Boyle County seeing increase in COVID-19 cases as testing increases

Published 9:55 pm Monday, June 8, 2020

As the local economy begins to reopen, and testing capacity increases, the number of cases of COVID-19 in Boyle County has increased, according to Boyle County Health Department Public Health Director Brent Blevins.

Blevins said there have been 11 cases of COVID-19 in Boyle County over the last week and a half, but he noted that time period was an estimate.

Of those 11 cases, Blevins said eight of them were interconnected, either as family members or other close relationships.

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“That’s kind of how this thing works,” Blevins said. “You get a group of people together and somebody is sick and they don’t know it or they aren’t doing social distancing and this thing will spread pretty quickly.”

He said this is the second instance of the virus spreading within a group of people quickly. When the outbreak began in March, a meeting of 12 people resulted in seven individuals contracting the virus.

“This provides an example to the public of how this thing can spread when you’re in close confines or anything like that,” Blevins said.

As of Friday evening, Boyle County had recorded 36 total positive cases, with 11 of those currently home recovering and one hospitalized.

An increase in the number of cases was somewhat expected, Blevins said, as testing capacity locally has increased. For example, at Ephraim McDowell Hospital, individuals who are not experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 can be tested and a few local doctors’ offices are also providing testing.

Blevins said he doesn’t have a certain number of tests being performed locally because of the number of labs that are handling tests. He said the last information he was provided stated that 36 labs were handling testing.

Blevins noted that there are many instances where he isn’t notified when a test comes back negative, but he is informed of any positive test results. However, he estimated that approximately 2,000 tests have been performed locally, but he noted that number is an estimate and could be higher.

Blevins said he can say with relative certainty that the testing capacity locally has increased substantially, specifically noting the testing at Ephraim McDowell Hospital and at locations in Danville such as First Care and others.

“Earlier on, we were just testing people who had symptoms and that was simply because we didn’t have as many tests,” Blevins said. “But now, Ephraim feels more comfortable with the number of tests that they have to test people who aren’t experiencing symptoms.”

Ephraim McDowell Hospital confirmed four new cases of COVID-19 Sunday evening. One of those cases was a Boyle County resident, while the other three were Lincoln County residents.

Going forward, Blevins said he expects an increase in the number of positive cases locally, both because of the increased number of tests available and as places of business reopen.

“I think we’ll continue to have cases,” Blevins said. “I think we have people in our community who have it and never get tested, never go to the doctor, or never go to the hospital because they aren’t sick enough. They just spend a couple days at home, begin feeling better, and then move along. I think we’ve had that all along and my assumption has been that the virus was here well before we knew it, and when you start looking at that, we may begin to start picking up more of those people who get tested.”