As the number of COVID-19 cases rise dramatically in some parts of the country, local officials continue to stress the need to take precautions to prevent community spread of the virus.

“What we’ve seen across our district is a great ‘laxing’ of practicing social distancing and wearing masks,” said Kent Koster, Purchase District Health Department director, during Friday’s bi-weekly news conference on the local response to the coronavirus.

As of Friday, McCracken County had 152 individuals who have tested positive. Of that total, 96 have fully recovered. There have been three deaths reported.

“We have seen an increase in the number of cases being reported to the health department. I know last weekend we had three days where we reported a total of 18 new cases just in McCracken County,” Koster said.

“Most of those were related to travel outside the state of Kentucky.”

Noting that some states, like Texas, are considering backtracking after loosening restrictions on public gatherings, “We don’t want that to happen here. We need everybody to continue to take this seriously.

“It’s not going to go away, not until we get a vaccine, so we’ve got to do whatever we possibly can to decrease the spread,” he said.

According to Koster, the public can be tested for COVID-19 at any of the sites in Paducah, without having to be referred by a physician. Mercy Health-Lourdes Hospital and Baptist Health Paducah have test sites, and Kentucky Care clinics at 125 S. 20th St. and 3240 Irvin Cobb Drive also are conducting tests.

Dr. Brad Housman, chief medical officer at Baptist Health Paducah, said the hospital has not seen a significant increase in volume related to COVID-19.

“The two groups I look at with particular emphasis are our asymptomatic patients that we’re testing for procedures and also our ER volume ... and really those have been very, very low.”

He cautioned, however, “We’re still in this for the long haul. This is certainly going to be the ‘new normal’ for the coming months.”

Mayor Brandi Harless shared concerns about the community remaining vigilant when it comes to coronavirus caution.

“I think a lot of people have changed their behaviors already away from mask-wearing and social distancing. So, in order for us to keep our economy thriving and humming, we want to make sure we’re protecting one another,” she said.

“I was in a business the other day and they had a sign ‘You must have a mask.’ I do think our business community can step up and be leaders in this situation and help us as citizens to comply. We all want to be participating in our local economy.”

McCracken County Judge-Executive Craig Clymer said while it appears the vast majority of people are taking the necessary precautions, he is surprised at the number of people who are not.

“We’re making progress. We’re still seeing some spikes now, people being out and not being as cautious as they should,” he said.

“We hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Let’s not go backwards.”

According to Clymer, McCracken County, like many others extensively prepared for the coronavirus.

That preparation “for the worst” included looking into the possibility of having to have large refrigerated containers available in the event mass casualties had to be dealt with.

“We actually travelled to some spots and looked into these containers. Luckily, thank God, we never got to that point,” he said.

“But it puts it in some perspective and I think helps emphasize ... let’s not get back to looking at that possibility again.”

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