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Media Advisory: Contact Tracing Efforts Prioritized in Response to High Levels of NKY COVID-19 Cases 

November 17, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact Tracing Efforts Prioritized in Response to High Levels of NKY COVID-19 Cases 

FLORENCE, Ky. — In response to the very high and rapidly escalating number of cases of COVID-19 being reported in Northern Kentucky and in accordance with the consensus agreement between the Kentucky Commissioner for Public Health and local Public Health Directors within Kentucky, the Northern Kentucky Health Department is adapting its contact tracing strategy effective immediately.

Contact tracing is a highly effective public health strategy used to identify and quarantine those who are considered close contacts to individuals who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in order to reduce the spread of disease in the community. Just like other parts of the Commonwealth, the rapidly increasing COVID-19 rates in Northern Kentucky are outstripping the health department’s capacity to continue contact tracing in the same way it has been performed to date, and efforts must now be prioritized.

“Just like the health care systems can be overwhelmed with high levels of COVID-19 in the community, public health systems can be as well,” stated Lynne Saddler, MD, MPH, District Director of Health for the Northern Kentucky Health Department. “Northern Kentucky has reached a critical point and we must now prioritize how we investigate cases and identify, trace and notify contacts.”

Moving forward, NKY Health and other health departments throughout Kentucky will be focused on the following priorities:

  • Investigating new COVID-19 cases by collecting the minimum amount of information needed to provide education on isolation.
  • Advising new cases to notify all family, friends, coworkers and any others who meet close contact criteria to self-quarantine for 14 days from their last exposure to the individual who is positive and providing information on quarantine. Close contacts are those who are identified to have been within six feet of someone who is positive for a total of 15 minutes or more during the positive individual’s infectious period.
  • Providing documents to schools, employers and other entities to educate and guide them in the safe return of persons to these environments, rather than issuing individualized releases from quarantine for students and/or workers.
  • Continuing current procedures for congregate settings such as long-term care, senior living facilities, prisons and shelters, and disproportionately impacted minority populations.

All four counties in the Northern Kentucky health district are in the red (critical) zone. With such widespread, uncontrolled COVID-19 transmission in Northern Kentucky, all residents should assume they are at a heightened risk of exposure every time they interact with other people within six feet of each other for a total of 15 minutes or more. Residents of Northern Kentucky are strongly urged to take protective measures now:  keep six feet away from others, do not attend or host gatherings, avoid all non-essential activities outside of your home, reduce your overall activity and number of individuals outside of your home with whom you are in contact, reduce in-person shopping and shop online, avoid dining in restaurants and bars by ordering curbside and take out, wear your face covering properly and consistently, and wash your hands frequently.

“We are heading into a very dangerous phase of this pandemic and we should all be concerned,” says Dr. Saddler, “Northern Kentuckians need to make a concerted effort to turn this around now by taking these precautions.”

 

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The Northern Kentucky Health Department provides high-quality public health services to more than 400,000 residents of Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton Counties, with a goal of preventing disease, promoting wellness and protecting against health threats. The Health Department seeks to be a nationwide leader in public health and was one of the first in the country to earn national public health accreditation. For more information, visit www.nkyhealth.org.