Health

The state’s public health commissioner has cautioned the coronavirus is likely to reach Kentucky. Dr. Steven Stack’s comments came during a briefing for legislators in Frankfort on Thursday and later during a press conference with Gov. Andy Beshear.

“As of now, we have no confirmed cases in Kentucky. I think we can anticipate that will change at some point,” Stack said.

Federal health officials report there are 99 confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. Tennessee’s Gov. Bill Lee announced its first case Thursday — a 44-year-old man living in Williamson County on the outskirts of Nashville.

Kentucky officials report seven people have been tested for the disease known as COVID-19, with four negative results and three still pending as of Thursday afternoon.

The health department now has the capacity to analyze results at a laboratory in Frankfort, in addition to sending them to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he said.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Stack said the state has the capacity to conduct about 800 to 1,000 tests.

“We have the access or the ability to get more resources from the CDC on an expanding basis, my hope though is the commercial labs will soon come up online,” he said.

Healthcare providers are relying on the commercial sector to make the tests more widely available in the coming weeks. The state’s current test kits are a modified version of dysfunctional test kits originally provided by the CDC. Stack said they have so far yielded appropriate results.

As of now, the tests are freely available as a public service, he said.

As the virus spreads further across the U.S., Stack said communities in Kentucky need to prepare. He recommended that business, prison, health and other community leaders designate a person to monitor state and federal websites for updates.

He also recommended businesses devise plans for employees to work from home should it become necessary. On the subject of major events like the Kentucky Derby, Stack said it’s still too early to say what may happen.

“There’s no advisories, no cancellations of major events. Should that appear scientifically indicated, we’ll recommend those things as are appropriate,” Stack said.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The CDC reports that symptoms range from mild to severe and can appear between two and 14 days after an exposure.

To minimize exposure and transmission of the virus, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, cover your coughs and sneezes, and avoid public gatherings if you feel sick.

This post has been updated.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.