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Gov. Beshear, state health officials, local leaders working together in response to COVID-19

In News, State by OC Monitor Staff

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Today, Governor Andy Beshear, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton, Harrison County Judge-Executive Alex Barnett, Cynthiana Mayor James Smith, and state and local health officials updated Kentuckians on the state’s four cases of coronavirus disease 2019 and on the state’s ongoing response.

“There is nothing more important than the health and safety of our fellow Kentuckians, which is why we have been working together for weeks to prepare for this virus and why we’re in constant contact now to ensure local and state officials are responding promptly and appropriately,” Gov. Beshear said.

Beginning weeks before the virus was found in the Commonwealth, state and local officials collaborated to prepare for COVID-19 and are now working together to respond.

“I know many people are concerned, but I want Kentuckians to know the risk remains low and there is no need to panic,” Gov. Beshear said. “As evidenced here, we are collaborating at all levels to respond and reduce the risk for people across the Commonwealth. Everyone can help protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities by taking simple measures to reduce their risk.”

Key updates Monday from Gov. Beshear

— Four individuals have tested positive and all are in isolation.

  • One Jefferson County resident is being treated at Norton Brownsboro Hospital.
  • The first Harrison County patient is being treated at the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center and is improving.
  • The two patients from Harrison County are linked.
  • The Fayette County patient is a resident of Fayette County.
  • 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 at 805 US-27 S, Cynthiana, Kentucky, 41031, 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 into 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 policies 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.

Dr. Crystal Miller, director of the WEDCO District Health Department discussed the response to the case in Harrison County.

“We had a community partners meeting and we notified Walmart and worked closely with Walmart and our local hospital on details about this patient,” said Dr. Miller. “I cannot express the importance of that partnership. Walmart has followed every guideline. They have been at the table hand-in-hand with us in providing every detail that we have needed to do our investigation. We worked through the weekend investigating contacts.”

“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.”

“We are responding to this with the judge and Dr. Miller and the state is doing everything that we possibly can to keep our citizens safe,” said Cynthiana Mayor James Smith.

“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.”

“It’s amazing that within an hour of a positive test result that I had a conversation with Gov. Beshear and Mayor Fischer and that we were fully engaged with taking care of the patient and sharing information that needed to be shared,” said Russell Cox, president and CEO of Norton Healthcare. “We immediately began the task of looking at everyone that had been in contact with the patient, employee and otherwise. We will continue to work hard to communicate, to be transparent, and work with the Governor and Mayor’s Office to take care of the people of the state of Kentucky.”

“For 80 percent or more of people who get infected, you are going to be just fine. You’ll probably either have cold symptoms or no symptoms,” said Dr. Stack.

Dr. Stack 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.

“You’ve heard about the collaboration, you see the collaboration, I hope you feel the collaboration. This is how we operate in Kentucky,” Acting Secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services Eric Friedlander added. “Wash your hands; make sure you practice good personal hygiene. At this point, say hello with an elbow bump. And make sure that we don’t turn away from each other – that we turn toward each other – because that’s what makes Kentucky Kentucky.”

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.

Gov. Beshear and Dr. Stack said the state would have all of the tests needed. 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 have results the following day. Currently, Kentuckians can seek testing by consulting with their health care provider.

Gov. 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.

More information

Kentuckians can visit kycovid19.ky.gov and cdc.gov/coronavirus for up-to-date information.

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