Health

Six people in Kentucky have so far tested positive for the coronavirus, but Gov. Andy Beshear expects that number could change ‘dramatically’ once private labs begin to ramp up testing.

At its peak, the state lab has conducted 14 tests in a day. Already, two private labs are online to help meet demand. Beshear said his administration is pushing for technology that would allow labs to test a thousand samples in the same amount of time.

“Facts about this virus are going to change, potentially dramatically, as we learn more,” Beshear said. “And the testing piece, we keep waiting on what the federal government tells us is imminent.”

Health officials are following clinician judgment and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about who should be tested. Guidance for when to seek care is available on the state’s website.

As of Monday night, 34 people had been tested for COVID-19. While testing remains limited, Beshear said that everyone who has needed a test, has received a test.

“We expect to see more cases, we are prepared to see more cases,” Beshear said.

Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said symptoms among the six confirmed patients range from mild to severe. He said even the most severe case is improving.

State officials have released limited details on about the patients. In Harrison County, the three patients confirmed to have the virus are ages 27, 67, and 68. One of the patients worked at a Walmart in Cynthiana. All three cases are linked, but not through the Walmart, Beshear said.

Patients in the two cases in Fayette are 49 and 46, and the only confirmed patient in Jefferson County is 69 years old.

With the virus spreading from person to person in Kentucky and the number cases expected to grow in the coming days, the Beshear administration took additional steps Tuesday to protect vulnerable populations and increase access to pharmaceuticals.

Cabinet officials announced new guidance to prevent the spread of the virus in nursing homes and long-term care facilities in the state.

“Part of what we are announcing today is that we are restricting visitors to our long-term care facilities,” said Eric Friedlander with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

The restrictions are mandatory for state-run facilities, but the governor strongly recommended that all long-term care facilities and nursing homes restrict access to visitors to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Beshear also plans to sign a second executive order that provides more flexibility to pharmacists, including allowing them to refill a 30-day supply of non-controlled medication.

“When we look at visitation restrictions, when we look at isolation for about 14 days, this is going to make sure people have the medication they need,” he said.

On Monday, Beshear waived most fees for COVID-19 testing. He also advised people over the age of 60 and those with chronic health conditions to avoid public gatherings.

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