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'Community Spreading' Of Coronavirus Led To New Ky. Cases Of COVID-19

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

State officials warned coronavirus is spreading in Kentucky during a press conference Monday morning.

Gov. Andy Beshear said it is too early to predict how far the virus will spread because of the limited availability of testing. State officials hope to increase testing as private labs make them more widely available.

“We believe, and this seems to be the case nationally, that this is community spreading, spreading from person to person,” he said. “Again that has been expected, we are ready for it, it is what we always thought that we would see with this novel coronavirus.”

The state has tested 21 people as of Sunday evening and confirmed four cases of COVID-19, including two patients in Harrison County, one in Fayette County and one in Jefferson County.

Beshear said he plans to issue an executive order on Monday to waive co-pays, cost sharing and diagnostic testing for those on private insurance and for state employees. He also plans to remove impediments for anyone trying to get tested on Medicaid, he said. Kentucky declared a state of emergency last week.

COVID-19 Cases In Kentucky

Of the two confirmed cases in Harrison County, officials say one patient worked at a Walmart in Cynthiana, Kentucky. Health officials say the two cases in Harrison County are linked, but not because of the Walmart.

Beshear stressed that just because someone visited that Walmart, does not mean they have the coronavirus, he said.

Dr. Crystal Miller with the WEDCO District Health Department said Walmart has been notified and six employees are now self-monitoring for signs and symptoms of the virus.

“None of those contacts are showing symptoms so that is hopeful,” she said.

Beshear said the first Harrison county patient is recovering.

The confirmed case in Jefferson County is an adult who has recently traveled, said Dr. Sarah Moyer, director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness. The person is in isolation and in stable condition at Norton Brownsboro Hospital.

"Right now we have no evidence of community spread but we are expecting it's only a matter of time until there will be," Moyer said.

A Washington D.C.-based pastor who recently returned from a conference in Louisville has also fallen ill with the virus. Christ Church Georgetown Rector Rev. Tim Cole attended a conference at the Omni Louisville in late February. Officials said there is no sign of community spread in that case.

Public Health Recommendations

Symptoms of COVID-19 include coughing, shortness of breath and fever. Those feeling sick should stay home, and take Tylenol or Motrin-like products until the fever breaks.

Public Health Commissioner Steven Stack said 80 percent of those infected will have little to no symptoms. Children don’t appear to be significantly affected by the virus, he said.

Residents 60 years or older, and those with underlying chronic health conditions should avoid large public gatherings, according to the Kentucky Department of Public Health.

Health officials advised nursing homes and long-term care facilities to restrict visitors. They’re also asking businesses to plan to allow employees to work from home.

Stack said people who feel sick should only go to the emergency department if they would have gone under normal circumstances.

In order to limit the spread of the virus, residents should practice social distancing of at least six feet, wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, and cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow, or use a tissue.

For more information about the virus, The Kentucky Department of Public Health has a hotline at 1-800-722-5725.

This is a developing story. It will be updated.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.