Some Harrison Memorial employees advised to isolate after exposure to coronavirus patient


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Emily Laytham

Several Harrison Memorial Hospital employees were advised to self isolate themselves for at least 14 days following exposure to Kentucky’s first patient with confirmed coronavirus, according to the hospital’s website.

During a Saturday press conference, Gov. Andy Beshear confirmed that Kentucky’s COVID-19 patient was moved from Harrison Memorial Hospital in Cynthiana to UK Chandler Hospital in Lexington, where they are currently receiving treatment in isolation and is in serious but improving condition.

But before the transfer, according to Harrison Memorial’s website, the patient was temporarily treated outside of isolation.

The hospital’s release stressed that no employees had symptoms. 

The Kentucky COVID-19 patient entered Harrison Memorial “with flu-like symptoms” at an unspecific time within the past two months, according to the hospital’s update. When the symptoms did not subside, the patient entered active care. However, they were not tested for coronavirus at the time, as they did not meet the Kentucky Department of Public Health’s screening standards.

During this period, the patient came in contact with an unspecified number of Harrison Memorial employees, according to the update.

After being transferred to a “tertiary care facility,” the patient was screened and diagnosed with COVID-19, at which time Harrison Memorial informed the Centers for Disease Control. Per CDC recommendations, “those employees who were exposed” to the patient have been sent home for 14 days, according to Harrison Memorial’s website.

The hospital’s update did not reference how many employees may have been affected, but it did state that it had “the facilities and the expertise to care for patients, while protecting… visitors and employees.”

“(Harrison Memorial) has negative pressure isolation rooms with specialized ventilation systems. The staff is trained and maintained a state of continual readiness,” the update reads. “In addition, staff is given personal protective equipment when caring for any patient suspected of having an infectious disease.”

As of Saturday’s press conference, no further details about Kentucky’s first COVID-19 patient have been confirmed. Another update is expected Sunday.

During the conference, Beshear said the state is well-equipped to handle more COVID-19 cases, which are expected.

Beshear also emphasized the importance of observing proper hygiene practices. Steven Stack, commissioner for the Department of Public Health, urged sick individuals to seek medical help through virtual channels, if possible.

“If you are sick, please call your doctor. Try to use the telephone first. If you have virtual access to care… please do that,” Stack said on Saturday. “Don’t seek medical care if you would not otherwise have simply because there’s coronavirus.”

The Harrison Memorial update also stated that proper hygiene – including thorough handwashing, sneezing and coughing into elbows, and staying home when unwell – were important moving forward.

During the conference, Cynthiana Mayor James Smith said he has been impressed by the local response to COVID-19.

“We (haven’t been) motivated by fear, but… by facts,” Smith said. “Do not be afraid, my fellow Cynthiana and Harrison County citizens. We will get through this together, and we will be better for it.”

Kentuckians with questions about coronavirus can visit the Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 page or call 1 (800) 222-1222. UK students and faculty members looking for more information about UK’s response to coronavirus can find updates on UK’s website