FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky's governor on Wednesday extended public assistance eligibility as a short-term cushion for people as the state copes with the economic fallout from the new coronavirus.
The state's count of virus cases has risen to 35, Gov. Andy Beshear said at his daily briefing on the state's response to the global pandemic. The mayor of Kentucky's largest city announced that his wife has tested positive for the virus. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has tested negative and was already in self-quarantine after coming into contact with someone later diagnosed with the virus.
Beshear announced that all recipients of public assistance programs will automatically have their eligibility extended for three months. That will spare them from having to reapply for benefits in coming months. For people whose certification ends in May, for example, their access to assistance would automatically extend to August. The assistance include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as the food stamp program) and Medicaid.
People who have lost their jobs and their work-related benefits can immediately apply for health coverage through the state's Medicaid program, the governor said.
"I want everybody to be able to get the health care that they need," he said.
Beshear also suspended all charitable gaming licenses, closing bingo halls temporarily, in another bid to stem the spread of the virus.
Beshear said the new cases announced Wednesday include an 8-month-old child in Jefferson County. He called the instance "very rare" and said in general the virus doesn't affect children like it does adults.
For most people, the virus 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.
The virus has been linked to one death in Kentucky. Two people diagnosed with the virus so far have recovered.
Meanwhile, Fischer said Wednesday that his wife, Dr. Alexandra Gerassimides, had tested positive for the virus. He said he thought she contracted the virus while attending a fundraiser at the Speed Museum earlier this month.