Pike County has entered the start of a new surge of COVID-19 cases, which, health officials said, has already broken records for the county so far and could overburden the local healthcare system.

As of Jan. 7, Pike County’s total number of cases was 3,363, with 1,006 of those being active cases. 2,319 people were considered recovered, and 38 Pike County residents have died from the virus so far, which is an increase of five new patients since Jan. 4.

Pike County Public Health Director Tammy Riley said that the county’s seven-day total of new cases is particularly concerning. Over the last seven days, from Dec. 31 to Jan. 6, the PCHD reported 401 new cases of COVID-19, which is the highest number of newly reported cases reported in a single week. Riley said that equates to about 57 new cases reported each day.

“When you normalize that data to 100,000 (population), that’s 99 cases per day per 100,000, which is overwhelmingly overburdening Public Health,” Riley said. “As far as contact tracing and the disease investigation process, that is an extremely overwhelming burden on Public Health and nearly makes our contact tracing and disease investigation process impossible.”

On Jan. 6, there were 338 new cases of COVID-19 reported in January so far, which is greater than the number of cases reported in any month previous to October last year.

“It’s fair to say that we’re definitely in what appears to be the beginning of a new surge,” Riley said.

As of Jan. 7, there were 84 patients currently being hospitalized for COVID-19 in Pike County’s hospitals. Of the 84 total patients, 22 were in the ICU, with 13 of those 22 ICU patients requiring ventilators. 90 percent of the county’s ICU beds and 35 percent of ventilators were being occupied, as of Jan. 6.

Riley said that the current number of

patients hospitalized with the virus was nearing “an all-time high,” which is a sign that the county is entering a surge of new COVID-19 cases following the holiday season. As the number of cases grows, she explained, the number of hospitalizations will follow, which will likely lead to an increase in ICU and ventilator occupancy, due to those hospitalized needing to receive intensive care.

“I think what we’re starting to see is, since Christmas, we are starting to see a surge and increase in cases,” Riley said. “There’s always a delay until those people get sick enough to require hospital beds, and then there’s a delay when those who are hospitalized get sick enough to require ICU beds. We are at that point in time where the surge from New Year’s and Christmas is starting to hit us.”

Riley said that PCHD is concerned about this new surge because of the potential overburdening it will have on the healthcare system, which will put patients outside of COVID-related emergencies at risk as well.

“The fear that we’ve had and the concern that we’ve had as Public Health, primarily, is in regards to our healthcare system,” Riley said. “If the healthcare system becomes overburdened with emergency room visits, and hospitalizations and ICU and ventilator occupancy becomes overburdened, residents of the county and the region that were seeking medical attention for conditions outside of COVID would potentially be unable to be attended.”

Riley reemphasized to Pike Countians how they should continue following the 5-C plan and taking necessary precautions against the virus in order to limit the spread of the virus. The county’s 5-C Plan refers to the Calm, Clean, Cover, Contain and Civic Duty — the necessary steps for taking precautions against COVID-19 and protecting the community.

“If we want to turn those numbers around, it will take several weeks of increased compliance of mask-wearing, social distancing, washing your hands frequently and sticking with the 5-C Plan,” Riley said. “It takes several weeks once you’re in exponential growth to turn your numbers around. What we do today impacts where we are two or three weeks from now.”

She also urged the public to not become complacent as the vaccines are being administered to the public.

“What concerns me is that the vaccines are here and we’re feeling hopeful, and it’s a good thing to feel positive about where we are with the pandemic,” Riley said. “However, it is the worst time to let our guards down and to relax our behavior when we’re in the middle of a potential surge in cases. With the hope of vaccines and the end of the harm from the pandemic, this is not the time to let our guard down and relax our behaviors regarding mask compliance and social distancing.”

The local COVID-19 data is reported to the Pike County Health Department by local healthcare providers. They follow a stringent reporting process to the state, and each case is thoroughly reviewed. Therefore, the data will not match the state’s COVID-19 informational website, kycovid19.ky.gov.

For more information about Pike County’s cases, visit, www.pikecountyhealth.com. The Pike County Health Department is located at 119 River Drive, and it can be reached at, (606) 437-5500.

Symptoms and Testing

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting or diarrhea.

According to the state’s official COVID-19 website, testing in Pike County can be found at:

• Shelby Valley Clinic (178 Douglas Parkway, Pikeville)

• Pikeville Community Health Center (50 Weddington Branch Road, Pikeville)

• Pikeville Medical Center (231 Hibbard Street, Pikeville)

• East Kentucky After Hours Clinic (255 Church Street, Suite 102B, Pikeville)

• Ramey Family Practice (10363 Regina Belcher Hwy, Elkhorn City)

• HomePlace Clinic (118 River Drive, Pikeville)

• HomePlace Clinic (26229 U.S. Hwy 119 North, Belfry)

• First Care Clinic (115 Lee Avenue, Suite 1, Pikeville)

Contact each location for specific hours and appointment scheduling.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with COVID-19 have had a wide range of the reported symptoms, ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.

Anyone of any age can contract the virus. However, older adults and people who are immunocompromised or who have severe underlying medical conditions — including cancer, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, COPD, obesity, asthma, hypertension or high blood pressure, sickle cell disease, chronic kidney disease and liver disease — have a higher risk of developing more serious complications from COVID-19.

According to the CDC, the primary ways to protect against contracting or spreading the virus is to do frequent hand washing, maintain social distancing (keeping six feet apart from others) and wearing a face mask or facial covering when around others.

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