AP NEWS

Kentucky to expand testing at long-term care facilities

May 8, 2020 GMT

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky plans to do coronavirus testing at all nursing homes statewide in a targeted strategy aimed at a hard-hit segment during the pandemic, state officials said Friday.

Health officials hope to test residents and staff at all long-term care facilities in about two months, state Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander said in detailed testing plans.

“We think we’ve tested about 10% of the residents and we are going to get to 100%,” he said.

Testing will be done at no charge to the facilities, residents and staff, Friedlander said.

“It is a very aggressive strategy where we are now going to be very targeted in making sure that we know the situation in each of the facilities, especially for the most vulnerable, and are able to take some quick action,” Gov. Andy Beshear said during his daily briefing.

The facilities will be expected to have plans in place to respond to positive cases, Friedlander said.

The testing strategy is the result of a partnership with Norton Healthcare, local health departments and emergency management leaders, the governor’s office said.

The coronavirus has been especially prevalent among the state’s older population. Of Kentucky’s nearly 300 virus-related deaths, more than half have been people who were at nursing homes. More than 860 residents of long-term care facilities have tested positive for the virus. The state stopped allowing visitors in nursing homes in March, which has saved lives, Friedlander said Friday.

The state also is now in a much better situation to provide personal protective equipment to long-term care facilities, Friedlander said. This week, the federal government started delivering PPE to make sure facilities have 14-day supplies, he said.

Meanwhile, the governor reported 176 more coronavirus cases in Kentucky on Friday, raising the statewide total to more than 6,280 cases since the pandemic began. More than 2,260 people in Kentucky have recovered from the virus, Beshear said. But 210 of Kentucky’s virus patients are in intensive care units, a number on the rise the past couple of weeks, he said.

Beshear reported four virus-related deaths, bringing the state’s total death count to at least 298.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up within weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, even death.

Next Monday will usher in reopenings for factories and some businesses as part of Beshear’s plan to gradually restart the parts of Kentucky’s economy stalled by the pandemic. The phase-in starting Monday includes a broad resumption of manufacturing and construction work, and applies to such businesses as car and boat dealerships, professional services and pet grooming and boarding.

The governor stressed that businesses have to follow “healthy at work” guidelines when reopening. Doing so correctly and safely will put Kentucky at a competitive advantage, he said.

“I believe that the healthiest economy coming out of COVID-19 is going to be the one that can keep the virus contained while they successfully reopen,” he said. “So if one groups runs out, does things too aggressively, has to shut down again for a while, they’re not going to come out in the best place.”

Beshear also announced that government offices and agencies can open on May 18 and funeral homes can open on May 20, the governor’s office said.

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