Health

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has asked schools, prisons and houses of worship to cancel or prepare to cancel services in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Gov. Beshear’s measures came as the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on Wednesday. Cases have spread to more than 100 countries around the globe. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 938 cases in 38 states as well as the District of Columbia.

Eight people have tested positive in Kentucky for the virus as of Wednesday evening. Earlier in the day, Gov. Beshear issued a series of measures to minimize public interactions and avoid person to person transmission.

Beshear called on schools to develop plans to cancel within 72 hours, prisons to restrict access to visitors and houses of worship to cancel services this week.

“I don’t take this recommendation lightly and I’m an elected official, I know that it’s not the type of thing that’s popular,” Beshear said. “But these times require the courage to do the things that are going to protect the most vulnerable.”

He also canceled the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast, suspended out-of-state travel for state employees and urged more businesses to allow employees to work from home.

Louisville too, suspended its annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, among other measures.

Meanwhile college and university officials have also issued new guidance on how classes will proceed in the wake of the virus.

Above all else, Beshear implored anyone over the age of 60 and those with underlying health conditions to take precautions, particularly those with heart, lung and kidney disease.

“Do not go places that there are large crowds and for these vulnerable populations and those over the age of 60 please, do not fly and do not get on a cruise ship for any reason whatsoever,” Beshear said.

The governor’s latest actions build on steps taken over the last week.

Last Friday, Beshear declared a state of emergency. He’s signed a series of executive orders to prevent price gouging, increase access to pharmaceuticals and waive fees related to coronavirus testing. On Tuesday, Beshear limited visitation to senior care and long-term care facilities.

Doctors say the governor’s efforts will help prevent a surge in cases of COVID-19 that could overwhelm the healthcare system.

It’s important to dampen the rate of transmissions to extend the use of healthcare resources, said Dr. Wayne Tuckson, Greater Louisville Medical Society Board Chair.

“There aren’t but so many beds in the emergency room, then there aren’t but so many beds in the hospital, and then there are even fewer beds in the intensive care units,” Tuckson said.

Eight Confirmed Cases

State and local officials provided a few more details on the eight confirmed cases in the Kentucky. All of the patients are in stable condition, Beshear said.

A resident who tested positive in Jefferson County has been discharged and will continue healing under quarantine at home, said Mayor Greg Fischer on Wednesday.

Of the five cases in Harrison County, Beshear said at least some of the patients are linked through a church. At least one of the patients is likely to be released in the coming days, he said.

There were no new details about the cases in Fayette County.

Public Health Recommendations

COVID-19 Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath and fever.

Most of those who are those infected will have little to no symptoms, said Steven Stack, Kentucky public health commissioner. Children don’t appear to be significantly affected by the virus.

The state has recommendations for when to seek care on its website.

In order to limit transmission, 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, call The Kentucky Department of Public Health hotline at 1-800-722-5725.

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