Officials from the Bell County Health Department confirmed the county’s first case of COVID-19 (the 2019 novel coronavirus) Saturday afternoon.
Public Health Director Teresa Hunter and Judge-Executive Albey Brock both went live with the announcement on social media with WRIL. They let the public know that the individual who tested positive is a juvenile male who has been quarantined since the family was notified earlier on Saturday.
A release from the Health Department said the risk to the general public is low and that local health officials are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) to identify and contact all those who may have come in contact with the person. These individuals will be monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms.
“We believe the risk to the public is low, and as this situation evolves, we will continue to communicate with the CDC, DPH and the people of Bell County,” Hunter said. “The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. However, there are everyday preventative actions you can do to help prevent the spread of the virus.”
Brock emphasized the continued need for social distancing and washing of hands, which is what he has done from the onset of this pandemic. He also encouraged the public to be tested for the virus in several locations in the county and that he has been tested emphasizing that "it was not that bad and didn't take but 10 minutes". Brock said: " this is the way we assure that we don't have an outbreak here and we should be praying for this family.”
After the broadcast, the mother of the child who tested positive contacted WRIL and wanted to clarify any concerns the public may have. While HIPAA limits information being released by the health department, the regulations do not restrict the parent or guardian from doing so. She shared the following release:
"My child has been quarantined since March 6th and not in the public, or anywhere for that matter, until a medical concern came up on May 8th that the child needed to see a specialist.
My child was referred to a specialist in Lexington and seen on May 13th at UK and confirmed that surgery was needed.
In order for the child to be cleared for surgery my child had to be tested for COVID 19 on May 15th. I was notified this morning (Saturday May 16th) that the COVID 19 test was positive.
Everyone that my child has been in contact with (which is only a hand full of people, his close family) are getting tested for the virus. As of now my child is 100% asymptomatic and we will be quarantined for the next 14 days at our home.
Instead of asking who it is, and trying to place blame on someone saying they didn’t stay home (when I assure you, we did) just pray for him instead because after reading some of the comments that is what I will do for you all."
The health department offered the following tips to prevent the spread of the virus:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person:
• Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
• By respiratory droplets produced with an infected person coughs or sneezes.
• These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
Symptoms of COVID-19 may include fever, cough or shortness of breath. Individuals who are experiencing symptoms should first contact their local health department or health care provider.
A state hotline 1-800-722-5725 is available to help Kentuckians who have questions or need help.