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Boyle health director: Families should focus on social distancing for a few more weeks

 

Although the weather has finally turned nice, Boyle County’s public health director asks that families and groups give it just a few more weeks before venturing out to do group activities outside. 

Different organizations have been creating activities, urging families to get some fresh air while practicing social-distancing, such as art walks or treasure hunts. And rightfully so, Brent Blevins said. 

“I love the ideas that everybody’s coming up with — they’re great and what we need. But on the flattening-the-curve perspective, if we can go about two more weeks, we’ll have a much clearer idea of exactly what we’re looking at.” He said that will also give officials time to see what the hospital system looks like. 

“When you see the Governor (Andy Beshear) and Dr. (Steven) Stack, the state public health commissioner, on TV, that’s what they’re talking about. We’re in those crucial weeks right now, where we’re looking at how those numbers will affect Kentucky. We’ve built up to this … the governor has been very aggressive on social changes he’s made in the economy and the environment. Let’s see what that moment is for the next few weeks and see where it goes.” 

It’s all about flattening the curve to Blevins — something he emphatically believes in.

“There are people who think both sides — some who think no, you let it spike really high, really fast, then you come down the other side. But you lose quite a bit of people at the top of that curve. In public health, we’re trying to flatten that. It takes longer, sure, but one of the main goals is so we do not overwhelm hospitals and health-care workers.” 

Back to Gov. Andy Beshear and Dr. Stack’s presentations — Blevins said they use a curve chart from the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic for a reason; it proves a point. 

“When Philadelphia started (seeing cases of the flu), it did not do social distancing and those things right up front. In September of that year, their cases literally went straight up, to 250 deaths per 100,000 of population. Then by November, the curve was almost right back down at the bottom; it’s straight up a mountain, and straight down.” 

But, Blevins said, St. Louis began its prevention several weeks before. “They practiced social distancing and other things, and their curve was a longer curve, started on about Sept. 28, went through December …” but resulted in only about 50 deaths per 100,000 of population. “That’s about a 200-person death rate difference, just in how the two cities responded.” 

With those who talk about just letting the curve spike, since it should come right back down, Blevins said they also need to realize: “If you go back and look at the history, they talk about how in Philadelphia, almost within three days, their 31 hospitals were filled with sick and dying patients from Spanish flu. Now I get this was 1918, but that’s the curve you see the governor using a lot. That’s how it flattens it out, so you don’t overwhelm what you have. We cannot overwhelm the hospitals.” 

Blevins said Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center is something to be grateful for in this community. “Along with that, though, they draw from 10-15 different counties. We’re not just pulling patients in from Boyle … That’s a lot of population they’d have to deal with.” 

Efforts to flatten the curve are being pushed, Blevins said, “so the system doesn’t break.”

In some ways, this virus situation has been such a quick spread, he said; but in other ways, it feels like a long period of time to the community. 

“Stores have different ways of operating. Some are closed down. We’re already into our third or fourth week. But maybe even longer than that, due to when it all started,” he said. “It seems like a really long time to the economy, and I get that. But if we keep flattening that curve, particularly when you compare Kentucky’s statistics with other states, we’re doing well.”

Testing has also changed, with different options being offered, “so obviously our numbers are going to go up some, so now we’re seeing more true numbers,” Blevins said. “But I am in favor of flattening the curve. If you look at our hospitals, they’re awesome at being prepared; they’re doing great. But every hospital has its capacity. We don’t want to get to the point that we have to run things differently, find space in other places for patients. We’re trying not to get to that point.”