The Pike County Health Department is warning residents not to travel and urging other precautions, after 13 COVID-19 cases were confirmed within 48 hours, with many of them linked to other cases or to people who recently traveled to virus hotspots.

Pike County’s confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) increased from 71 to 84 cases late Friday, June 26, which is a 15 percent increase within a 48-hour period.

“That is concerning to have 13 new patients added to our caseload within a 48-hour period,” said Tammy Riley, Pike County Public Health Director. “Almost all are linked to each other, other cases or recently traveled and returned home. After receiving numerous calls from local providers and clinics over the weekend with patients seeking testing after returning from travel and demonstrating symptoms, I felt it was important to make the public aware and to announce an advisory as a precautionary measure.”

Pike County’s most recent 13 cases included a 63 year-old male, 18 year-old female, a minor-age female, 79 year-old female, 83 year-old male, 55 year-old male, 53 year-old female, 26 year-old female, 67 year-old female, 35 year-old female, 28 year-old male, another minor-age female and 45 year-old male.

12 of the 13 new patients were symptomatic, or showing symptoms of the virus upon being tested, and one patient was asymptomatic, or not showing symptoms. All patients are isolated and recovering at home.

As of Monday, June 28, of Pike County’s 84 cases, 78 were confirmed and six were probable cases, which were identified using antibody (serology) testing. 58 patients have recovered, 24 patients have active cases and two patients have died from the virus.

Public health warnings

Riley said that the cases linked to travel were particularly connected to returning home from traveling to North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. She said that several cases have also been confirmed from gatherings, like birthday parties.

“That was anticipated,” Riley said, referring to the several cases connected to public gatherings. “I just want to take the opportunity to point out and remind Pike County residents: That is the purpose of the ‘Healthy at Home’ guidelines, which includes keeping that social distance (and) wearing face coverings when interacting with others. We still need to follow the universal precautions when we are phasing open the economy and at home socially.”

The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) issued a public health advisory on June 25 against traveling to Myrtle Beach and South Carolina, due to recent spikes of COVID-19 cases in the area, and Florida saw the nation’s largest single-day increase of COVID-19 cases that same day, with nearly 9,000 positive cases, according to NPR.

“Even more concerning, we’re seeing one patient who returned from traveling, and now we’re seeing positive cases from that case — epidemiological links in our county to people who haven’t even traveled from those who have traveled,” Riley said.

As of June 28, according to CNN Health, Rhode Island and Connecticut were only two states that reported a decline in COVID-19 cases. Besides Kentucky, case increases have been reported in states like Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia, among others. The U.S. has now reached nearly 2.54 million cases of the virus, with at least 125,747 deaths.

Riley urged Pike County residents to wear face masks when around other people, including when they attend church and make trips to the grocery store.

“I cannot stress the importance of covering your face and wearing a mask (when) going into stores, out mingling with others, when you’re encountering others,” Riley said. “It remains vitally important and is a sign of respect to others.”

The CDC recommends that everyone 2 years old and older wear a cloth face mask that covers their nose and mouth when they are out in the community. Due to the danger of suffocation, people should not put cloth face coverings or masks on children who are younger than 2 years old.

Cloth face masks should not be worn by anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, can’t move or is otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance. According to the CDC, cloth face masks are not a substitute for social distancing (maintaining six feet of distance from others), frequent hand washing or other daily preventive actions.

As of 4 p.m. June 28, there were at least 15,232 COVID-19 cases in Kentucky, with 558 deaths.

“We see states in the South like Florida and Texas with rising cases and know it could happen here in Kentucky,” Gov. Andy Beshear said in a statement. “It wasn’t anything magic that led us to our early success. It was us truly coming together as a people and showing that the lives of other Kentuckians is more important to us than anything.”

Testing

DPH, in collaboration with Kroger Health, will run a drive-through COVID-19 testing lab at Shelby Valley High School (125 Douglas Parkway) from 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on June 30, July 1 and July 2. Those who would like to be tested should register online at, www.thelittleclinic.com/drivethru-testing. For more information, call, (888) 852-2567.

Although Riley said she could not speak for or about the Kroger Health Shelby Valley clinic that is coming to Pikeville this week, she said that people should get tested for the virus because getting tested provides important information for public health officials and the community. This is because, she said, it allows public health officials and the community to know how widespread the virus is in Pike County.

“I’ve said from the beginning that public testing would be a vital piece to the puzzle for keeping our community safe, and that remains true today,” Riley said. “Increasing testing capacity remains very important to keeping Pike County, Kentucky and the country safe. We’ve focused on testing capacity in Eastern Kentucky, and we’ve achieved an increase in testing capacity.”

While testing capacity has increased which increases the number of people being tested, Riley said, public health officials particularly focus on the ratio of positive cases compared to the number of people being tested. This recent large number of patients testing positive for the virus, Riley said, particularly concerns her in Pike County.

“One of the things I’m looking at closely is our positivity rate so I’m looking at the numbers ratio of those that are testing positive to the number of tests,” Riley said. “What I am seeing that is alarming is in case growth. In other words, I look at the percentage of growth from the previous two weeks, and when you see a 15 percent case net growth in a 48-hour period, that concerns me.”

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting or diarrhea.

According to the CDC, people with COVID-19 have had a wide range of the reported symptoms, ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Although older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions, like heart or lung disease or diabetes, seem to be at a higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19, anyone at any age can contract the virus.

Pikeville Medical Center and Tug Valley ARH Regional Medical Center are also providing drive-through COVID-19 testing for anyone wishing to get tested. PMC testing is available from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. across from the McDonald’s located at 101 Baird Avenue, and ARH testing is available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 260 Hospital Drive in South Williamson.

Pikeville’s Walmart, located at 254 Cassidy Boulevard, is also providing COVID-19 testing from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The Pike County Health Department is located at 119 River Drive, and it can be reached at, (606) 437-5500. For more information, visit, www.pikecountyhealth.com.

For more information on Kentucky’s response to COVID-19, including statewide testing locations and other resources, visit, www.kycovid19.ky.gov.

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