Warren County’s rising number of coronavirus cases is continuing to have an impact on county government and local hospitals.
The county courthouse was closed to the public Wednesday and will remain closed until Monday after an employee in the county clerk’s office tested positive for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the motor vehicle area in the clerk’s office has closed until Nov. 18 so employees of that office who had direct exposure to the infected worker can quarantine at home.
Warren Fiscal Court, which had returned to in-person meetings in July after nearly four months of virtual meetings, will return to the online meeting format Friday.
“We recognize this will be more than just an inconvenience for many people during these next two weeks,” Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon said in an email announcing the closure. “We deeply regret the necessity of this action.
“However, this action is required in the interest of public health and safety and for the protection of the office staff and all Warren County citizens.”
The announcement comes at a time when COVID-19 cases are on the rise across Kentucky, leading to 80 of the state’s 120 counties being classified as “red zone” counties this week based on the past week’s average daily cases per 100,000 population.
In his daily news briefing in Frankfort, Gov. Andy Beshear on Thursday reported more than 2,000 new COVID-19 cases statewide and 20 more virus-related deaths. “This is far, far too many cases,” he said.
The 2,318 new cases marked another grim peak amid Kentucky’s worst escalation since the pandemic began. The other time the state exceeded 2,000 daily cases was because of a massive case backlog, Beshear said. There was no such backlog in his report Thursday, he said.
Locally, Warren County was joined by southcentral Kentucky counties Allen, Barren, Butler and Logan in the red zone.
The Barren River District Health Department on Thursday reported 10,041 cases in the region since the pandemic started, with 8,128 recoveries and 141 deaths.
The breakdown by cases/recoveries/deaths by county was Barren, 1,459, 1,111, 13; Butler, 469, 380, 16; Edmonson, 230, 183, 12; Hart, 558, 408, 1; Logan, 899, 732, 31; Metcalfe, 251, 196, 2; Simpson, 415, 335, 9; and Warren, 5,760, 4,783, 57.
The Allen County Health Department – which is not part of the Barren River district – has reported 581 cases, 529 recoveries and 12 deaths.
Warren County’s incidence rate of 32.4 is above the red zone threshold of 25 average daily cases per 100,000 population.
Other local red-zone counties have similarly high incidence rates, leading to some issues for the contact tracing being done by the Barren River District Health Department.
“The rising number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to make contact tracing difficult,” Ashli McCarty, marketing and communications coordinator for the BRDHD, said in an email. “We are working hard to make contact with each case and their contacts as quickly as possible. We are in the process of hiring extra personnel to help during this time.”
Those rising numbers are concerning, Warren County Emergency Management Director Ronnie Pearson said.
“There has been a significant increase in those hospitalized and positive cases,” Pearson said in an email Wednesday. “We encourage everyone to remain diligent and maintain mask-wearing, good hand hygiene and social distancing.”
Pearson reported 63 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Bowling Green’s The Medical Center and TriStar Greenview Regional Hospital on Wednesday. He said four were on ventilators.
William Moss, director of the emergency room at The Medical Center, said that hospital has seen a steady increase in COVID-19 patients.
Moss said last week that The Medical Center had 33 COVID-19 patients. He said Wednesday that number was up to 51 in Bowling Green and another eight at The Medical Center’s Scottsville facility.
Despite those rising numbers, Moss said in a text message: “We are able to handle the current load.”
Moss said contingency plans for dealing with a surge in COVID-19 cases allow for converting any hospital room into an intensive care unit room.
“We can move ventilators and monitors into most any room, and it can handle an ICU patient,” Moss said in a text. “We had 100 or more ventilators when we were planning surge issues in the spring.”
Even if the increase in cases isn’t yet stretching health care facilities too thin, Buchanon said the numbers are such that he is calling for increased attention to precautions that have been preached since the pandemic began in March.
“We are asking everyone to please wear masks in public or whenever they’re around anyone outside their immediate family,” Buchanon said. “And we are asking every business to require their in-store customers to wear masks while shopping.
“Social distancing is still absolutely necessary in order to slow the spread, so please do not host or attend group gatherings of any size outside your immediate household.”
– The Associated Press contributed to this report.
– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.