Scott County is bouncing back-and-forth between the two highest alert levels of red and orange for COVID-19 cases, causing local officials to brace for the worst.
On Wednesday, there were 21 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Scott County pushing the county’s total number of cases to 1,198 with 22 deaths, including 17 attributed to the Dover Manor long-term care facility. There have been 60 new confirmed cases over three days in Scott County this week, according to WEDCO.
But what is igniting concern is the sharp increase in hospitalizations throughout the state, including Central Kentucky. There are currently 31 hospitalizations in Scott County, according to the WEDCO health district, and statewide the number of hospitalizations has increased to 927, according to Gov. Andy Beshear. The number of hospitalizations statewide has jumped 17 percent over the past three weeks, health officials said.
Of the 923 patients hospitalized, includes 110 on a ventilator. The state’s positivity rate is now at 6.07 percent. Even so, state and local hospital officials have said there is no shortage of hospital beds and the hospitals are working well together.
“We cannot continue to debate the mask,” said Dr. Crystal Miller, WEDCO public health director. “We’ve got to stop fighting the science and do the inconvenient thing and wear a mask.”
A number of athletic events have been cancelled or rescheduled due to COVID outbreaks or restrictions, here or elsewhere. Scott County High School’s football game was cancelled this weekend when at least one member of the team tested positive. Great Crossing High School’s football game was cancelled because Scott County is in the red alert level, and the governor has recommended teams in red counties should not play.
Despite Scott County’s surging COVID-19 cases, the problem is not the schools, said officials.
Schools are a controlled environment, Miller said. There are mask and cleaning protocols that are being monitored and followed, she said. When school is out, the students are out-and-about and their environment is not so controlled, she said.
“We need our kids in school and we need their parents working,” Miller said. “If we want our kids in school, we simply must wear a mask. That’s the message we must get out to everyone.”
But if the community spread continues, it will eventually filter into the schools no matter how careful they may be, Miller said.
Much of the surge has been traced to large gatherings, including family gatherings, and people failing to wear masks, she said. An email to the News-Graphic complained about people wearing masks, but failing to cover their nose during a visit to a Georgetown business. A comment to the WEDCO Facebook page noted a recent funeral where no one wore a mask.
“We know what works,” said State Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack. “We know that he tools we have now, as frustrating as they are, are ones that keep us safe. If we are cavalier about it, we are going to get smacked hard. I’ve said this before, it’s like being in a casino, the house always wins.
“The virus is the house.”
On Wednesday, there were 64 red counties in Kentucky, including Scott County, with an incidence of 25 or more new cases per 100,000 residents. Scott County’s incident rate was just above 26.
This week, WEDCO has started keeping a local 7-day incidence rate for the school system. Until now, schools have been using the statewide 7-day incidence map to determine the color of the county on the alert system, which is used to make decisions about whether schools are virtual or in-person.
“Due to the cumbersome process of contact tracing, which can take up to a week to complete, the data on the state map is often delayed,” Miller said. “In order to be as close to ‘real time’ as possible, WEDCO will calculate the 7-day incident report Thursday evening each week and forward that to the school superintendents.”
Mike Scogin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.