Community spread of virus climbs in Woodford County
Woodford County has crept into the orange phase or a “heightened community transmission” rate of coronavirus infection, Public Health Director Cassie Prather said last Friday. The county’s infection rate climbed to 11.8 persons per 100,000 people after hovering around 10 per 100,000. That moved Woodford County from yellow (1 to 10 persons per 100,000) to orange (10 to 25 cases per 100,000) or an “accelerated” community transmission rate of the virus, Prather said. She said if Woodford County moves into the “red” (25 or more cases per 100,000) of the state’s color-coded metric for measuring community spread, the Woodford County Public Schools would likely take action to return to virtual learning. The state recommends “remote learning only” for public schools in “red” counties under its green-yellow-orange-red metric. Woodford County’s 26 active cases as of last Friday were around average and lower than the high of nearly 50 cases during the COVID-19 pandemic, Prather said. That was before at least 18 coaches, instructors and students at Agility Gymnastics tested positive since last week (see story on front page). Even before that outbreak occurred, Prather said the health department had been busy tracing contacts after a Woodford County High School player tested positive for the virus following the game at Franklin County High School Friday, Sept. 18. The entire WCHS team was quarantined for 14 days after the Woodford player tested positive. Only those playing against a Franklin County player who tested positive would have been quarantined if their teammate had not contracted the virus, Prather explained. “… It was Monday night (Sept. 21) when we found out about the positive on our team,” she said. “So you go from just having to quarantine the kids that were on the field to the entire team, coaches … So we investigated fully, even down to the bus driver that took the team to Franklin County. And the bus driver was not deemed to be at risk because of being masked and not sitting in close proximity to the positives.” She noted the quarantined student-athletes were not required to test, but an additional testing event was held for them, their coaches and families last week. They were informed of the potential risks of being exposed to the virus and had their questions answered on a Zoom call with the health department Sept. 21, Prather said. It’s five to seven days before someone exposed to the virus exhibits symptoms or tests positive, she said. Prather said Woodford County’s most recent rise in cases occurred after Labor Day. Spikes also occurred after the Memorial Day and July 4th holidays, she said. The average age of those testing positive for the virus keeps trending younger, Prather said, with last week’s active cases including seven teens and a 7-year-old girl. That trend will likely continue, she added, with students in Woodford County Public Schools returning to in-person instruction Monday. The school district has been working with the Woodford County Health Department on Healthy at School guidance all summer long, Prather said. She said it’s unreasonable to expect there won’t be cases after in-person classes resumed, and she will continue having daily conversations with Kelly Simpson, a school nurse and the school district’s health coordinator. The Woodford County Health Department will offer drive-up surveillance testing for teachers and staff (at the request of schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins) on Wednesdays at the health department, from 3 to 5 p.m., Prather said. She said community testing will continue Tuesdays, from 9 to 11 a.m. Because middle and high school students change classes during the school day, contact tracing will look different at those grade levels compared to elementary schools, Prather said. She said seating charts will really need to be kept on a consistent basis (from the time a student boards a bus until they are taken home) in order to trace contacts. “Every case will be thoroughly investigated in order to protect as many people as possible,” Prather said. She said her contact tracers are working closely with school nurses to prepare materials so they understand what information is needed during an investigation. Documents advising parents on the process if there is a contact will also be provided, she said. Parents are required to report a positive case to their child’s principal within 24 hours, according to guidance provided by the state. The county had its most active cases – 89 – when the Woodford County Board of Education voted to begin the school year with virtual learning and follow Gov. Andy Beshear’s recommendation to not begin in-person school before Sept. 28, she said. One small outbreak involving a family cluster or a long-term care facility can significantly increase the numbers in a small county like Woodford, Prather said. None of the three private schools or long-term care facilities in Woodford County had reported a positive case of COVID as of last week, according to Prather. “They’ve done a great job so far of keeping everything under control and practicing the preventive public health practices that have been recommended to them,” she said. She said regional teams are being assembled by the state to conduct testing if an outbreak occurs in a long-term care setting or school. “We have already built the foundation to work together,” said Prather. “And we’ll do what we need to do to keep the kids and the staff as safe as possible” if an outbreak occurs at a school.