• Bob Valch, Woodford Sun Staff

Positivity rate for virus climbs to over 7 percent in county

The percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus has climbed to over 7 percent in Woodford County, and that recent increase led Public Health Director Cassie Prather to advise schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins to begin the 2020-21 school year with virtual learning. The Woodford County Board of Education followed the joint recommendation to not begin the school year with in-person instruction during a special meeting last Thursday. Instead, the school year will begin with virtual learning Wednesday, Aug. 26. Prather, who reached out to Hawkins before the meeting to discuss the positivity rate increase and delaying the start of in-person instruction, said she was hopeful a mask mandate issued by Gov. Andy Beshear in early-July would decrease the positivity rate. “But we have not seen that here in the county, especially last week,” she said during an interview last Friday. The county’s test positivity rate has averaged a little over 5 percent since March before rising to 7.41 percent two weeks ago, according to Prather. Woodford County experienced a 460 percent increase in cases from May to June and a 120 percent increase in cases from June to July, she said. Cases could rise by another 225 percent based on what’s happened the first five days of August, she said. “We’re just not going in the direction that we hoped that we would be,” Prather said. The health department reported a total of 159 coronavirus cases as of Aug. 10. Because there has not been an outbreak tied to an event, “we just have to expect from that that we do have community spread,” she said. “And with that we realize that there are folks out there that probably have the virus, but they haven’t been tested because they don’t have symptoms.” As of last Friday, Woodford County had 37 active COVID cases, “which is the most that we’ve had,” said Prather. “So right now, our COVID team is pretty much maxed out as far as how many cases that they can investigate and follow.” The number of active cases in the county climbed to 45, with 10 more cases reported Tuesday morning, Prather said in an email. “We’re just going to continue to monitor (positivity rates),” said Prather. “And I’ve been in constant communication with Mr. Hawkins and other school administrators, and have board members reach out to me. And we’re all using the data. So I’m really proud of the school administration and also the board members for making a data-driven decision.” The board discussed and voiced support for not opening up schools to in-person instruction until positivity rates remain below 5 percent for a two-week period. Prather said she will meet with Hawkins to establish a metric for when the public schools should be closed to in-person instruction. During his briefing Monday afternoon, Gov. Andy Beshear recommended schools not reopen to in-person instruction until Sept. 28. Prather said she and her husband signed up their children for in-person instruction before the recent rise in positivity rates in Woodford County. “We know our kids need to be back in school, but we need to do it as safely as possible,” she said. A positivity rate below 5 percent will make it safer for students to return for in-person instruction, she added. “If (keeping children out of school) saves one life,” said Prather, “it’s worth it.” One factor in positivity rates rising to over 7 percent may be tied to people not wearing masks, Prather said. She said the number of complaints reported to the health department has been concerning since the governor’s mask mandate was issued. “I definitely wish more people were wearing masks,” Prather said. “I feel like if we want to get our kids back in school, we’ve all got to do our part and wear masks.” She said most businesses are requiring their employees to wear masks, but some customers are not. “They (businesses) are finding it harder to control the non-mask wearers that come in and just pretty much refuse” to wear face coverings, Prather said. “If you’re not going to wear it for yourself, wear it for everyone else that you could potentially be spreading this virus to.” She firmly believes if the number of people choosing not to wear a mask declines, so will the positivity rates for the coronavirus. A variety of protective masks in adult and child sizes are available at the Woodford County Health Department at no cost. To request a mask for pickup at the health department (or to make a mask complaint), call 859-753-6519. The health department has given away over 2,000 masks since April 6, Prather said. KN95 masks, which provide a higher level of filtration than other face masks, are also available at no cost, she said.

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