Boyle County taking precautions to limit impact of COVID
Published 7:28 pm Wednesday, March 11, 2020
Not if but when
It’s not a question of if COVID-19 will spread to Boyle County, but when the virus will make its way here, according to Boyle County Health Department Director Brent Blevins.
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“I don’t have any knowledge that we have a COVID-19 case in this community right now,” he said. “But I will not be surprised if we end up with a case.”
But that’s not cause for alarm; it just means people should begin taking appropriate precautions now, Blevins said. And everyone should be aware that their local first responders and officials have already done a lot of heavy lifting in developing plans to handle COVID-19 or any other public health problem like it.
“If it’s not this, it will be something — that’s just how it is,” Blevins said, noting that the community, nation and world have navigated previous contagious health threats such as the Zika virus, H1N1 and Ebola. “… There’s no panic in this. I’ve never seen panic produce anything great.”
Blevins said everyone from Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center to Boyle County EMS, from local fire and police forces to the public school systems, already have plans in place to prevent accidentally spreading the virus when it arrives and to handle cases of the virus among the local population.
Boyle County Schools’ plan is “phenomenal” and “Danville is doing the same thing,” he said.
Local responders have already created a new practice of only sending one person in initially if they are called to a location for someone with symptoms that could be from COVID-19. That way, multiple first responders wouldn’t be potentially infected if the person does in fact have the virus. And that’s just one example, Blevins said.
“These guys have plans. … I’m real encouraged by that.”
Blevins said commercial tests for COVID-19 will be coming on the market very soon, and as a result he expects there will be a flood of people wanting to get tested.
“There’s going to be a slight, I hope brief moment when people in the public will get a little bit anxious and probably rush out and want to do a lot of tests,” Blevins said. “So the doctors’ offices probably initially will be a little swamped, the ER will be a little swamped, as people get through that first wave. And then once we get through that and we settle that down, then we can just kind of move on and just do what we need to do.
“It takes a community. When this thing gets here or whatever the next virus is, it will take every one of us putting a stop to this.”
Blevins said one potential “struggle” officials are aware of will be if the virus causes a large number of severe cases, because hospitals in the region have a finite number of ventilators. Work also needs to be done to keep COVID-19 out of nursing homes and senior living communities, where it could spread quickly in close quarters among elderly residents who are more vulnerable to the virus.
But for now, everyone can do what they need to by following a few simple guidelines, he said:
- stay spread out, not “right on top of each other” at social gatherings, and stay home if you are sick;
- don’t shake hands — “for a while, just say, ‘Hi;'”
- wash your hands frequently; and
- get your flu shot if you haven’t already, to lower the chance of contracting the flu and another virus at the same time.
Community taking precautions
Judge-Executive Howard Hunt said he is having sanitizer stations installed at both entrances to the Boyle County Courthouse, and the courthouse staff will be sanitizing surfaces twice daily.
A news release from Ephraim McDowell Health stated that as of Wednesday, there were no reported cases of the COVID-19 virus in its six-county service area. “…however, it is reasonable to expect that will change as testing increases. We currently do not have test kits available and are continuing to follow state guidelines for testing symptomatic patients.”
EMH has also implemented new visitor restrictions at its hospitals in Danville, Stanford and Harrodsburg. Only one visitor per patient will be allowed, and visitors ages 80 and older and 12 and younger will not be allowed to visit any patients.
Also, overnight visits are not allowed, except in certain situations, the release stated. Anyone who doesn’t feel well is asked to not visit any patients.
“In most cases, patients who contract COVID-19 will likely experience symptoms similar to a cold or flu and will not require hospitalization. Elderly patients and those who are immunocompromised are more likely to have more severe symptoms and require hospitalization. If patients in our area require hospitalization, Ephraim McDowell is prepared to handle their care,” according to the release.
The Boyle County Detention Center stopped allowing all volunteers into the facility beginning on Tuesday, Jailer Brian Wofford said. Following a conference call with the Department of Corrections Wednesday, Wofford said the ban was expanded to include all non-essential staff, including those who teach GED and SAP classes. All classes within the jail have been suspended for the time being, he added.
Inmates may still speak with their attorneys through glass walls, like they used to do, he said. And video visitations will continue. People can still use the video phone in the jail lobby, however, Wofford said he is recommending visitors make their video calls from home.
The jail has also discontinued its work detail program for inmates outside of the facility. That includes three groups who work in Boyle and two in Mercer, Wofford said.
When new inmates are booked at the jail, they are being screened for any symptoms of the virus. And a “clean team” of inmates are disinfecting hard surfaces throughout the jail.
Even the Art Center of the Bluegrass is taking extra precautions.
The opening reception for the Centre College student showcase will still be held this Friday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. “However, we will no longer serve unwrapped food items,” at any of the center’s opening receptions, according to a letter sent to its patrons.
Also, the center has instituted new cleaning procedures for the classrooms and students.
All upcoming classes are still being offered and are taking registrations. However, if the center has to temporarily close or cancel any classes, full refunds will be given.
Information on the virus
COVID-19 is a new type of coronavirus, a family of many viruses that includes some common colds. Since it is a new virus that only began spreading late last year, officials are still working to understand everything about it. There is not yet a vaccine. Health officials have said while around 80% of people who get the virus exhibit only mild cold-like symptoms, COVID-19’s fatality rate is many times higher than that of influenza. Older people and those with other complicating medical factors appear to be most at risk.
Information about the COVID-19 virus from the Kentucky Department for Public Health is available at www.kycovid19.ky.gov. According to that site, as of 5:05 p.m. March 10, 54 Kentuckians had been tested for possible infection by COVID-19. Forty-six tested negative and eight tested positive.
Additional information is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV.
According to KDPH, the current risk posed by COVID-19 in Kentucky is “low.”
“Evidence to date indicates those most at risk for becoming ill with COVID-19 are those in close contact with someone with a confirmed COVID-19 infection, including healthcare workers; and those who have traveled in the past 14 days in countries with ongoing community spread of the virus,” according to KDPH.
The CDC currently labels four countries with “warning level 3,” meaning everyone should avoid all non-essential travel to those locations: Italy, China, South Korea and Iran. The CDC also has a “warning level 2” alert for Japan, meaning visitors to the country should “practice enhanced cautions” due to the presence of COVID-19. Hong Kong is labeled with a “warning level 1,” meaning visitors should “practice usual precautions.”
KDPH offers the following guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19:
- “If you are 60 years old or older and/or have diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, kidney failure or other chronic major medical conditions, we recommend you avoid densely populated community events.”
- “Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are advised to restrict visitors.”
- “Working people, students, employers and schools are advised to plan actively for telework/distance learning options appropriate for their situations and support all workers/students to stay at home if they are ill.”
- “Only go to the emergency department for an illness that would have taken you to the hospital before the COVID-19 outbreak. If you have runny nose, cough, fever or other common respiratory infection symptoms, take Tylenol- or Motrin-like products and stay home from work or school until you are fever-free. If you think you need medical care, please contact your healthcare provider for their instruction or visit an emergency department if you believe you have an emergency.”