Coronavirus response intensifies

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Graphic courtesy: MGN Online

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – From schools to busineses and hospitals, response to coronavirus in the state continues to many fronts, city and state leaders stressed Monday.

The state also has issued new guidelines covering different scenarios depending on how people feel.

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“I know many people are concerned, but I want Kentuckians to know the risk remains low and there is no need to panic,” Gov. Andy Beshear said during a 45-minute press conference that also featured Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton, Harrison County Judge-Executive Alex Barnett, Cynthiana Mayor James Smith, and state and local health officials .

The governor stressed that 80 percent or more of people who get infected are going to be just fine. “You’ll probably either have cold symptoms or no symptoms,” he said.

The group reminded Kentuckians to visit kycovid19.ky.gov, where the state provides updates multiple times a day, in order to make sure everyone has accurate information and the same information.



The state now has four cases, including two that are connected in Harrison County. State officials did not say how the cases are linked but one of the patients, the first to be identified in state, worked at the Walmart in Cynthiana. The others are in Lexington and Louisville.

All four patients are in isolation and the medical facilities where they have been treated have taken special precautions for their staffs.

“We are confirming Kentucky government health reports that an associate at the Walmart store in Cynthiana, Kentucky has tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently receiving all the necessary medical care.  We are keeping the associate in our thoughts and join their friends at the store in wishing their fellow associate a continued speedy recovery.,” Walmart said in a statement.

“We want to thank Governor Beshear and WEDCO District Health Department officials for their assistance and guidance.  Upon learning about the case from health officials we reinforced our cleaning and sanitizing protocols with guidance from Walmart’s Chief Medical Officer. Due to the steps we have taken and the advice of state and local health experts, the store remains open for customers and associates to shop and work in the store.

“We have been communicating with our associates, stressing the importance of staying home if they are not feeling well and encouraging our associates to seek medical care immediately if they have any signs or symptoms.  We are also monitoring this situation closely with the support of our Emergency Operations Center and health officials, ready to assist our associates. Rest assured, we will continue to take any and all measures necessary to ensure the well-being of our associates and customers,” the retail giant concluded.

Key updates Monday include:

o   One Jefferson County resident is being treated at Norton Brownsboro Hospital.

o   The first Harrison County patient is being treated at the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center and is improving.

o   The two patients from Harrison County are linked.

o   The Fayette County patient is a resident of Fayette County.

o   Only one patient has a travel history, which indicates the virus is spreading person-to-person and that is why good hygiene is critical.

  • State removing any impediments for Kentuckians on Medicaid to be tested and treated.
  • Gov. Beshear has issued executive order to waive copays, deductibles, cost-sharing and diagnostic testing fees for private insurance and state employees. The governor is also telling providers to expand their network to patients that may go outside their normal providers.
  • An ongoing study by state and local epidemiologists has confirmed that the first individual confirmed with the virus is employed in Harrison County. Those who visited the individual’s place of employment, the Walmart located at 805 Highway 27 South in Cynthiana or work there could be contacted by epidemiologists and should follow the guidance for those at risk. None of the patient’s co-workers have shown symptoms. There is no reason not to visit the Walmart.
  • New guidelines issued online to senior centers, nursing homes, long-term care centers and those who care for seniors to restrict visitation to better protect loved ones.
  • Dr. Steven Stack, state public health commissioner, provided updated advice to help Kentuckians know when they should go to the doctor. See below.

Guidance for those who feel sick

Worried, but well

Do not go to a hospital, ER or doctor’s office. If you are worried-well, going to a hospital or doctor’s office just further overwhelms medical staff and adds to a higher concentration of people. If you are worried-well stay home.

Feeling ill, but otherwise would not have sought out medical care

If you have a fever or cough and, if it were not for COVID-19, you would not have otherwise sought care, do not seek care at an ER, hospital or doctor’s office. If you want advice, call the state hotline (1.800.722.5725) or your local health care provider.

If you are sick and feel you have an emergency

Call your doctor or seek medical care. The hospitals across the state stand ready to serve.

