COVID-19 cases have fallen dramatically in Letcher County as the coronavirus has surged statewide and nationwide.
There were 19 new cases of the disease in Letcher County over the past week, according to the Kentucky River District Health Department, down from 24 the week before, and 46 the week before that.
“We’ve been real pleased with Letcher County’s numbers,” said Scott Lockard, director of the Kentucky River District Health Department. “They’re on a downward trend up there.”
There is still community spread here, however. The health department issued a warning Monday night that another employee at Whitesburg Food City has tested positive for COVID -19.
Persons who were in the store on Monday, Oct. 19, or Tuesday, Oct. 20, might have been exposed, and are being told to monitor themselves for symptoms. Anyone experiencing coughing, fever, shortness of breath, changes in sensation of taste or smell, and/or gastrointestinal upset should see a doctor.
Persons who believe they could have been exposed should also contact their doctors to arrange a COVID-19 test. While Gov. Andy Beshear is asking people to be tested regularly, some testing sites will not test people who are asymptomatic. Others do not test without a doctor’s orders.
Lockard said the fact that so many people are asymptomatic has led to higher rates of infection.
“They have not got any fever, no other symptoms, they have no idea they’ve been exposed,” he said. Those people then pass the virus along to others who might have severe symptoms or even die.
In Beattyville, the nursing home opened up for limited visitation and has now had 120 cases of COVID 19. Out of 104 patients at the Lee County Care and Rehabilitation Center, 75 have test positive and seven have died, Lockard said. The remainder of those infected are staff members.
In tiny Lee County, with a population of just 7,403, that has pushed the incident rate to 162.1 per 100,000.
A color-coded state map that shows counties in yellow, orange or red depending on the incident rate of COVID-19, on Tuesday showed Letcher County in orange with a rate of 13.3 cases per 100,000 and falling. Several surrounding counties, however are back in the red with more than 25 cases per 100,000.
The nearby counties in red are: Perry County – 41.6 per 100,000; Knott County – 40.5 per 100,000; and Floyd County – 32.1 per 100,000.
Cases in Pike County are increasing. While the county is still in orange, its rate is 23.9 per 100,000, just over one point from breaking into the red zone again.
Statewide, the number of new COVID-19 cases has hit records with more than 9,000 cases last week, and 1,786 new cases Tuesday. Currently, only eight of 120 counties in the state are in the yellow, meaning they have fewer than 10 cases per 100,000. Only one of those, Wolfe County, is in eastern Kentucky.
Beshear has released a new set of recommendations for counties that are in the red. Counties are expected to check the map on Thursdays, just as school systems do, and implement the new measures if the county is in the red.
Recommendations are that: Employers allow employees to work from home when possible; government offices that do not provide critical services should operate virtually; reduce in-person shopping (order online or pick up curbside as much as possible); order take-out (avoid dining in restaurants or bars); prioritize businesses that follow and enforce the mask mandate and other guidelines; reschedule, postpone or cancel public events; do not host or attend gatherings of any size; avoid nonessential activities outside your home; reduce overall activity and contacts; and follow existing guidance, including the “10 Steps to Defeat COVID-19,” such as wearing a mask, social distancing, wearing a mask and other steps to maintain health.
Total cases in Letcher and surrounding counties are: Knott – Total 339 (38 probable) (181 active, 154 recovered, 4 dead); Lee – Total 109 (14 probable) (83 active, 21 recovered, 5 dead); Leslie – Total 125 (8 probable) (63 active, 61 recovered, 1 dead); Letcher – Total 298 (90 probable) (147 active, 149 recovered, 2 dead); Owsley – Total 90 (30 probable) (46 active, 43 recovered, 1 dead); Perry – Total 513 (32 probable) (174 active, 330 recovered, 9 dead); Wolfe – Total 62 (16 probable) (22 active, 40 recovered); Wise County, Va. – Total 619 (42 hospitalized, 10 dead) Norton, Va. – Total 50 (5 hospitalized).