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1st COVID death is reported here; cases number 58


The number of new cases of COVID-19 this week held about steady with the week before, but the Kentucky River District Health Department has reported the first death from the virus in Letcher County.

District Health Director Scott Lockard said Friday that a 72-year-old man from the county died earlier this week of the virus. The death is the first of a Letcher County resident, and the fifth in the seven-county district. Three people in Perry County and one in Knott County have died after contracting the viral disease.

The health department did not release any further information in order to protect the family’s privacy, but Lockard said the man died several days before the announcement.

“Contrary to what people claim — that we report traffic accidents and everything else as COVID — they have to be vetted,” Lockard said, noting that each death certificate is reviewed by coroners and by state officials before it announced.

Statewide, there have been 783 deaths as a result of COVID-19, and more than 167,000 have died in the United States.

The number of positive cases in Letcher County now stands at 58, of which 37 have recovered.

Lockard could not say how many people have been hospitalized because of the illness, but eight have been hospitalized at the time of their diagnosis. Others have been admitted “off and on.” At least two patients in Letcher County have been in the hospital because of COVID-19, Lockard said.

“Sometimes, if they’re not hospitalized when they first get their diagnosis, and then they go in the hospital and get released, that’s not reported to us,” Lockard said. “We’re just not capturing that data.”

While numbers in Letcher County have not been rising dramatically, they are still rising. The district health department reported 10 new cases here in the past week, up slightly from 8 new cases last week, and down slightly from 12 the week before.

Lockard said he still sees people not wearing masks and not observing social distancing. He said while putting gas in his car in a county he would not name, one of the local officials walked past him and into the gas station without a mask.

“I encourage our local officials to lead by example,” he said, adding that he wears a mask that ties so he doesn’t have to remove it completely through the day. “It stays around my neck throughout the day. A mask is part of my wardrobe now, and if we’re going to get through this, we’re all going to have to adopt that behavior.”

He said large gatherings are still a problem, as are businesses that don’t enforce the mask requirements and other guidelines. Health inspectors visit those regulated by the health department, and others are reported to the state Department of Labor, Lockard said.

New COVID-19 cases reported in the past week in Letcher County include a 47-year-old female, a 52-year-old male, a 65-year-old female, a 68-year-old male, a pediatric case under the age of 18, a 72-year-old male, a 62-year-old female, a 73-year-old female, an 80-year-old male, and a 42-year-old female.

The totals for Letcher and surrounding counties, according to local health departments, are: Knott – 62 (33 recovered, 11 probable, 1 dead); Lee – 6 (3 recovered); Leslie – 31 (19 recovered, 1 probable); Letcher – 58 (37 recovered, 13 probable, 1 dead); Owsley – 11 (7 recovered); Perry – 232 (154 recovered, 8 probable, 3 dead); Wolfe – 13 (9 recovered); Harlan – 277 (those recovered are not reported); Pike – 270 (as of 8/09/2020, 216 recovered, 36 probable, 3 dead); Wise County, Va. – 168 (20 hospitalized, 3 dead); Norton, Va. – 21 (2 hospitalized).

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