Directions for those at higher risk
Kentuckians should take extra steps to prevent the spread of the virus. Gov. Beshear recommended extra precautions including avoiding large crowds for those at higher risk, including those over 60 and Kentuckians with chronic health conditions including heart, lung or kidney disease. The additional CDC precautions, like social distancing and other key resources are available online.

Schools

Until more is known from the state’s current epidemiological investigations, closing schools and public gatherings is not recommended with only four positive cases. However, individual school systems such as Harrison County can make their own decisions about school closures. Harrison County schools have announced they would close beginning today through at least March 13.

Senior care centers

Those who are sick are asked not to visit nursing homes and not to go in to work. Harrison County nursing homes are no longer accepting visitors and new guidelines were issued online to senior centers, nursing homes, long-term care centers and those who are caring for seniors to restrict visitation to better protect loved ones.

Business

At this time, local businesses do not need to close, but Gov. Beshear has encouraged businesses to implement polices so sick employees do not feel like they have to go to work when they are sick.

State and local response efforts
Gov. Beshear confirmed the first case on Friday and declared a state of emergency to ensure the state had all necessary resources to respond. The State Health Operations Center is activated at level one – fully activated – and the State Emergency Operations Center is also activated.

Those joining Gov. Beshear on Monday all agreed that state and local officials have been working together to ensure they have every resource to respond.

“We want to thank WEDCO and Dr. Miller for all the work they are doing in Harrison County. The importance of a good, strong local health department is really coming to the forefront right now in Harrison County,” said Judge-Executive Alex Barnett. “The Cynthiana Democrat has agreed to print a special copy about the coronavirus and this will be put in every mailbox in Harrison County this morning. This will help us get the word out on what to do and what to expect.”

“In Lexington, before we had a case and as we were preparing, we stood up a group that represents a wide variety of stakeholders – from public schools to transportation to business to our health department. We have already been meeting and now that we have our first confirmed case, we will be having regular phone conferences to make sure we are all on the same page,” said Mayor Linda Gorton. “At this time we are urging folks over 60 or with chronic health problems to follow the CDC guidelines and advise them to avoid large crowds.”

“Unfortunately we knew it was just a matter of time before the virus came to our city,” Mayor Greg Fischer said. “What is most important is for the city and our residents to take appropriate steps to keep all of us safe. For Louisville city government, our number one job is to protect the public, and we have been planning and preparing for COVID-19. We are grateful for the strong partnership with Gov. Beshear and the state Public Health Department, and with that continued effort, our community will get through this.”

Gov. Beshar also already issued an executive order to prohibit price gouging. He is asking Attorney General Daniel Cameron to enforce the price-gouging laws. If Kentuckians have information regarding possible price gouging, contact the Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection hotline at 888-432-9257.

Testing Update
As of Monday morning, the state has received results for 21 tests with 17 of those being negative.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also made all of the kits Kentucky needs available and commercial labs have started testing. The state lab in Frankfort has been conducting COVID-19 testing since Monday, March 2. The Department for Public Health has the ability to process results in a timely manner. Specimens received at the lab by noon each day will be resulted on the same day. Specimens received after noon will be resulted the following day. Currently, Kentuckians can seek testing by consulting with their health care provider.

Beshear said that due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus throughout the world and in the United States, additional cases are expected in Kentucky.

Sick Leave Policy
Gov. Beshear has announced state government is adjusting its sick leave policy to ensure state employees who are sick can stay home – even for new employees who have not yet accrued leave time. He said the state would make sure those who are sick can stay home and will be covered.

Preventing Virus Spreading
All of the officials urged Kentuckians not to panic, but to take proactive steps to protect themselves and their families. Gov. Beshear said this year we have had more than 19,000 cases of the flu and we only have four confirmed cases of COVID-19. As with any virus, especially during the flu season, there are a number of steps Kentuckians should take to protect their health, including:

  • Get a flu shot from your Local Health Department or your family provider.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Click here to watch videos on proper handwashing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then properly dispose of it.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.