Both Whitley and Knox counties announced Monday each county’s first confirmed case of COVID-19.
The Whitley County Health Department’s Epidemiology Rapid Response Team is collaborating with the Kentucky Department for Public Health to identify people who have had close contact with this person and are at risk for infection. Those people will be contacted and provided instructions.
So far, the only information released is that the person is an adult resident of Whitley County.
Health department officials said in a release that additional details about the person couldn’t be provided because of medical privacy laws.
Officials said the individual is adhering to isolation requirements.
“As this situation evolves, we will continue to communicate with the CDC, DPH, and the people of Whitley County,” said Marcy Rein, Whitley County Health Department Public Director. “The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. Help our community stay as healthy as possible by staying home. Some people can’t stay at home, like healthcare workers and people working to deliver vital products and services. We appreciate their sacrifices, and you can honor them by staying home.”
In addition, Rein noted that when an individual is confirmed to have contracted COVID–19, health officials will question the individual in order to determine who they have come into contact with.
With the processing of tests taking seven or more days, an individual patient can have a significant amount of time for which to account.
“The more people stay home, the easier it is to account for that time,” Reins explained.
Most people will develop only mild symptoms with COVID-19 infection. However, some people are at a higher risk for severe illness. These include people older than 60 years and people with health conditions like heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease, or immune-compromised. It takes our whole community to keep everyone healthy.
Knox County cases
In what is likely the first such instance in Kentucky, the Mayor of Barbourville and six city police officers have gone into quarantine after coming into contact with a person who tested positive for Knox County’s first case of COVID-19.
After weeks of no diagnosed cases, Knox County also had its first positive COVID-19 diagnosis on Monday.
In a statement posted to its Facebook page, Knox County Health Department officials announced they were notified of a Knox County resident having tested positive for coronavirus. According to Knox County Health Department Director Rebecca Rains, as of Monday, there were 89 COVID-19 tests completed in Knox County.
Later Monday, a release from Barbourville Police Department (BPD) stated an employee of the BPD had tested positive for the virus. According to the release, the employee last worked a shift on March 30 and is recovering at home.
After learning of the employee’s test, The Mountain Advocate reached out to Mayor David Thompson who confirmed that he, along with the individual and five additional officers have been remanded to home quarantine.
“I think now that I’ve got time home for the days to come, the public should definitely understand why we’re doing the things we’re doing at the stores and the parks in the city and county,” Thompson said. “I hope that the other surrounding counties see the things we’re trying to do and follow suit. What goes through Whitley and Bell counties also goes through Knox County.”
The Barbourville Police Department implemented guidelines to protect all employees and the public. The department sanitized the offices as well as vehicles at the end of every shift.
The department encourages everyone to follow CDC guidelines to prevent possible infection and to limit potential exposure.
“Our thoughts are with this employee during this time and pray for a speedy recovery,” the release said.
As for the county at large, gatherings are prohibited and will be dealt with. Rains said the department is addressing illegal gatherings as they are reported. The gatherings include roadside flea markets and yard sales.
“The Knox County Health Department is dedicated to our mission, we strive to protect the health of the community in every possible way,” said Rains.
According to the release, conducting contact investigations is a priority for the health department, with a goal to successfully stop the transmission and prevent future cases of COVID-19. Contacts with the patient, who was diagnosed, will be notified as soon as possible.
The department’s release stated, “If you are not contacted by this office, then you are considered has having no more risk than the general public at this time,” before going on to state the department believes the general public is at an extreme low risk of contacting COVID-19.
Over 1,000 cases statewide
As of Tuesday there are 1,149 COVID–19 cases across Kentucky.
Gov. Andy Beshear said while the 147 new cases reported Tuesday was a significant increase over the 80 that had been reported on Monday, the three–day average was less than the average number of new cases for the previous three-day period.
“We still don’t see the number going the same way in Kentucky as we see in other places,” Beshear said.
Beshear added there were seven deaths Tuesday, bringing the total number of deaths to 65.
While state health officials were still in the process of confirming the location of 40 of the new cases, Beshear emphasized that the virus is everywhere.
“There is no false security about no reported cases in our county,” Beshear said.
“That is why we are healthy at home,” he said.
(Editor’s Note: Mountain Advocate Publisher Charles Myrick contributed to this story).