COVID map

Monday’s COVID-19 incidence rate map for the state of Kentucky shows more counties getting out of the red or critical level, the highest rate of incidence.

Last week’s statistics indicate Lyon County is coping as well with the COVID 19 outbreak as other Kentucky communities. And in some ways, better.

Though the Pennyrile Health Department has hired additional staff, its employees are stressed and overworked. “Our staff is working many hours of overtime, and it has taken a toll physically and on family life,” said Elisha Kite, health department director.

As of Jan. 28, Kite’s records showed Lyon County has had 470 active cases, 428 of whom have recovered and 13 who died. Of the deaths, seven were men and six were women ranging from 37 to 99 years old. In response to email questions Kite said the county now has 29 active cases being treated at home, no one was hospitalized at that time.

Kite said the health department is doing limited testing by appointment only in Lyon, Caldwell, Crittenden and Trigg counties. And the department is doing contact and tracing. The Pennyrile District has given approximately 3,000 first dose vaccines in the 1a and 1b categories. The 1a categories are those in long-term care facilities and health care personnel; 1b are persons 75 and older and older frontline essential workers.

“We are currently working on second dose vaccines,” Kite said. “We don’t know when we will receive any more first dose vaccine. Our contact tracers are advising persons with COVID to monitor their symptoms, and if they are concerned about any of their symptoms to contact their tracer or their medical provider.”

Lyon School Superintendent Russ Tilford sounded a positive note regarding COVID’s impact on students, faculty and staff. “I think we’ve been very successful in being able to return to in person instruction,” he said, noting in-person classes resumed Jan. 4 with about 15% of the approximate 1,000-person student body choosing a virtual learning option, which the district offers. “We have had a few cases and as a result the quarantine of students (exposed) through close contact. But overall, we’ve been able to manage it pretty effectively. And I think our instruction has been consistent in doing what’s best for kids during a difficult time.” The student body covers preschool through 12th grade. The total high school population is a little less than 300.

As of Monday, the district had approximately 60 students and faculty in quarantine. Tilford said four were added that day — one a middle school student; four freshmen and a teacher had been added since earlier in the week, though he was unsure whether the teacher returned to the classroom that day. Most of the students in quarantine are freshmen.

Out of an abundance of caution and concern for safety, 20 students were quarantined Friday, most were fourth graders who had been near an infected person and a few were in fifth grade, Tilford said. None had contracted the coronavirus as of Monday. “If you ask me last week or next week, (the numbers) could be lower,” Tilford said. “We’d rather err on the side of caution.”

The superintendent said to his knowledge, the school district has had no one who required hospitalization during the pandemic.

The schools have implemented a protocol of preventive measures to keep infections down. “We’re following the Health in School document that KDE (Kentucky Department of Education) has provided us, and doing our absolute best to maintain social distancing — it’s not always possible in some scenarios,” Tilford said. He noted that not every class, especially at the high school, is able to implement social distance. “That’s where changing classes is going to lead to more contacts.” At the middle and elementary schools social distancing is easier because students “pretty much stay in one location throughout the day,” he said. “So that’s why our numbers are elevated. Certainly if this were at the middle school we wouldn’t see nearly as many (quarantines). We do have several freshmen out right now with the quarantine because of the contact/tracing. We are trying to do that ... and make sure that we are being cautious as we are going through the contact/tracing.

“The bus is an issue — we’ve got only so many seats on the bus, so therefore there are some contacts,” Tilford said. “Later on today we’re going to have to let those kids know they are going to have to be off the bus for a few days. … “We are monitoring it daily, but we’re not at the level that we feel like we’ve got to make a decision to cancel school.”

The superintendent explained that anytime attendance drops below 90%, classes would likely be cancelled. “We would look at that as an issue,” he said. “COVID is a little more flexible, just simply because we’re asking several kids to stay home. Our kids who are supposed to be here, are here.”