In addition to 770 cases of COVID-19 across Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear confirmed Thursday that there are three cases of novel coronavirus disease 2019 at Western State Hospital and two of those cases are on ventilators.

Both patients on ventilators are above 80 years old, Beshear said.

The New Era reached out to the governor’s office Thursday morning after an anonymous tip that there were five cases at the local psychiatric hospital with two on ventilators.

Beshear said the state is only able to confirm three at this time, but another test is outstanding.

“This shows how quickly this can move, how we have to make sure that it doesn’t get into those institutions, and how everything that we do matters,” Beshear said.

Altogether, the Christian County Health Department confirmed 24 cases locally Thursday. Of those, 21 are active and three cases have recovered, according to the CCHD release.

The young and middle-age adults bracket (22 to 59) has the largest number of cases in Christian County at 10 patients. Older adults (ages 60 to 85) have six cases; pediatric (0 to 21 years old) has two cases and elderly (85-plus) has three cases.

Susan Dunlap, public affairs spokesperson for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said via email patients and staff at Western State have been monitored closely for COVID-19 symptoms since early March.

Information was not available about how many people the three COVID-19 patients had been in contact with in recent weeks.

Dunlap said the facility follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines in regard to COVID-19 and subsequently placed the patient in isolation.

Additional concern was expressed to the New Era about nurses at Western State not having enough personal protection equipment to care for patients who are in quarantine.

An employee at the facility told the New Era off the record that there isn’t enough PPE.

Dunlap said the governor acknowledged that there is a shortage of PPE everywhere.

Beshear said Thursday there are three ways Kentucky is trying to get more of it: buying it, working with companies to manufacture it and asking people to donate it.

“What we need right now Kentucky is gloves,” he said. “If you have gloves, call the National Guard. They are going to coordinate collecting those. We need as many of those donations as we can get.”

To contact the Kentucky National Guard, call 502-607-6844.

In another effort to keep COVID-19 out of state-run facilities, the governor announced the first steps of releasing low-level, non-violent and non-sexual felons from state penitentiaries to prevent the spread in the inmate population.

Michael Brown, executive cabinet secretary, said there will be a commutation of sentences for 186 individuals who have been screened using CDC criteria that indicates they may be susceptible to COVID-19.

Another 743 inmates who are within six months of completing their sentences are being considered for early release.

“This is lightening the load of our corrections systems and at the same time protecting some of the most vulnerable who are in the corrections system,” Brown said. “The inmates themselves are creating some PPE — although it might not be medical grade — and we are implementing social distancing.”

The governor also issued more executive orders, including closing the state parks to overnight stays and requiring anyone who comes into the state for a trip to quarantine for two weeks.

He also said the National Guard along with the Army Corps of Engineers is set to convert the Louisville fairgrounds into a 2,000-bed field hospital in preparation of more cases.

“Our goal is to be ready when the surge comes,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we wait until we don’t have enough space to try to put this together ... I want to have this ready before we need one of those single beds. And if we don’t need it, then hallelujah.”

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