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Beshear calls on Kentucky nursing homes to restrict visitors

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Posted at 10:50 AM, Mar 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-10 12:00:05-04

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky's nursing homes should severely restrict visitors to combat the new coronavirus from spreading to a vulnerable population, Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday.

Those restrictions will take effect at state-run centers, Beshear said. For privately run facilities, the state will issue “very strong guidance" for operators to follow, he said.

“It is critically important that it is followed," the governor said. “When we look around the country, and the fatalities that we are seeing are in large measure those that are vulnerable."

Six cases of the virus have been diagnosed in Kentucky. Patients range in age from 27 to 69, Beshear said. All six are receiving medical care in isolation. The cases have ranged from mild to severe illnesses and all are improving, said Dr. Steven Stack, the state’s public health commissioner.

For most people, the new coronavirus 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. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.

Beshear said he realizes visitation restrictions at nursing homes and other long-term care centers will cause hardships for families, but stressed that it's in the best interest of residents at the facilities. The governor said he expects nursing homes to follow the guidance.

“I understand that there are Kentuckians out there who worry that they might not be able to see their loved one," he told reporters. “I get that. But right now, we are making sure that we are protecting the life, health and safety of individuals in that facility," he said.

Leaders of many state medical associations joined Beshear at the statehouse news conference.

In China, where the outbreak began, the disease has been substantially deadlier for the elderly. In Italy, the epicenter of the virus outbreak in Europe, the more than 100 people who died were either elderly, sick with other complications, or both.

The virus has infected some 600 people in the United States, and at least 26 have died, most in Washington state, where a Seattle-area nursing home was hard hit by the virus.

Beshear also said Tuesday he was issuing an executive order to allow pharmacists to refill prescriptions for up to 30 days. The step was aimed mostly at elderly people who are homebound and unable to get a prescription refilled, he said. The order also would allow pharmacists to set up mobile stations should the need arise, the governor said.

On Monday, Beshear issued an executive order to waive coronavirus-related copays, deductibles, cost-sharing and diagnostic testing fees for most private insurance and for state employees. The state removed any impediments for Medicaid recipients to be tested and treated, he said.

In his Tuesday update, the governor revealed the ages of the state's six coronavirus patients.

In rural Harrison County, the three patients are a 27-year-old woman, a 67-year-old woman and a 68-year-old man. All three are closely linked, Beshear said, but he did not say how. None of the links are based on Walmart, where one of the patients worked at the Cynthiana store.

The two Fayette County patients are a 49-year-old man and a 46-year-old man, the governor said. The Jefferson County patient is a 69-year-old man, he said. Jefferson and Fayette counties are Kentucky's most populous counties. Their county seats are Louisville and Lexington, respectively.

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

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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.