Nursing home employee tests positive, new spread in Evarts

Published 7:43 pm Friday, July 24, 2020

As the number of positive COVID-19 cases continue to rise throughout the county, Judge-Executive Dan Mosley has been diligent in updating locals through the use of social media and occasional press conferences with local media. 

In Friday’s Facebook update, Mosley announced that a Harlan Health & Rehabilitation employee had tested positive for the virus, who is symptomatic and now quarantined. 

“Nursing home administration has shared with us that the employee had only been at work a few hours on Thursday before she developed symptoms. The employee was in full PPE at all times,” he said. “As soon as the employee started feeling bad, she notified staff and left the facility immediately. The employee had not worked on Tuesday or Wednesday of this week.”

Mosley said two employees the positive case had come into contact with are now quarantined out of “an abundance of caution.” The employee was said to have had “very limited contact” with residents Thursday. 

Mass testing occurred at the facility on July 10, with all staff and residents testing negative.

“The nursing homes in our county have done a tremendous job since this pandemic began protecting their residents and staff. I commend them for their diligence in following all guidelines and all they do daily to care for this vulnerable population,” he said.

In an effort to protect its residents from the virus during a spike in cases, Mosley amended his local state of emergency executive order to keep facilities closed to visitors through August 3. He said both nursing homes agreed this was an appropriate action.

Health officials have received confirmation of seven new cases of COVID-19 in Harlan County, bringing the county’s total to 172 total cases. 

Of the 172, there are 75 active cases, five of which are hospitalized, 94 recovered, three deaths and more than 200 people in quarantine. 

The seven new cases include a 28-year-old female (symptomatic), 20-year-old female (symptomatic), 70-year-old male (asymptomatic), 38-year-old male (symptomatic), 75-year-old female (symptomatic), 15-year-old male (symptomatic) and 40-year-old male (symptomatic). 

Mosley said the Harlan County Health Department has connected many of the active cases to the Dayhoit, Tremont, Wallins and Coldiron communities, with a new concern of community spread taking place in the Evarts area. 

“25 of our active cases are connected to this area. This is much lower than it has been because many of these cases linked to this area have recovered and there hasn’t been as many new cases connected to this area this week,” he said concerning the spread near Wallins. 

In Evarts, however, Mosley said he and other officials have seen daily increases in cases tied to the area, including 21 of the active cases. 

“If you live in this area, you need to make sure you are following all CDC and state guidelines as it is apparent community spread is occurring,” he said. “Let’s get community spread under control before it gets as bad as it was in the other part of the county.”

Mosley said 10 of the active cases are still in the review process as part of the Health Department’s contact tracing and another 5 active cases are linked to out-of-state travel. He noted the above mentioned community spread and out-of-state travel cases account for 61 of the 75 active cases across the county. 

“Some others are connected to gatherings or birthday parties. If community spread becomes an issue in another part of the county we will share that.”

He is encouraging locals to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough and loss of taste and/or smell. 

“If we have those symptoms, we need to call our health care provider about getting tested or what level of care we need. If you are sick, please stay home,” he said.

A mask mandate is also in effect by Beshear. Mosley said if anyone needs a mask, call his office at 606-573-2600 and “we will gladly mail you one.”

Mosley said it is also important that businesses are conducting health screenings of employees when they arrive for work, including temperature checks. 

“A business should never allow an employee who is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms to work their shift and potentially infect others,” he said. “Healthy at Work guidelines can be viewed at Protect your employees by following these guidelines and in turn you are protecting your customers and your community.”

He said the Health Department determines if a business needs to close for cleaning if an employee who works for the facility tests positive. 

“Some businesses have voluntarily closed on their own out of an abundance of caution to clean. If you have questions or concerns about this, I would encourage you to speak directly with the health department,” he said.

To report non-compliance of COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines, Mosley said to call the Harlan County Health Department at 606-573-4820.

If you were a close contact of any of the positive cases, the Health Department will reach out to you directly as part of its contact tracing and will instruct you on what measures are necessary to protect you and your family.