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Health Commissioner: Kentucky Can Perform 800-1,000 Tests For COVID-19

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

In what appears likely to become a regular ritual, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and state health officials offered an update to reporters Thursday on efforts to test for and prevent the spread of COVID-19 into the commonwealth. As it stands, the state has the capacity to test roughly 800-1,000 cases.

As of Thursday afternoon, Kentucky has tested, or is in the process of testing, just seven individuals. Four tests have come back negative and three are pending. All were assessed out of "an abundance of caution," according to officials. More than 100 hve been monitored at some time. Currently, all reports of possible cases are screened for risk factors, including travel, by epidemeologists before proceeding.

Officials declined to give locations of those tested, citing the fact that none have so far tested positive.

Yet both the governor and top health authorities say it's likely only a matter of time until the state sees its first confirmed instance of the virus. Kentucky's neighbor to the south, Tennessee, registered its first case Thursday. State Health Commissioner Steven Stack reports Kentucky now has the capacity to test for the virus in its Frankfort lab, and he anticipates widespread commercial testing will come online in a matter of weeks.

Quizzed in committee on what citizens should do at the first sign of illness, Stack had this advice.

"If you are generally well but have a respiratory infection, you probably should stay home and communicate by telephone with your primary care doctor to avoid contaminating others, and because there's probably not a lot more we can do except encourage you to take Tylenol or Motrin, drink plenty of fluids, and rest," he said. "If you're progressing and having problems like pneumonia or difficulty breathing, then those people need to seek medical care."

Ranking and sorting potential cases by risk mirrors the approach the state has taken so far with testing, which has been informed by evolving Centers for Disease Control guidelines. Stack said the goal is to eventually provide access to testing for anyone who desires it, but for the time being, facilities are still in the process of scaling up their testing capabilities.

Updated state data on the virus is now available through kycovid19.ky.gov.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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