshear said he was ordering all bars and restaurant dine-in services in the state to close. He joined a handful of other governors, including California, Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington, who closed bars and restaurants to walk-in patrons. The order does not apply to carryout and food delivery services, which can continue, he said.

He urged people to continue supporting restaurants by ordering takeout meals, and said his family will do so for at least three meals a week.

He acknowledged that closures to walk-in patrons will hurt businesses.

“We’re going to do everything we can to help with the financial impact,” he said. “It’s not lost on me that most of these are small businesses. ... But we have to take the steps to make sure that we are protecting our people, and this is a necessary one.”

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Beshear also ordered the state Capitol to close to non-essential personnel, starting Tuesday.

Beshear said the state is working to waive the waiting period for unemployment insurance for those who lose their jobs because of coronavirus.

State lawmakers were not in session Monday but are scheduled to reconvene at the statehouse on Tuesday in Frankfort.

Also on Monday, Keeneland canceled its Spring Meet, which was scheduled for April 2-24. The track said it was a temporary close due to the virus spread. Park Racing and Gaming at Henderson said it was also temporarily closing. The closure includes simulcast and historical horse racing gaming areas and restaurants at the western Kentucky attraction, it said.

Meanwhile, testing for the virus is still slow going in Kentucky and around the country.

“We hope that in the near future there will be widespread testing,” Beshear said Monday. “We don’t have a timeline for that and every time we get a timeline, it seems to be extended.”

Federal officials said they are coordinating with states to set up community testing centers, and that effort would begin Monday.

The U.S. efforts for widespread testing has been hobbled by a series of missteps, including flaws with the testing kits first distributed by the federal government and bureaucratic hurdles that held up testing by private laboratories.

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Lovan reported from Louisville, Kentucky. Associated Press writer Rebecca Yonker in Louisville contributed to this report.

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People can visit https://chfs.ky.gov/agencies/dph/pages/covid19.aspx and www.cdc.gov/coronavirus for up-to-date information. People can call the state coronavirus hotline — 1-800-722-5725 — for advice about when to seek medical treatment.

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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.