UK Healthcare COVID-19 Presser

UK HealthCare Enterprise Director of Infection Prevention & Control Kim Blanton speaks to local media on Friday, March 13, 2020, in UK Chandler Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, to provide updates about the local spread of the novel coronavirus. Kentucky's first coronavirus patient has been released from UK Chandler Hospital with a full recovery. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

UK Healthcare experts convened for a press update on COVID-19 on Friday afternoon, one week after the first case was confirmed in Kentucky.

Dr. Derek Forster, medical director of the infectious disease division, said the patient at UK Healthcare who was confirmed last Friday has fully recovered and was discharged.

“We’re excited about that, excited for recovery there and just really proud of the staff and the people that took care of them,” said Forster.

As cases increase across the country, Forster said the hospital was working with the state health department and commercial laboratories to follow the guidance on testing.

“We are not testing asymptomatic patients,” said Forster. “I want to make that clear. If there are no symptoms, there is no indication or reason to test and that testing result can be misleading.”

Forster said false positives are possible and that negatives do not mean a person cannot develop symptoms later.

Kim Blanton, nursing operations administrator for infectious diseases, said there had been negative tests for people in addition to the positive case at UK Healthcare

Forster also said that UK Healthcare does not have the ability to test in house, and that they are assessing patients for seasonal diseases like influenza as well.

Forster emphasized that the majority of COVID-19 cases have mild symptoms and that care focuses on symptoms and supportive care for the immune system.

Blanton said that the allocation of personal protection supply was in response to people stockpiling supplies – hospital patients and visitors were taking “handfuls of masks and things” out of the respiratory supply kits.

Executive vice president for health affairs Dr. Mark Newman said moving forward, there may be issues with doctors and nurses as public schools let out and childcare becomes necessary, but that morale was good in most places.

“The morale is really good and the commitment is really strong because they know that they’re doing something important,” said Newman.

Newman said visitors to the hospital were restricted.

“It’s all about protecting our patients and our people,” said Newman.

Forster said that for the public staying generally healthy is important and that we should think of others.

“This is the time for I think community to come together and just look after everybody else, while we’re not thinking about basketball,” said Forster.

Forster said he expects more cases but thinks the initiatives of social distancing and event cancellation from the governor and state will help ‘flatten the curve’ and help hospitals bear the load of cases.

Forster said that according to laboratories and blood banks, blood donations have decreased and encouraged folks who can give blood to continue do so.

“This is something that’s still needed for Kentuckians and for our fellow people, that you can still give blood, there are practices in place to keep you safe while you’re doing that,” said Forster.

Newman said the hospital has 152 beds in isolation negative pressure rooms, which he said was “more than enough capacity to be able to meet the need.”

Blanton said the supply of ventilators was 140, that 55 were not in use and 25 more were ordered this morning.

Blanton said on an average day at the hospital, around 150 patients would be in isolation unrelated to COVID-19.

“We are continuing to work and take care of patients as we would on a daily basis,” said Newman. “But if that number were to start to rise, then we have a disaster-preparedness that starts to focus more on those patients and how we would manage those and potentially not do elective cases or other things as we move into more of a disaster preparedness.”

President Trump declared a national emergency on Friday afternoon, making federally funds more available to states.

Newman said UK Healthcare would look at options for using those funds to best expand safe care.

“As it becomes available, it may be easier for us to do some additional testing and other things that may be more difficult now,” said Newman.