Christian County Health Department along with city and county officials met Thursday to watch a webinar from Kentucky Public Health about the 2019 novel coronavirus and how to respond as it spreads.
Dr. Doug Thoroughman, CDC epidemiologist and infectious disease officer for Kentucky, said three measures are in action across the state to combat COVID-19:
- Isolation for those who are infected with the virus or showing symptoms, so they cannot infect other people.
- Self-quarantine of 14 days for those who are a-symptomatic but might have been exposed to the virus.
- And, social distancing of 6 feet, hand washing and disinfecting surfaces to avoid getting the virus.
Thoroughman said the state health department is focused on testing people who are medically fragile or in congregant care settings.
“Our first line of defense is to identify cases as quickly as possible, to isolate them, identify their contacts and quarantine them,” he said. “We’ve been doing a fantastic job of that so far, but it’s very, very labor intensive.”
As of Thursday afternoon, 10 COVID-19 tests administered by the state have been confirmed positive — five in Harrison, three in Fayette and two in Jefferson counties, according to Gov. Andy Beshear.
The governor called for public schools to close, visitation limits at nursing homes and jails and asked churches to cancel services to avoid large gatherings of people.
Many public and private entities followed those recommendations, canceling or postponing large public events, including Hopkinsville International Fest later this month.
Thoroughman said commercial labs are preparing to offer their own coronavirus tests, leading to more people being tested for the virus and possibly more positive results.
“We’re going to really be pushing community mitigation messages across the board,” he said. “If you’re over 60 years old and immuno-compromised, you should avoid public settings. If you’re sick, you should stay home from work or family members and be washing your hands.
“Of course, this is good practice for all of the other respiratory infections, so maybe we will see a big drop down of our flu numbers,” he said.
Thoroughman said there has been a sweeping response to COVID-19 due to the potential mortality rate in older adults.
“The estimated mortality above 80 (years old) is about 15%, and below 80, it’s about 1.5% to 2.5%,” he said.
Proactive measures are being implemented to not overwhelm health care providers if a large number of people get severely ill.
Dr. Connie White, deputy commissioner of the state department for public health, said the goal is also to protect health care workers from the virus.
“We need to keep our health care workers healthy,” she said. “This is obviously a team sport, so we can meet all the needs of our medical community.”
Kentucky Emergency Management Director Mike Dossett said KEM facilitated a statewide conference call with elected officials across the state Tuesday and started tracking the locations of COVID-19 cases in the state via a geographic information system. Dossett said updates to that map are at kyem.ky.gov.
Becky Gillis, division director for public health protection and safety, said the Kentucky Department of Public Health is looking at its continuity of operations plan and working with community partners to get accurate information out about the virus.
Locally, Christian County Public Schools, Christian County Sheriff’s Office, City of Hopkinsville and Christian County Emergency Management had officials at the CCHD webinar Thursday. Over 20 people from other agencies were also in attendance and stayed after to brainstorm how Christian County as a whole should respond in the coming weeks.
“It’s all about good communication with the public, making sure people know what they can do to protect themselves and their families,” Gillis said.
CCHD Executive Director Kayla Bebout said although no local cases have been confirmed, COVID-19 is sure to spread to the area and teamwork with all agencies is key.
“It’s a matter of when rather than if at this point, and I’d like to have us all on the same page,” Bebout said.
Rebecca Hardin, regional preparedness coordinator and outreach task force lead, said as more people are asked to stay home, wrap-around services and welfare checks will be needed.
“As we ask folks to stay home from large gatherings and as school is canceled, we need to have a process available to address needs like Meals on Wheels to make sure people, senior citizens, are still being checked on,” Hardin said. “American Red Cross reach out to those volunteers in your community.
“You also have Salvation Army, United Way, church organizations that run food banks,” she continued. “Just sit down and start strategizing for the type of things that you can do.”
Hardin said volunteers will have concerns about protecting themselves as well, but she suggested grocery pickup and delivery services that can be left at the door for those in quarantine or isolation.
“Don’t touch door knobs, etc., find other ways to communicate, text people,” she said.
Hardin said churches and non-religious organizations can do social assistance calls members and families, and develop a resources list if they are in need of other services.
“What we’re trying to do is avoid people calling 911 because they need supplies,” Hardin said. “Let’s find another avenue for that ... We want to make sure we’re still checking on our citizens because that’s what we do in Kentucky in times of need.”