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State urges visitor restrictions for nursing homes

Posted at 9:32 PM, Mar 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-10 21:32:42-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — As the number of positive COVID-19 cases increase in Kentucky, the state is taking new steps to stop the virus from spreading. Kentucky's nursing homes will severely restrict visitors in order to protect their vulnerable population.

"Part of what we’re announcing today is that we are restricting visitors to our long-term care facilities - and that includes the ones with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services," said Eric Friedlander, the Acting Secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. "Our immediate care facilities. Our nursing facilities. We are asking people not to visit. If it's an end-of-life situation - obviously that’s different."

These restrictions will take effect at state-run centers. However, privately run facilities have been issued strong guidance to follow.

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

The Governor asked families to respect the new restrictions. He says they are there to protect their loved ones.

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

The state's public health commissioner says for most people, the new coronavirus will only cause mild or moderate symptoms, like fever and cough. Some may not show symptoms at all.

"For 80% or more of people who get infected, you're going to be just fine," said Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky's Public Health Commissioner. "You'll probably either have cold symptoms or no symptoms. So for 80% or more people, the current data says you will be fine."

However, for some people, like older people and those with existing health problems, the new coronavirus could cause more severe illness. That is why the state is taking the new precautionary steps.

"I hope people know I am a family guy," said Beshear. "It is one of the most important things to me in the world. So I understand the gravity of this in this step, but it is necessary to prevent harm to our seniors."

Beshear also had precautions for people who are 60 and older and people who have heart, lung, or kidney disease.

"Avoid crowds. I'm going to go ahead and say don't fly," said Beshear. "Whatever you do, do not get on a cruise ship. The number one expert in the country is saying that in every interview."

Beshear also issued a new executive order to allow pharmacists to refill prescriptions for up to 30 days. The step was made to help sick and elderly people who are homebound and unable to get a prescription refilled. The order also would allow pharmacists to set up mobile stations should the need arise, the governor said.

Kentucky is also reminding people to practice good hygiene.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say to protect yourself from the new coronavirus, the flu, and other respiratory illness:

  • Wash your hands often for 20 seconds with warm water and soap
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community
  • Stay home if you’re sick
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow
  • Throw used tissues in the trash
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily

How many confirmed COVID-19 cases are there in Kentucky?
As of 3 p.m. on Tuesday, the Governor says there are six cases.

  • 27 year-old woman in Harrison County
  • 67 year-old woman in Harrison County
  • 68 year-old man in Harrison County
  • 49 year-old man in Fayette County
  • 46 year-old man in Fayette County
  • 69 year-old man in Jefferson County

Governor Beshear says the three people in Harrison County are linked, but he did not specify how. However, he did say none of the links are based on Walmart, where one of the patients worked at the Cynthiana store.
The Associated Press Contributed to this report.