News and Music Discovery
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Some western Kentucky health departments overwhelmed with new COVID-19 cases


Health departments across the region and country are dealing with a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases as the omicron variant of the virus continues to spread. Some western Kentucky departments are finding themselves overwhelmed by the sheer amount of new cases.

Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday Kentucky’s rate of positivity now stands at a little more than 26%. Last week was another COVID-19 record for the commonwealth with the number of new cases reported topping 52,000 cases, an increase of more than 20,000 from the previous week.

The Purchase District Health Department oversees public health in McCracken, Ballard, Carlisle, Fulton and Hickman counties. A release Tuesday detailed spiking case numbers through late last week. There were over 200 cases during a two-day stretch.

PDHD director Kent Koster says working with these newly diagnosed individuals on their next steps is their chief concern.

“We’ve got more cases than we can handle at any one time. Of course, you have to adjust your staffing based upon the volume, but the volume’s gone up so much that we don’t have the staffing to be able to keep everything as up to date as what you’d like for it to be,” Koster told WKMS. “These folks are just overwhelmed right now with the amount of cases coming in.

“Reports are great but contacting these people is a priority to get them lined up with what they’re supposed to do.”

Koster expects the spike to continue through the coming days as the department gets updated information to the public. This latest data states there are nearly 700 active COVID-19 cases across the PDHD’s area.

The eight-county Purchase Area, which includes all of the counties under the PDHD in addition to Calloway, Graves and Marshall counties, has at least 1,500 active cases.

Graves County Health Department director Riley Willett told the station that the past two days have been near-record highs of new cases, with 95 and 98 new cases respectively.

Willett’s office, she said, has been feeling the full weight of this surge in cases.

“It’s been awful. It has been really, really bad, and I expect (the case total) to keep going up unfortunately for a while. I don’t expect it to go down for a long time,” she said. “It’s just rampant.”

The Calloway County Health Department reported 105 new cases over the weekend, with Saturday bringing a record-high 72 new cases in one day.

Marshall County Health Department director Billy Pitts reported the county’s incidence rate went up 20% over the weekend and that they had over 20 new cases that hadn’t been assigned a case number by the office.

His team is keeping their heads above water, though.

“I will say it’s a challenge but we are – knock on wood – up to speed so far,” Pitts added.

For Willett, all of these statistics could not even be indicative of the true number of COVID-19-afflicted individuals in the region.

“So many people are testing. It’s just impossible to keep up. The physicians, the health department, the home testers,” the Graves official said. “If you look across the state, a lot of health departments have had to give up, really, on their contract tracing because they’re not able to keep up with the amount of tests coming in, and they’re not getting notified until, say, day five for a lot of people. And by the time they call it won’t make a difference.

“We aren’t to that point and hopefully we won’t get to that point, but our contact tracers are bogged down.”

Koster continues to recommend all of the COVID-19 prevention methods that have become standard since the pandemic started: mask, distance when possible, wash hands often and, above all, get vaccinated.

“If you want to limit your exposure to COVID, you’ve got to limit your exposure to close proximity to people. It all goes hand in hand,” he said. “Your risk goes up as you’re around more people. Your risk goes down if you’re around less people. It all kind of boils down to how much risk do you want to take.”

For up-to-date COVID-19 information in Kentucky, visit

A native of western Kentucky, Operle earned his bachelor's degree in integrated strategic communications from the University of Kentucky in 2014. Operle spent five years working for Paxton Media/The Paducah Sun as a reporter and editor. In addition to his work in the news industry, Operle is a passionate movie lover and concertgoer.
Related Content