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49 active cases of COVID-19 reported this week;
Nearly 300 students being monitored

The Lincoln County Health Department (LCHD) reported 49 active cases of the novel coronavirus in Lincoln County as of Tuesday this week.

“And we’re still counting,” said Diane Miller, director of LCHD.

Miller said the governor’s Office reported a new death in Lincoln County, but that is a case of delayed reporting. There are no new deaths to report in Lincoln County.

“They are still catching up,” she said.

Miller said it’s unclear how many of the new cases are possibly related to a demolition derby event held in Lincoln County that drew a crowd of over 2,000 people to the Lincoln County Fairgrounds.

WKYT News reported on the event last week saying photos that were submitted to the news organization showed the grandstands full, with people sitting close together and few wearing masks.

Miller was quoted saying she was “very disappointed” because she had given guidelines to follow in order to have that type of event in a venue. It is difficult to determine how many cases resulted from the event because the health department does not always receive honest answers, she said.

“I don’t know because when we do the contact tracing we have to go by what individuals are telling us. We ask them have they attended those gatherings and they’re saying ‘no,'” she said. “That is one of the questions that we ask.”

On Sept. 28, Lincoln County Schools returned to in-person instruction for those who chose to do so and after two days, more than 100 Lincoln County High School students were placed in quarantine after two members of the school district staff tested positive for COVID-19.

The school district released a statement saying this is the “new norm” until a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 is made available.

“Quarantining staff and students should not cause alarm or panic, this is going to be the new norm for public schools until there is better treatment or a vaccine for COVID-19,” Superintendent of Lincoln County Schools Michael Rowe said. “We must follow the guidance of the Lincoln County Health Department regarding COVID-19 cases, unfortunately, this means when there is a positive COVID-19 case there could be a large number of staff and students who must quarantine due to low-risk exposure. Our students and staff are doing a great job of following the Healthy at School guidelines so far.”

Tuesday afternoon, the school district announced via press release that after fall break this week, school children in Lincoln County will remain at home for NTI, based on the recommendation of Lincoln County Health Department.

The Lincoln County Health Department has advised Lincoln County Schools to return to Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) on Oct.12, when school resumes from fall break. The recommendation from LCHD and the Kentucky Department of Public Health is for the district to use NTI days from Oct. 12 through Oct. 23. This means all students, Option 1 and Option 2, will be working virtually as they did to begin the school year.

The decision to resort to NTI was based on an uptick in positive COVID-19 cases in Lincoln County in recent days, and as a precaution because of the number of families traveling for Fall Break. “We met with the health department and a representative from the department of public health today and discussed the amount of staff and students we have quarantined, and the rise in positive cases in our county,” said Superintendent Michael Rowe. “Health officials have recommended for us to go back to virtual instruction for two weeks after fall break to allow the contact tracing to work and help slow the spread in Lincoln County.”

As of today, Lincoln County Schools is still an orange county per the COVID-19 Mode of Instruction Metrics for K-12 Education guidance issued by the Kentucky Department for Public Healthy and the Kentucky Department of Education. Per the metrics, local officials, school administrators, and public health leaders should collaborate to implement aggressive mitigation measures both in schools and in communities. “We took a look at this guidance and followed it,” said Rowe. “We met today and decided to help mitigate the current increase in positivity in our county by returning to virtual learning.”

The plan is to resume in-person instruction on Oct. 26. This plan will be revisited by school administrators, LCHD, and the KDPH as the date draws closer. “We will meet with the health officials and see where the numbers are at within the school district and the county and base the decision off of that going forward. We had 14 staff members asked to be quarantined by the health department after one week of instruction. This obviously is not sustainable for us as a district,” added Superintendent Rowe.

Extracurricular activities and athletics will follow the same protocols they’ve followed since school started on Aug. 26. Athletics will continue to adhere to KHSAA guidance unless otherwise advised by the school and athletic director. There will be meal deliveries again during these NTI days for COVID-19. The meal delivery process will resume on Tuesday, Oct. 13.

For more information please contact the Student Support Center at 606.365.2124.

Miller said as of Tuesday, there were close to 300 students in the school district being monitored by contact tracing. Due to the high volume of monitoring needed, the Bluegrass Regional Epidemiologist Team is helping the LCHD with contact tracing, she said.

“They’re doing the biggest part of that contact tracing because we have limited staff and there’s no way that we can get to it,” she said. “Our goal is to make those contacts as soon as possible.”

With so much controversy surrounding the wearing of masks lately, Miller said she is trying to remind the public that masks help limit the spread of the virus.

“The mask helps to slow the spread of the disease and I cannot stress enough to wear your mask and practice your social distancing and get your flu shot,” she said. “We have to get used to the new norm, and this is our new norm. We have to make adjustments.”