As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread at an accelerated rate, more than 200 new cases have been reported in Grayson County just this month.

As of Friday morning, the total number of cases in Grayson County had risen to 828 since March, with 114 of those patients currently sick with the virus. This is an increase of 76 new cases since last week and 220 since Nov. 3. More than one fourth of the county’s total cases have been confirmed in the past three weeks.

To date, 691 patients have recovered, while 23 Grayson County residents have died from COVID-19.

Grayson County Public Health Director Josh Embry, in a Facebook Live update this week, said that because the number of positive cases has risen to such a degree, the Grayson County Health Department no longer has enough staffing to contact everyone with whom someone who has tested positive has come into contact.

Now, the health department’s contact tracers are reaching out to those who have tested positive and instructing them to communicate with their contacts and ask them to quarantine, according to Embry.

The health department is not alone in its staffing struggles related to the pandemic. Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center CEO Wayne Meriwether joined Embry for the Facebook Live update to discuss how the rising coronavirus numbers have affected the local hospital.

Meriwether said that the hospital is currently seeing as many as 12 positive cases in the hospital at a time, and, as of Tuesday, TLRMC was treating seven positive patients and had 10 positive employees as well as five other employees quarantined due to exposure.

“Our issue now is staffing,” said Meriwether, explaining that COVID-19 patients require more staffing than others, and when the hospital has as many employees out due to the virus as the number of patients it has to treat, the challenge becomes greater.

And this issue is not exclusive to TLRMC, Meriwether said, adding that hospitals across the state and nation are experiencing the same issues.

Meriwether said that, last week, the county averaged 16 new positive cases of COVID-19 per day, and if, on average, 20% of those who test positive require hospitalization, it will not take long before the hospital is at maximum capacity.

Only adding to the issue is that hospitals across the region are also experiencing an uptick in cases.

Meriwether said that the Leitchfield hospital had been sending its sickest COVID-19 patients to other regional hospitals, such as Owensboro Health, but with their own number of patients rising, TLRMC’s options for outside assistance become slimmer.

With that said, Meriwether encourages those not feeling well to not put off seeking medical attention.

With hospital employees required to wear masks all day long, he said, the hospital is “probably the safest place you can go right now.”

“It’s much more serious not to do that than to come, trust me,” Meriwether said.

As flu season arrives, hospital officials are also concerned about individuals coming into the hospital who test positive for COVID-19 and have the flu as well, but, Meriwether said, the current number of cases of the flu is low, and the hope is that those numbers will stay low due to masking and social distancing.

In closing, Meriwether put out a call to action, asking all nurses, LPNs, and nurses aids to work at TLRMC either on a part-time or full-time basis. Those wishing to do so are encouraged to call TLRMC Human Resources.

Additionally, on Monday, Embry issued the following statement urging community members to abide by public health guidelines and encourage others to do the same:

Dear Community Partner,

The next few weeks in Grayson County are critical to helping protect others. I’m asking for you to join the health department in our message. It’s simple: wear a mask, wash your hands, social distance.

With the holidays approaching, I’m fearful that our troubles are going to increase as many families in the county will follow through with gatherings.

Hospitals across the state are already cancelling elective procedures to make room for COVID-19 patients. This isn’t about taking someone’s rights away, or forcing others to follow a political agenda — it’s not about being Republican or Democrat. It’s about sparing our healthcare infrastructure in the county — and making sure that our hospital, doctors’ offices, urgent cares, and health department do not become so overwhelmed they cannot function properly.

I appreciate your assistance as we work to serve one of the greatest counties in the state of Kentucky.

In light of the number of cases continuing to rise across the county, state, and nation, Gov. Andy Beshear this week implemented a number of new restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

Among those was a requirement that all middle and high schools remain on NTI until at least Monday, Jan. 4; while elementary schools may return to in-person learning on Monday, Dec. 7, provided their counties are no longer a Kentucky Department for Public Health “red zone.”

In response to this requirement, Grayson County Schools Superintendent Doug Robinson issued the following letter to the community on Thursday afternoon.

To Our Families and Community:

With Governor Beshear’s unexpected issuance of yesterday’s Executive Order, districts statewide along with Grayson County Schools are required to remain on NTI:

• Middle and High School until at least Monday, January 4, 2021.

• Elementary schools until Monday, December 7 if Grayson County is no longer in the Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH) red zone. We will continue to monitor community health conditions, with an update the week of November 30.

This applies to in-person instruction and does not impact those students attending solely through this year’s virtual option.

We will follow the approved 2020-21 school year calendar during this time, including scheduled breaks. Your school will be in contact regarding school-specific information. Please stay in contact with your school and teachers, as well. Close, two-way communication between school and home will help bridge the gap we’re all feeling and allow us to better serve your student and your family. As always, district updates will be available on the Relaunch page at graysoncountyschools.com.

We all want to get our kids back in school. We all want our community to be healthy and safe. This is a special challenge with the holiday season now on us; a challenge that requires a united response. Let’s come together to work toward these goals by consistently following public health guidelines: wear a mask, social distance, wash hands frequently, avoid large gatherings, monitor symptoms and seek medical attention if needed.

Let’s commit to moving forward by moving together — for our community and for our kids. Now more than ever #WeAreGCconnected.

Doug Robinson

Superintendent

Beshear’s new COVID-19 restrictions may be read in full online at governor.ky.gov/attachments/20201118_COVID-19_New-Restrictions.pdf.

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