A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Beshear sounds alarm, says new actions coming; NKY Health Dept. is stepping up contact tracing

Gov. Andy Beshear again warned Kentuckians that they must take action to stop COVID-19, as cases are increasing rapidly in the Commonwealth. Families, schools, businesses and community leaders should all come together and do their part.

He reported 2,931 cases and 33 deaths.

“When we talk about our health care workers, we call them our front line of defense,” said Gov. Beshear. “But really, they’re our only line. We don’t have back up. So if we are going to truly care about them and ensure there are enough doctors and nurses to help people who are sick, we have to lower community spread.”

The White House Federal COVID-19 Report for Kentucky explained that “there is now aggressive, unrelenting, expanding broad community spread across the country, reaching most counties, without evidence of improvement, but rather further deterioration. Current mitigation efforts are inadequate and must be increased to sustain the health system for both COVID and non-COVID emergencies. We share the strong concern of Kentucky leaders that the current situation is worsening and that all Kentuckians need to do their part to stop the spread. The Governor’s active measures are commended.”

Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, shared new models that demonstrate how COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths will likely progress in the state if Kentuckians don’t take action to flatten the curve.

He showed the success of Kentucky’s Healthy at Home program and mask mandate in suppressing the virus and helping the state avoid an exponential increase in cases during the spring and summer. Unfortunately, he said without new action, Kentucky will likely see that exponential growth in cases in the fall and winter.

Dr. Stack explained that COVID-19 is expected to be the nation’s third leading cause of death in 2020, only behind heart disease and cancer.

“This is not political. We are trying to keep people safe from a once-in-a-century pandemic,” said Dr. Stack. “If your neighbor’s house is burning down, are you going to stand idly by, or are you going to try to rescue them from the fire? I am confident that if we come together we can interrupt this third climb, but it’s got to be Team Kentucky pulling together.”

Beshear said he will announce additional steps to combat the virus Wednesday at 4 p.m. EST.

“When you look at the severity of this, action has to be taken,” the Governor said.

Case Information

Beshear reported the following COVID-19 numbers:

• New cases today: 2,931
• New deaths today: 33
• Positivity rate: 9.10%
• Total deaths: 1,697
• Currently hospitalized: 1,521
• Currently in ICU: 354
• Currently on ventilator: 178

Top counties with the most positive cases today are: Jefferson, Fayette, Madison, Daviess, Boone, Hardin and Kenton.

Boone reported 84 cases, Kenton 83 and Campbell 51. All are in the red zone.

Those reported lost to the virus today include an 85-year-old man from Barren County; a 69-year-old man from Breathitt County; a 60-year-old man from Calloway County; a 36-year-old woman from Christian County; four women, ages 83, 90, 91 and 91, from Daviess County; an 89-year-old man from Floyd County; a 51-year-old man from Grayson County; a 78-year-old woman from Green County; an 85-year-old man from Hancock County; a 93-year-old woman from Henderson County; three women, ages 75, 78 and 93, and five men, ages 49, 79, 87, 88 and 94, from Jefferson County; two men, ages 68 and 72, from Jessamine County; a 94-year-old woman and an 89-year-old man from Madison County; two women, ages 92 and 94, from McLean County; an 86-year-old woman from Monroe County; a 68-year-old woman and a 74-year-old man from Ohio County; a 65-year-old man from Oldham County; a 99-year-old woman from Rockcastle County; and a 58-year-old woman from Trigg County.

Northern Kentucky Health Department

The Northern Kentucky Health Department is adapting its contact tracing strategy effective immediately, said Dr. Lynne Saddler, district director.

Contact tracing is a highly effective public health strategy used to identify and quarantine those who are considered close contacts to individuals who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in order to reduce the spread of disease in the community.

Just like other parts of the Commonwealth, the rapidly increasing COVID-19 rates in Northern Kentucky are outstripping the health department’s capacity to continue contact tracing in the same way it has been performed to date, and efforts must now be prioritized.

“Just like the health care systems can be overwhelmed with high levels of COVID-19 in the community, public health systems can be as well,” stated Lynne Saddler, MD, MPH, District Director of Health for the Northern Kentucky Health Department. “Northern Kentucky has reached a critical point and we must now prioritize how we investigate cases and identify, trace and notify contacts.”

Moving forward, NKY Health and other health departments throughout Kentucky will be focused on the following priorities:

• Investigating new COVID-19 cases by collecting the minimum amount of information needed to provide education on isolation.

• Advising new cases to notify all family, friends, coworkers and any others who meet close contact criteria to self-quarantine for 14 days from their last exposure to the individual who is positive and providing information on quarantine. Close contacts are those who are identified to have been within six feet of someone who is positive for a total of 15 minutes or more during the positive individual’s infectious period.

• Providing documents to schools, employers and other entities to educate and guide them in the safe return of persons to these environments, rather than issuing individualized releases from quarantine for students and/or workers.

• Continuing current procedures for congregate settings such as long-term care, senior living facilities, prisons and shelters, and disproportionately impacted minority populations.

All four counties in the Northern Kentucky health district are in the red (critical) zone. With such widespread, uncontrolled COVID-19 transmission in Northern Kentucky, all residents should assume they are at a heightened risk of exposure every time they interact with other people within six feet of each other for a total of 15 minutes or more.

Residents of Northern Kentucky are strongly urged to take protective measures now: keep six feet away from others, do not attend or host gatherings, avoid all non-essential activities outside of your home, reduce your overall activity and number of individuals outside of your home with whom you are in contact, reduce in-person shopping and shop online, avoid dining in restaurants and bars by ordering curbside and take out, wear your face covering properly and consistently, and wash your hands frequently.

“We are heading into a very dangerous phase of this pandemic and we should all be concerned,” says Dr. Saddler, “Northern Kentuckians need to make a concerted effort to turn this around now by taking these precautions.” 

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