COVID cases surge in Harlan

Published 5:53 am Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Harlan County counted over 600 new cases of COVID-19 over four days last week.

Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley reported via social media Harlan County set a weekly record for COVID-19 cases last week, with the county having the highest incident rate in the state.

According to Mosley, there were 612 new cases reported to the Harlan County Health Department from Tuesday, Jan. 18 through Friday, Jan. 21. This total does not take into account Saturday’s case total, nor does it include positive results from home tests. As of Monday, there were 19 Harlan County residents hospitalized at five separate hospitals due to the virus.

Harlan County logged 290 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday alone, according to the Harlan County Health Department’s Facebook page, Additional posts advised the Health Department will not be posting new daily cases until further notice due to working through a large backlog of cases reported in the current surge.

In mid January, Harlan County Health Department shared a post on Facebook about a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

The post said information from many of the positive cases shows two large sporting events are to be blamed for the spike.

“If you attended the Harlan Independent vs. Barbourville boys basketball game on Tuesday, January 11, 2022, or the Harlan Independent vs. Harlan County boys and girls basketball games held on Saturday, January 15, 2022, please monitor for symptoms and take extra precautions to protect yourself and those in your household,” said the post.

Officials with the health department said they will try to reach out to as many potential cases as they can, but with the number of reports, it may be difficult to reach everyone quickly.”

Harlan Independent Superintendent Charles Morton said due to the weather and staff shortages, the district had been out of school for a few days in recent weeks, but school officials have been monitoring the situation when classes resumed this week.

Morton said based on information the district has as of press time, he anticipates having one staff member who is in quarantine and less than 10 students when classes resumed Monday.

“This is fairly close to what we have seen over the last several months related to COVID, so nothing abnormal for us across the district,” he said.

Morton said the district will continue to take proactive steps to keep people safe.

“We will continue to require masks while at school, encourage good hygiene practices, and ask people to monitor for symptoms,” he said. “Additionally, we will continue to offer on-site COVID testing and make our full-time health services staff available to our school community. The Harlan Independent School District will continue to monitor cases among our school community and prioritize the safety of our staff and students while balancing the social, emotional, and educational needs of our students. It is a difficult task that continues to present new challenges. We tried very broad wide sweeping approaches last year and learned a lot. We have had a very successful first half of school year and look forward to finishing 2022 strong.”

Worth noting, 85 of the 120 (70%) counties in Kentucky had higher Covid incidence rates than Harlan County as of January 19th, some as high as 2x the Harlan County rate. Based on preliminary inquiries, those county Health Departments are not labeling activities in those communities as “superspreader” events. The UK vs UT game in Lexington on Jan. 15 had a reported attendance of 20,278 and Fayette County has an incidence rate of 306.2 compared to Harlan’s 138.4, yet it was not labeled a “superspreader” event.

Athletic events and extra-curricular activities attended by the general public are optional.

Governor Andy Beshear provided an update on the status of COVID-19 throughout Kentucky on Monday.

According to the state’s website at, Beshear stated his son has tested positive for the virus. Beshear and the rest of the family tested negative for the virus on Monday and are following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

“My son is generally asymptomatic, we believe because he is vaccinated and boosted,” said Beshear. “In fact, he is shooting basketball right now, by himself. The vaccines and booster truly protected him.”

Approximately 13.3 percent of Kentucky children ages 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated, Beshear said.

“Approximately 25% of new COVID-19 cases reported each day in Kentucky are children. Vaccination provides assurance that children can remain in school and protected against COVID-19,” said Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health. “For parents who have not yet vaccinated your children, I encourage you to talk with your pediatrician. It’s important that you make an informed decision and have confidence that you are taking important steps to keep your children safe from this disease that has caused so much harm to our families and communities.”

Beshear reported Kentucky added 13,797 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, 11,648 new cases on Sunday and 3,912 new cases on Monday. As of Monday, there were 2,326 people hospitalized due to the virus across Kentucky, with 440 people in ICU and 257 individuals on ventilators.

The positivity rate in Kentucky was 33.06 percent on Monday.