LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – After a weekend filled with on- and off-campus parties that celebrated the start of college football season, the University of Kentucky and Lexington Police will kick off a partnership designed to help fight the spread of COVID-19, Mayor Linda Gorton and University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto announced Thursday.
Meanwhile, Gov. Andy Beshear had some harsh words about the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, calling it one “of the slowest in the state” at reporting numbers.
The partnership, involving both police agencies and the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, will step up efforts to monitor and respond to pandemic-related, off campus student code of conduct violations.
This collaboration will begin in preparation for the first UK home football game this Saturday, October 3.
It also comes among growing community concerns that the spread of the virus within the campus and in the community is related to UK and in turn, slowing he return of Fayette County Schools on in-person instruction. That has been increasingly frustrating among some parent groups who have begun to focus their ager and attention o the university to act.
During his daily briefing Thursday, Beshear said college students are doing “the best they can.”
“I think college kids are trying hard…we just need them to hear what we are saying and respond, act,” Beshear said in reaction to the weekend crackdown, which he applauded.
The governor also acknowledged the difficulty the health department’s slow reporting causes Fayette County schools. He said the department is “the only one in the state” not using the state’s contact tracing software which could expedite its reporting.
Lexington and UK leaders said the weekend crackdown is meant to try to avoid the issues that arose last week end and at the same time, avoid the spread of the virus.
“Everyone involved in this partnership is concerned about public health and safety in Lexington,” Gorton said. “This new collaboration among UK, Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, and the City will focus on reducing the spread of COVID-19 within our community. We are working together in a way we’ve never done before. The university has been a leader among higher education in taking proactive COVID-19 measures for their students, and adding this additional collaboration makes those measures even stronger.”
“We share the goal of doing everything we can to ensure the health, safety and well-being of the community,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “Even as our data, through robust contact tracing, clearly show the virus has largely stayed contained to the UK community, it’s critical that we do our part to protect everyone and limit spread. This partnership is one more way we are working together in a comprehensive approach to confronting this unprecedented public health crisis.”
Specifically, UK data gathered by its 50-member Health Corps team demonstrate the number of exposures among members outside the university community who live in Fayette County is only 5.5 percent.
That means the vast majority of exposures have remained among UK students or employees
UK has conducted and collected more than 32,000 tests for the virus since early August and is continuing with randomized testing among students as well as community testing at two campus sites.
With this partnership, both police departments will jointly patrol off-campus student housing areas observing for law violations.
UK Police will be able to also intervene when responding to student group gatherings not abiding by COVID-19 health guidelines by enforcing the University’s Student Code of Conduct.
The joint patrol will begin Friday, October 2.
“It is great to see the city and university working together to ensure students are safe and healthy by adhering to UK’s student conduct policies and public health standards,” said Courtney Wheeler, UK’s student government president. “The University of Kentucky’s goal is to keep our students and our community safe. This partnership is another step designed to help ensure that.”
It is requested complaints contain as much information as possible regarding the location of the complaint and those involved.
Reports regarding restaurants, bars, and public facilities can be made to the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department COVID-19 hotline, 859-899-2222, during the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
If there is perceived criminal activity, citizens should call the Lexington Police Department. Non-emergency concerns should be relayed to 859-258-3600. If there is an emergency, citizens should dial 9-1-1.