The Kentucky River District Health Department reported eight additional cases of COVID-19 in Letcher County over the weekend, including one employee of the Whitesburg Walmart and one employee of the Letcher County Jail.
Anyone who visited the Whitesburg Walmart between May 30 and June 13 is being asked to monitor themselves for symptoms. They may also seek testing. A relative of that patient said that two of his family members, both under 18, have also tested positive.
The health department reported four new cases on Sunday in Letcher County and another four on Monday. No new cases were reported in Letcher County on Tuesday, though many were reported in nearby counties. The number of cases here had been four since May 12.
In the seven-county district, cases increased by 13 on Tuesday, including eight from Perry County alone. Perry County reported five more cases on Saturday, for a total of 18 over the weekend. Many of those cases were linked and some of the cases in Letcher County were linked to the Trinity Holiness Tabernacle Church in Hazard, near the old M.C. Napier High School.
Perry County has now had a total of 38 cases, with 22 recovered. Letcher County had 12, with four recovered.
The state website is still showing only four cases in Letcher County because it splits antigen tests from RNA tests. The tests that showed the new cases in Perry and Letcher are all antigen tests conducted by Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation.
The company said in a statement that beginning on Thursday of last week, MCHC received notification of a positive test by a person in Harlan County, and since then there have been positive cases from multiple counties in its service area. Two more tests returned positive for persons from Harlan County on Friday, two more for Harlan and four for Letcher on Saturday, and eight for Perry, four for Letcher and one for Harlan on Sunday.
“Those people who had positive results are being asked to take confirmation tests, and those with positive results will be submitted to the local health department, who will contact the person and will also then contact those who have been in contact with these individuals,” the statement said. “All individuals who have been tested have been informed to self-isolate for 14 days and to seek medical attention if their condition worsens.”
At least one of the persons who tested positive over the weekend was a part-time employee of the Letcher County Jail. Jailer Bert Slone said that person worked one day per week and came to him on Saturday to tell him he might have been exposed. Slone said he sent him to MCHC, and the test came back positive .
The employee worked in the control booth and had limited contact with other employees and inmates, Slone said.
“Everybody that was in close proximity to that guard has been taken to Mountain Comp and has been tested, and we’re continuing to monitor, take temperatures and follow the guidelines of the CDC,” Slone said.
All but one of the tests from the jail had been returned by late Tuesday, and all of those were negative.
“Because he was late for work, he went straight back to the booth and that might have saved us,” Slone said, describing the weekend as “scary.”
Slone said the guard at the jail was one of the people linked to the Perry County church.
District Director of Public Health Scott Lockard said the latest four cases include two persons under 18 years old, a 19-year-old male, and a 69-year-old female.
Lockard said the new cases were picked up by a “rapid antigen” test perform in-house by MCHC. While the test is very accurate, Lockard said a confirmatory test will conducted to determine if patients who do not have symptoms have already recovered, or if the disease is still active.
The four reported on Sunday include a 40-year-old female, a 55-year-old male, a 49-year-old female and a 45-year-old male.
The number of cases in Letcher and surrounding counties are: Letcher – 12, Perry – 36, Knott – 4, Leslie – 7, Lee – 1, Wolfe – 1, Owsley – 1, Pike – 48, Wise County, Va. – 27, Norton, Va. – 2.