Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton speaks during a media conference at the state Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., to provide an update on the cononavirus on Monday, March 9, 2020.

Ryan C. Hermens

rhermens@herald-leader.com

After a significant jump in July and August, the number of new Fayette County coronavirus infections is starting to plateau, city and county health officials said Wednesday.

“What we have seen in Lexington over the last few days is a second plateau,” said Kevin Hall, a spokesman for the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department. “A week to two weeks ago we were averaging about 80 new cases a day at large in the community. Over the last couple of days, there has been 50 to 60 new cases and more than half of those are coming from UK.”

Hall’s comments came during Mayor Linda Gorton’s Wednesday coronavirus update.

Gorton, who speaks regularly with area health care providers, including the hospitals, said most health care providers reported Wednesday a slight decrease in the number of positive cases.

“All but one has seen a slight decrease in positivity rates,” Gorton said.

As of Wednesday, Lexington had 5,187 COVID-19 cases and 53 deaths.

Gorton said those same health care providers are leery those numbers will jump back up due to the coming Labor Day weekend as people gather in backyards for celebrations. Gorton encouraged members of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council to stress in council newsletters and on social media the importance of social distancing and the risks associated even with small gatherings.

Hall said those fears are justified.

“Cases tend to jump after these holidays,” Hall said. “There was a jump after Memorial Day. There was a jump after the 4th of July. “

With many private schools back in session, the University of Kentucky and other universities returning to some form of in-person instruction and an increase in backyard BBQs and social gatherings, Labor Day will be a big test, Hall said.

Hall also strongly urged all residents to get flu vaccines this fall.

“It probably has never been more important to get vaccinated for the flu,” Hall stressed. Because the symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 are similar, keeping the number of flu cases down will help health care providers. The vast majority of people can treat flu at home.

“We don’t want to put an undue burden on the health care system of people going to be treated for flu,” Hall said. Those beds should be reserved for people with COVID-19, he said.

The city is still working to contain a coronavirus outbreak at the Fayette County Detention Center, Gorton said. To date, 78 inmates have tested positive; 412 have tested negative. Six staff members have recently tested positive. Since March, 11 staff at the jail have tested positive for the virus.

Since March, 15 firefighters and 12 police officers have tested positive for COVID-19, city officials have said.

That’s relatively low given the likely high exposure rates, particularly for fire personnel who staff the city’s emergency medical units.

Since March, the fire department has responded to 396 calls regarding suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients, city officials said.

Beth Musgrave has covered government and politics for the Herald-Leader for more than a decade. A graduate of Northwestern University, she has worked as a reporter in Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois and Washington D.C.


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