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Bell County confirms first case of COVID-19

On Saturday, officials from the Bell County Health Department area reported a case of COVID-19 (2019 novel coronavirus). Bell County Judge Executive Albey Brock and Health Department Director Teresa Hunter appeared on a live interview with The Big 106.3 WRIL to make the official announcement. 

“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,” explained Hunter. “The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, there are everyday preventative actions you can do to help prevent the spread of this virus.” 

Both Brock and Hunter explained to the public that the individual is a juvenile male who has been quarantined since the family was notified Saturday, May 16 of the diagnosis.

While the risk to the general public is low, health officials are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Kentucky Department for Public Health 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. 

Judge Executive 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 stating that the test was not that bad and that it didn’t take but 10 minutes. 

“This is the way we assure that we don’t have an outbreak here and we should be praying for this family,” he said. 

Director Hunter expressed that if you have been exposed to this individual, you will be contacted by the health department.  

The patient is a resident of Bell County. Additional details about the person cannot be provided because of medical privacy laws. 

Following the broadcast, the mother of the child contacted WRIL and wanted to clarify any concerns the public may have regarding the announcement. While HIPAA does limit information being released by the health department, the regulations do not restrict the parent or guardian from doing so. The mother has released the following statement:
“My child has been quarantined since March 6 and not in the public, or anywhere for that matter, until a medical concern came up on May 8 that the child needed to see a specialist. 

My child was referred to a specialist in Lexington and seen on May 13 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 15. I was notified this morning (Saturday, May 16) that the COVID 19 test was positive. 

Everyone that my child has been in contact with (which is only a handful 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 (whenever I assure you, we did) just pray for him instead because after reading some of these comments that is what I will do for you all.”

Brock and Hunter also went over the standard practices the health department employs in situations like this to assure that contact tracing is and has been performed.

The health department also offers these tips: 

  • 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 when 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. 

For more information, visit kycovid19.ky.gov and www.cdc.gov/coronavirus. Be sure to follow the Bell County Health Department on Facebook for continued updates.