The Lake Cumberland District Health Department (LCDHD) announced Wednesday that a fifth Pulaski resident has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
Additionally, two Wayne County residents who have the virus are being treated at Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital (LCRH).
According to LCDHD Director Shawn Crabtree, four of the Pulaski residents who have tested positive are self-quarantined at home, while the fifth case is listed as “cleared” or recovered.
Crabtree explained that being cleared means the person is no longer being asked to self-quarantine at home.
“They’ve been quarantined long enough and been symptom free long enough that we feel they’re no longer in any threat of having the disease,” Crabtree said.
LCDHD Clinics Administrator Laura Woodrum added, “That means the patient has been three days fever-free without fever-reducing medication, and seven days from symptom onset.”
In an earlier press conference, County Judge-Executive Steve Kelley said that the newest case was from someone who had attended the same church as the first diagnosed person, bringing the total to four people from that church who had tested positive.
In addition to Pulaski’s cases, Crabtree confirmed that there are three cases from Wayne County, two of whom were being treated at LCRH.
“I have been speaking with the hospital administrator at Lake Cumberland [Regional Hospital] ever since we had our first case in Pulaski,” Crabtree said. “I have every confidence that they are doing everything within their power to keep their facility safe, and their employees safe, and their patients safe from COVID-19.”
LCRH’s CEO, Robert Parker, said that the two patients were currently in isolation in a dedicated unit for COVID-19 patients. He was unable to provide any condition information.
Parker said that the hospital currently has adequate supplies and the capacity to treat more patients should any need hospitalization.
“We have been working the last several weeks to add extra capacity for these specific patient situations should the need arise,” Parker said. “We have been preparing for the potential of COVID-19 in our community, building upon the robust emergency operations plan we have in place year-round. We want to assure the community that we have the right teams and the right processes in place to detect, protect, and respond accordingly.”
He added that the hospital currently has enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to care for all patients.
“We are taking the necessary steps to be proactive and conserve our resources where possible by rescheduling elective procedures, continuing a zero-visitor protocol, and expanding our telemedicine capabilities,” he said.
Crabtree said that one of the confirmed cases from Wayne County is an employee at the Clinton County Tyson Foods plant.
He said the department has contacted Tyson’s corporate people to make them aware of the situation.
“One bit of good news about the factory, … it’s a sterile environment. The employees do wear personal protective equipment which may have helped us out there in that situation,” Crabtree said.
He did not specify whether the Tyson Food employee was one who was being treated in hospital or was at home.
As part of the press conference, Crabtree said he has seen where officials in Lexington have switched from a “containment” strategy to a “mitigation” strategy.
That means “they consider COVID-19 to be substantially circulated in their community, and they no longer see the point of doing contact investigations,” Crabtree said.
He explained that health officials can do two kinds of investigations, case investigations or contact investigations.
A contact investigation is where they talk to everyone who had contact with someone who tested positive in a case investigation.
“At some point, when the virus is considered to be relatively circulated in the community, doing contact investigations becomes sort of futile, and we just back up and focus mostly on the mitigation,” he said.
That includes telling residents to assume that everyone in the community has been exposed to the disease, and they should strictly follow social distancing practices and safe community practices, such as washing hands frequently and with soap, using hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable, covering all coughs and keeping a six-feet distance between them and other people.