Two more kids get illness, contact tracing taking shape; excitement builds for ‘openings’

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Two more Kentucky children have been diagnosed with the rare coronavirus-related disease.

Meanwhile, the state’s contact tracing program is taking shape, including getting a new leader.

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And Gov. Andy Beshear said excitement is building as the state prepares for openings May 20 and May 22, including retail on May 20 and restaurants and groups of up to 10 May 22.

The two children are among 260 new cases reported by the state Sunday and Monday, which brings the state’s total 7,935 total cases. That’s 5.5 percent of the 145,238 tests statewide.

That percentage continues to decline slowly as testing expands statewide.

In addition, 2,785 people — 35 percent — have recovered from the disease, Gov. Andy Beshear said during his daily briefing.

The two additional children are a 5-year-old who is now at home and an 11-year-old who is hospitalized. The original 10-year-old remains hospitalized and a 16-year-also continues to recover at home.

No other details about the children were released.

The state also recorded 12 deaths Sunday and Monday. All of them were in Jefferson County. The deaths bring the state’s total to 346 since the outbreak began in early March.

Meanwhile, the state is finalizing details on contact tracing, which will start soon as part of the state’s economic reopening.

“We are relying on more testing and contact racing to stop the spread of the coronavirus,” Beshear said, noting the program is being paid for by federal dollars.

“We have to have it,” Beshear added, introducing Mark Carter as the new head of the state’s contact tracing program.

Carter said community participation, such as simply answering phone calls and spreading the word in the community, are critical to the success of contact tracing.

“We can protect the economy and people’s health,” Carter said, describing himself as an optimist.

The state plans to hire “700 or so” people for contact tracing, according to Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said.

“None of this will work without your participation,” Stack told the public. “It’s the way we isolate the disease and get back to normal.”

Contact tracing is important as the state begins opening retail centers, including malls if they can meet strict standards, restaurants, and churches.

“There’s a way to do it safely, so while we are seeing friends for the first time in awhile, we’re all excited about it,” Beshear said.

Malls can open Wednesday if they can meet the standards of other retail outlets, including checking people at their entrances, wiping down and cleaning surfaces, and making sure food courts meet the same standards as restaurants which open at 33 percent capacity on Friday.

“There are a lot of places to clean,” Beshear noted.

The state also continues to ramp up its nursing home testing program, planning to test the staff and residents at at least 23 facilities this week. That would be almost 3,000 people, Stack said.