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Health department, hospital share how they respond to COVID-19

Boyle County sees about five to 20 active cases of COVID-19 on any given day, said Brent Blevins, public health director of the Boyle County Health Department. He said also, while govstatus.egov.com/kycovid19, the official Team Kentucky source for information concerning COVID-19, reflects that Boyle County has had zero deaths, the county has actually seen two deaths in the past six or seven months, and Blevins posts updates about COVID-19 in the county, including the two COVID-19-related deaths that have occurred, on the health department’s Facebook page, he said.

He said with the site, every county experiences a bit of a delay with the numbers of cases and deaths. The site currently shows as of 4:10 p.m. on Oct. 12, Boyle County has 348 total cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Blevins said that number doesn’t necessarily show the full impact of the pandemic, though, as even if they haven’t tested positive, family members and other people who have come in contact with people who have tested positive have had to isolate or quarantine. 

On Oct. 10 at 8:41 a.m. on the health department’s Facebook page, Blevins posted an update that reads: “Cases are increasing in most parts of Ky including Boyle Co. You will see on the map below that most counties are in the Orange/Red categories for a 7 day average of cases. While we are currently in the orange, if we continue the daily increase in case numbers, we will more than likely move into the red zone. What this means for us: In person school can revert to virtual, athletic competitions can be cancelled/delayed and the Governor can decide to enact increased measures to slow the spread in businesses/public.”

Blevins when it comes to the county’s long-term care facilities in the county, they started precautionary measures back in March, and they currently have a lot of safety measures built in, including restrictions on visitation, protocols about what to do when someone tests positive and routine testing. 

Schools and businesses alike must communicate with the Boyle County Health Department when it comes to quarantining. The health department must first address the positive case and then, based on who has been around the positive case within six feet for 15 minutes or over, decide who will quarantine, Blevins said. Many more people have had to quarantine in the county than have tested positive, he said.

Blevins said when it comes to general attitude toward the pandemic, he thinks most people are still taking it seriously, but there are some people who haven’t since the beginning.

“I think the majority of the people do still take it serious,” Blevins said. “They understand that wearing a mask, social distancing, washing hands is the most effective thing we have now until a vaccine comes along. I think the majority of people still are in line with that. We do have some people — we’ve had this all along — people that just don’t follow the guidelines, don’t follow the requirements, and that’s a struggle. That’s a struggle for the businesses who are required to do these things, and then when people come in and they’re not following the guidelines, that’s difficult on the business.” 

Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center is another community entity involved with public health that has policies in place to control the spread of the disease not only to protect patients but also associates. 

Jason Dean, clinical effectiveness manager for Ephraim McDowell Health, said in the facility, all associates must wear a mask, anyone in patient care must wear eye protection like goggles or eye protection glasses, there is about three to four months’ worth of personal protective equipment, associates are screened for symptoms and temperature before work, all patients are screened and tested prior to admission, and the facility has a COVID-19 unit specifically for patients who have COVID-19. This includes patients who are asymptomatic who are in the hospital for other things and ensures they are separated from other patients and to keep associates safe. 

All associates within the COVID-19 unit wear an N95 mask, Dean said, as well as associates who conduct COVID-19 testing and associates in the emergency room. Also, any patients who are suspicious of having COVID-19 or have the disease wear an N95 mask as well. Patients who do not have COVID-19 or are not suspicious of having it can wear a regular mask, Dean said. 

The hospital tracks every patient who has COVID-19 every day, Dean said. There has been a variety of symptoms among patients — cough and fever and shortness of breath, loss of sense of taste and smell and dependency on oxygenation. 

“We’ve seen the whole gamut of symptoms,” Dean said. 

Among family members, since they’re not permitted to be at COVID-19 patients’ bedsides, Dean said the hospital encourages FaceTime and other platforms for family members to communicate, and the hospital gives them updates. 

“That’s been one of the hardest things, I think, for the patients, is not being able to have family at their bedside,” he said.