MURRAY — There are now eight confirmed cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state of Kentucky, according to a press release issued by Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear on Tuesday. 

Two new cases were confirmed in Harrison County Tuesday evening after two others were confirmed in the same county Monday. As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, five people had tested positive from Harrison County, two from Fayette and one from Jefferson. There are connections between the five Harrison County cases.

Beshear and Eric Friedlander, acting secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, briefed Kentuckians at the Capitol on Tuesday night after receiving the latest test results. The governor will brief Kentuckians at 9 a.m. Wednesday about the latest developments and the response of state and local government.

Of the eight cases, Harrison County had three females, ages 27, 54 and 67, and two males, 60 and 68; Fayette County’s patients were both males, ages 46 and 49; Jefferson County had one 69-year-old male.

Earlier Tuesday, Beshear, Friedlander and Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner for the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH), announced actions to protect the state’s most vulnerable populations by limiting visitation to senior care and long-term care facilities. Beshear also signed an executive order to allow pharmacies to refill prescriptions for up to 30 days to ensure those vulnerable communities or those who need to self-isolate will have their needed prescriptions. His action will also allow, if necessary, pharmacies to operate at locations other than those designated on their permits to make sure people have access to necessary medication.

While there have been no confirmed cases in Calloway County or any neighboring counties, local school districts and Murray State University are continuing to monitor the situation and take appropriate precautions. 

“The Murray Independent School District is proactively monitoring and assessing the COVID-19, novel Coronavirus with our state government and local health departments,” said MISD Superintendent Coy Samons in a letter to parents. “I assure our stakeholders our district administration is aware of the growing concerns of the coronavirus and working together with our Calloway County Emergency Health Management Team, who will give prompt notification to parents and the community should there be any confirmed cases in our schools.” 

The letter said MISD would continue to monitor public sites and would be prepared to take any needed steps to protect the health and well-being of its students, staff and the community. 

“If a student or staff member shows respiratory symptoms, our school nurse will follow standard precautions and work with our district administration and Health Department to further research individual/family travel histories,” Samons said in the letter. “Since primary spread of the virus has been linked to travel areas such as China and South Korea (CDC’s Warning Level 3 traveler’s list), we ask parents/guardians to notify their school principal if a child or family member has visited these areas in the past 14 days.” 

The same precautions are being undertaken in the county school system as well. In a similar letter released by the Calloway County School District, superintendent Tres Settle told parents that the district will continue to practice safe hygiene as they always do. 

“First and foremost, we wish to assure that there have been NO confirmed case of coronavirus in Calloway County,” Settle said. “I assure you that our district administration is aware of these growing concerns and, working together with local health officials, will give prompt notification to parents and the community should there be any confirmed cases in our schools. Calloway County Schools will continue to follow, and encourage the community to follow, the CDC recommendations to prevent any infection of a respiratory virus.”

Those steps included: 

• Washing hands of with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

• Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick

• Stay home when sick

• Cough or sneeze into an elbow or use a tissue and place immediately in the trash

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

Murray State University has taken precautions as well, with the university suspending study abroad programs through April 30. In a letter penned by Murray State President Bob Jackson, he said the university is continuing to monitor the situation. 

“With Murray State University’s Spring Break approaching, we continue to proactively monitor and assess the COVID-19, novel Coronavirus,” Jackson said in the letter on the MSU website. “We are working closely with Chief Medical Officer, Robert C. Hughes, MD, Murray State Health Services, the Calloway County Health Department, the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta through regular updates, among others. Travel abroad to and from campus has been suspended through April 30, which includes only one Spring Break study abroad program. The University will continue to review all abroad programs and international travel involving our students, faculty and staff. We remain in close, regular communication with those students and their families who are currently abroad.”

The university is encouraging students who are sick to stay home and use proper hygiene. Murray State has temporarily suspended travel to China, Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea and is closely monitoring other countries as well. 

In the Monday press release from Beshear’s office, it said a state of emergency was declared Friday to ensure the state has all of the necessary resources to respond. The governor issued an executive order to waive copays, deductibles, cost-sharing and diagnostic testing fees for private insurance and state employees. He is also telling providers to expand their networks to patients that may go outside their normal providers, the release said.

“This was expected and we are ready,” Gov. Beshear said in the Monday release. “There is no need to panic. I urge people to stay calm and practice good hygiene. I don’t think Kentucky has been hit harder than other states. We have been more active and aggressive in the way we are responding.” 

In a Tuesday afternoon release, Beshear said, “We are responding aggressively and ask Kentuckians to partner with us in reducing the risk to themselves, their loved ones and especially to those at higher risk including those over 60 and with chronic health conditions including heart, lung or kidney disease. People need to remain calm, but take the simple and necessary steps to protect themselves and their communities, including practicing good hygiene.” 

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