Coronavirus

Kentucky has its first confirmed case of the coronavirus.

Gov. Andy Beshear made the announcement Friday afternoon in a press conference. He confirmed that the person is in Lexington and is currently being treated in isolation at a medical facility.

“We didn’t want to see a confirmation in Kentucky, but we knew it was coming,” Beshear said.

Beshear has declared a state of emergency, “so that we could have every tool that we could need to address this issue and to ultimately protect our people,” he said during a press conference on Friday.

“To our Kentucky families who are out there that are nervous, this is what we have been preparing for and we are ready,” Beshear said on Friday as he assured transparency through the weekend and into next week. “There is no need to panic. I get that it’s scary, I’m the dad of two great young children, but we will face this. We will face this together.”

He said that it is likely there will be at least one more case confirmed in Kentucky and the best way to prevent the spread is to practice good hygiene by washing your hands often.

The Kentucky Department of Public Health began testing for the coronavirus (COVID -19) at its state laboratory in Frankfort on Monday, March 2.

As of Friday, 10 people had been tested and only one had been positive.

Two of the negative cases were from Whitley County who had been tested due to potential risk factors and were tested out of an abundance of caution.

“While the overall threat to Kentuckians is still low, we as a state are going to take every necessary action to protect our people,” Beshear said.

Gov. Beshear said the state has activated its emergency operation center and is at the lowest level of four as of Friday afternoon.

“On a community scale, we are encouraging all facilities, businesses and schools to begin preparation activities for the spread of coronavirus,” Beshear said in a press release on Thursday. “If you are responsible for others, take active steps to prepare your plan to react and protect them.”

Whitley County Public Health Director Marcy Rein told The Times-Tribune last week she had been working with multiple other health directors regarding COVID-19 and encouraged good hygiene as well.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay home when you are ill. Cover your cough and sneeze using your elbow or tissue (not your hand). Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with your hands. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Rein also encourages parents and teachers to work with children to practice good hand washing.

“We also always want people to be generally prepared for emergencies or disasters – whether it’s floods or a pandemic,” Rein said last week. “That means having enough food, water, medicines, and other supplies on hand for at least three days and having an emergency communication plan. Businesses and organizations need to prepare too. There is a ton of information at ready.gov about how to do those things."

DPH has the ability to process test 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.

DPH is working closely with clinicians to make sure providers are aware of and informed about the illness. In addition, DPH wants to ensure providers there is a process in place through Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to determine whether testing is warranted, including consulting with the CDC as needed.

Last week, Gov. Beshear urged Kentucky employers to offer paid sick leave amid virus concerns to help ensure Kentuckians are not coming to work if they feel sick.

Prevention

Gov. Beshear said in a press release earlier this week, 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 health care 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.

- 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.

Funding

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced Friday that Kentucky will receive at least $7 million to help fight COVID-19. The funding, included in the supplemental appropriations bill, which was signed into law by President Trump Friday, will be provided to state officials who will determine how the resources will be distributed. Each state will receive no less than $4 million.

The total funding included in the bill is nearly $8.3 billion —$7.8 billion to provide targeted supplemental resources for a serious national fight against the new coronavirus and $500 million for a telehealth provision. The majority of the supplemental federal resources will be directed to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including billions of dollars in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Fund.

“The measure we passed included funding for state and local preparedness grants, including a minimum of $7 million for my home state of Kentucky. The communities across our nation that will confront this virus need to know that Congress has their backs. I am proud this funding includes a minimum floor of $7 million in additional funding for my home state of Kentucky,” said Senator McConnell. “COVID-19 is a new challenge that Americans will have to confront together. Fortunately, we are positioned to meet that challenge and are growing more ready every day. This bipartisan funding package was an important step and I am proud President Trump, his Administration, and Congress came together across party lines to deliver it so quickly.”

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