Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation has begun mobile testing for COVID-19, with two vans equipped for testing on site.
MCHC Chief Executive Officer Mike Caudill said one van will serve the Kentucky River Valley, and the other will serve the Cumberland River Valley.
“They’re actually equipped with a Sophia 2 antigen testing machine, and they can screen you for COVID-19 and have the results in 15 minutes,” Caudill said. “For confirmation test, which is called a PCR test, it is sent out to Lab Corp. to confirm the result, and that is back in 48 hours.”
The two vans cost $35,000 to $40,000 each to buy and equip. Caudill said MCHC took one of the vans to the Harlan County Fiscal Court last week and ended up testing people who saw it at the courthouse and asked to be screened.
While the clinic will work with private organizations for screening at particular times and places, it will also be able to respond to COVID-19 hotspots to test people when there is an outbreak.
“I’m really excited about this new thing,” he said. “It gives us a way of going to where the problem is and making COVID-19 testing available to people throughout the area at convenient places.”
The number of COVID 19 cases is rising rapidly throughout the United States. While the number of cases in Letcher County has not risen in recent days and remains at 14, the number in surrounding counties has grown at an alarming rate, Kentucky River District Health Director Scott Lockard said.
The virus has been confirmed in every county in Kentucky, and the total number of dead now stands at 565 statewide, with 15,624 cases.
“Our (district) case count is up to 100 cases now and on June 12, we had 41, so in a little more than two weeks we’ve more than doubled,” Lockard said Tuesday.
Perry County has had the largest number of cases and the fastest growth. The number of cases there now stands at 64, according to the Kentucky River District Health Department.
“ There’s no specific touch-point there. Seventeen were traced back to the church, there are individuals returning from vacations in Myrtle Beach and Daytona Beach, and other cases that our contact tracers can’t trace back to any common place,” Lockard said.
He said it is possible the cases are being spread simply because of Perry County’s location and the number of businesses there that serve as an attractant for people around the region.
“We see a lot more travel into Perry County, and you do have more places of commerce there,” he said. “It’s a crossroads there that you’re coming through, so I think the potential for exposure is a lot greater there.”
With more openings this week, more cases are expected in the coming weeks.
Assisted living and group homes have already been allowed to reopen to visitors, though Lockard said most in this area are being cautious and opening gradually. Nursing homes and intermediate care homes will open July 15.
Bars reopened on Monday, and restaurants were allowed to increase capacity just as other states are closing bars back down because of spikes in cases that were traced back to them.
Lockard said moving back and forth to order drinks, not wearing masks and close proximity to other people make bars particularly problematic.
“Those types of environments are really of concern to us in the public health arena,” Lockard said.
Vacations are also problematic, as the number of new cases explodes in popular vacation spots such as Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Florida. Kentucky is advising residents who travel to Myrtle Beach to self-quarantine for 14 days when they return home after clusters of cases here were traced back to groups who traveled to the South Carolina beach town.
The number of cases in Letcher and surrounding counties are: Knott – 8, Lee – 1, Leslie – 8, Letcher – 14, Owsley – 3, Perry – 64 (1 dead), Wolfe – 4, Pike – 84, Floyd – 29, Harlan – 23, Wise County, Va. – 28, Norton, Va. – 4.