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Kentucky forcibly quarantines COVID-19 patient who refused to self-isolate

Posted at 3:49 PM, Mar 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-14 17:34:56-04

Editor’s note: With our coronavirus coverage, our goal is not to alarm you but to equip you with the information you need. We will try to keep things in context and focus on helping you make decisions. See a list of resources and frequently asked questions at the end of this story.

One Kentuckian diagnosed with COVID-19 has recovered, one may be in life-threatening condition, and another has been forcibly quarantined inside their home after refusing to self-isolate, Gov. Andy Beshear announced in a Saturday news conference.

In what has become a daily ritual since March 6, when the first case of the virus was reported in Kentucky, Beshear and a team of government officials provided a back-to-back stream of updates encouraging Kentuckians to self-isolate, practice good hygiene and protect each other as the virus continues to spread.

Beshear also issued the following new instructions:

  • All Kentucky hospitals should stop elective surgeries by the end of business on Wednesday in order to limit transmission and preserve hospital space for COVID-19 patients. “The fact is that we need all the capacity that we can to deal with the cases that we believe we are going to see,” he said.
  • All childcare facilities should develop plans that would allow them to close within 72 hours of a potential future order from the state.

The state had counted 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19 by the time he took the podium at 2 p.m., Beshear said, but would receive the results of 31 new tests before the end of the day. The state’s COVID-19 hotline continued to field thousands of daily calls from people concerned about their own health.

The 15 confirmed diagnoses were distributed throughout Harrison (6), Fayette (3), Jefferson (3), Bourbon (1), Montgomery (1) and Nelson (1) counties; the patients ranged in age from 27 to 80 years old.

The youngest, a 27-year-old woman in Harrison County, was “out of the hospital and out of the woods,” according to Beshear — the first Kentucky COVID-19 patient known to make a full recovery.


But others faced more uncertain futures. One, whom Beshear did not identify by age or location, was in “pretty bad shape” and could potentially become the state’s first casualty. That patient had multiple pre-existing health conditions that exacerbated their COVID-19 infection, Beshear said.

Another, a 53-year-old man in Nelson County, had been diagnosed but refused to self-isolate and continued to leave his home despite medical guidance. Beshear said the state had stepped in to forcibly quarantine him.

“It’s a step that I hope I never had to take, but we can’t allow one person who has this virus to refuse to protect their neighbors,” he said.

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They should protect themselves, too. As increasingly large portions of the state shift into a de facto quarantine, with schools closed and many businesses instructing employees to work from home, Kentuckians should also focus on their mental health, Dr. Allen Brenzel said.

He recommended that people in Kentucky:

  • Limit their exposure to news and social media. Stay informed but resist the urge to follow minute by minute.
  • Preserve their routines as much as possible.
  • Eat well, sleep well and exercise. Although proximity to others can spread COVID-19, outdoor activities are encouraged.
  • Continue practicing healthy forms of stress relief.
  • Keep up routines for children and keep them informed without scaring them.

During Saturday’s conference, Beshear frequently repeated what he’d told Kentuckians since the first one: “We will get through this. It’s going to be a major disruption that we face. Our lives are going to change and change a lot. But we will get through this.”

Find more coronavirus/COVID-19 hotlines and resources below:


Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 833-4-ASK-ODH

See ODH’s COVID-19 resources here.


State COVID-19 hotline: 1-800-722-5725

See the Cabinet for Health and Family Services coronavirus resource site here.


SDH Epidemiology Resource Center: (317) 233-7125 or (317) 233-1325 after hours, or e-mail

See more information for coronavirus in Indiana here.

What is coronavirus, COVID-19?

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are "a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

A novel coronavirus, such as COVID-19, is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and has now been detected in 37 locations across the globe, including in the U.S., according to the CDC.

The CDC reports the initial patients in China have some link to a large seafood and live animal market, indicative of animal-to-person spread. A growing number of patients, however, did not report exposure to animal markets, indicating the disease is spreading person-to-person.

What are the symptoms? How does it spread?

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death, according to the CDC. Symptoms can include fever, cough, shortness of breath.

The CDC said symptoms could appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. It is similar to the incubation period for MERS.

Spread of the virus is thought to be mainly from person-to-person. Spread is between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet). Spread occurs via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

According to the CDC, it could be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, the CDC said.

The disease is most contagious when people are the sickest and showing the most symptoms.