Depending on vantage points, reactions to western Kentucky’s first case of COVID-19 have ranged from “crazy” to cautionary.
On March 17, state health officials said the first diagnosis of the novel coronavirus west of Louisville was located in Lyon County. The patient has since been cleared of the illness, but anxieties remain high with Monday’s report of two confirmed cases in McCracken County and additional cases last week in nearby Calloway and Christian counties.
As of late Monday afternoon, the outbreak had infected 124 people in Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear announced in his daily update. Kentucky first positive test was reported on March 6.
Four people, all in central Kentucky and all patients with underlying health issues, have died in the commonwealth from COVID-19. Nationwide, Monday saw a rise in coronavirus-related deaths to more than 500. The 100 deaths tallied Monday was the highest one-day jump in the United States since the first was reported.
“Since the case has shown up here, I think I’ve seen people take more of a serious attitude toward the pandemic,” said Eddyville Mayor John Choat, pointing to the announcement that a 69-year-old man in Lyon County had contracted the disease.
But the mayor, a lifelong Eddyville resident, has also seen some of what Eddyville Food Giant Assistant Manager Jennifer Duff sees all day long.
“In all honesty, they’ve been acting a bit crazy since last Wednesday,” Duff said last week of shoppers over the last couple of weeks.
She indicates there continues to be an unjustified measure of panic with hoarding of perishables, toilet paper and sanitary supplies that began March 11, the day after Beshear ordered Kentucky nursing homes to restrict visitors to limit the spread of the disease to a vulnerable population. She assures deliveries to the store continue as always, and there is no reason to fear a shortage of anything. The store has had to restrict the purchase of some items to extend availability to more shoppers.
Choat said he has seen only a little of that at the county’s only full-service grocery store and implores local residents to remain calm. Otherwise, he is proud of how his community and the governor are responding to the adversity that essentially has the entire country on lock-down.
Kuttawa Mayor Barbara Campbell, who has limited her trips into the public for the last several days, is urging people to be smart.
“Do what the governor and health officials tell you is best,” she advised. “It’s keeping people out of harm’s way.”
Her fellow mayor said the people of Lyon County appear to be up for the challenges brought on by the pandemic.
“People are helping neighbors; that’s just how we are,” Choat said, adding that churches and individuals in the community are working to ensure their loved ones and the most at-risk people have the food, medicine and essentials they cannot risk going out to acquire. “I’m proud to live in this place.
“I’m also really tickled at how the governor is handling this.”
Lyon County Judge-Executive Wade White, who has adopted a motto of “be wise, not paralyzed” to guide the community, has reported the individual in the county diagnosed with coronavirus was self-quarantined with minimal contact in the community. He also said the man was otherwise healthy and has since been medically cleared.
However, Friday’s announced case in Murray is different.
The 28-year-old man was an employee at Murray-Calloway County Hospital who had come in contact with a visitor to the community at a church service on March 15. The visitor was diagnosed March 17 and the local patient was confirmed positive for the virus Thursday night.
“The employee and their family are fine and were informed to be at home in quarantine,” a hospital news release read.
Though the hospital did not release the condition of the local patient, it did say the out-of-state visitor to the community attended a local church service and began exhibiting symptoms the following day. The visitor may have exposed as many as 150 parishioners to the virus, Choat said.
The Eddyville mayor said he hopes people will heed warnings about gatherings of 10 or more people, pointing to Beshear’s recommendation that all non-essential businesses and organizations suspend their usual services.