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Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear Outlines Contact Tracing Program

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Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear gave an overview on how contact tracing will be conducted in the state, during a Monday press conference on the coronavirus. The expanded contact tracing program will last for seven months and combines public participation with communication technology, according to Beshear. 

“This is an expanded seven month contact tracing program that combines public participation and the power of technology to help public officials and healthcare providers contain the spread of this virus,” Beshear said. “The effort will help to best document COVID-19 positive. It's how we identify cases quickly and prevent one case from becoming 100 cases.”

Beshear said the information provided to the contact tracing program is confidential. Mark Carter is an executive advisor leading the contact tracing program with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. He said the contact tracing program is essential to a full economy reopening. 

“We're going to need to reopen the economy. I completely agree with the efforts to do that. Too many people are hurting,” Carter said. “But we also have to protect our children, our families, and our friends, from another outbreak of COVID. One of the key ways to do that, in addition to effective and expanded testing that has been accomplished is through a contact tracing program.”

The contact tracing program will be done through an online platform. Online disease investigators look at a list of documented coronavirus cases to act on. The disease investigator will call an individual who has documented their positive case and will be asked by the investigator to retrace steps and document who they may have come in close contact with while infectious. 

Once the call is complete, the individual will be  directed to isolate, and a member of the contact tracing program automatically sends an email with helpful information. The individual will be checked on daily by a member.

When an individual who has tested positive confirms contact with another person while infectious, the investigator will call the person mentioned and notify them of potential exposure to COVID-19 patients.

The individual that has been exposed to the virus will be asked a series of questions on symptoms and basic medical history. Based on the responses given, the system will send a tailored email with helpful information to the person exposed. A contact tracer will call the individual daily to check on symptoms.

“Contact tracing and tracking combines public participation and the power of technology to help public health officials and private healthcare providers contain the spread of COVID-19,” Carter said. “To minimize the spread of COVID-19, public health workers need to know about exposures to make sure that all Kentuckians are safe.”

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Steven Stack is the Public Health Commissioner for the Kentucky Cabinet of Health and Family Services. He explained the signs and symptoms of Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (PMIS), a new health condition appearing in children some doctors think is related to having the coronavirus. 

“We've said all along that children still appear to get infected. They just seem to not have symptoms when they first get infected,” Stack said. “We had hoped there wouldn't be problems for children and that they would do well, and it appears overwhelmingly they do well, but not all of them. For those who get this syndrome, this is very serious. This is essentially a situation where weeks after the child would have gotten over the initial infection, their immune system becomes overactive and attacks the blood vessels in their own body.” 

Stack said this can cause problems involving the heart and kidneys, cause a rash, and cause a fever because of a body-wide inflammatory response. According to Stack, there is swelling in hands and feet because  blood vessels can leak and cause swelling in far parts of the body. He said the abdominal pain can mimic appendicitis. 

“If you have a child who has these symptoms, you should call or seek medical care. And obviously, if your child appears sick, you should seek medical care and take them to an emergency department if necessary,” Stack said. 

 

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Concerned parents or guardians can call the Kentucky COVID hotline with questions. The hotline number is 800-722-5725.  

Beshear reported 138 new daily cases of coronavirus for May 18. The total cases in Kentucky are now 7,935. The total number of Kentuckians tested for coronavirus is 145,238. Beshear confirmed 12 deaths from the state for the last two days. According to Stack, in the United States, more than 80% of the deaths have been in people over 65 years of age. 

“Remember, this is two days worth of data. There are 22 more residents [in long term care facilities] and 19 more staff testing positive since Saturday,” Beshear said. “Two more deaths announced and three new facilities.” 

Beshear reported the total number of coronavirus cases in long term care facilities is over 1000 residents.

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