COVID-19 bi-weekly Q&A session with LCDHD/area media

Posted March 30, 2021 at 12:29 pm

A media Zoom meeting was held March 24, 2021 for our media partners and community.

Our panel consisted of:

Shawn Crabtree, Executive Director

Dr. Weyman, Medical Director

Stuart Spillman, Environmental Health Director

Tracy Aaron, Health Education Director, moderator

A list of questions was presented to our staff by the media. If you have questions for our next media Zoom meeting, feel free to contact the health educator at your local health department or reach out to Melonie Williams at the District Office at or 606-678-4761 x 1127.

1. Early in the response, why weren’t you able to provide the public with a list of locations to get tested?

In the beginning, testing supplies were largely unavailable and testing sites were coming up and down as supplies were available. We were not informed by the state where a testing site was located or or when it would be available.

Within a few days, the Governor rolled up a website where all testing sites were listed. We linked this site from our social media and websites.

2. Why didn’t you become a testing site?

We simply didn’t have enough staff to perform testing and do case investigations and contact tracing. However, we did become a testing distribution site and ordered and provided testing kits to several community partners. We attempted to order rapid testing machines to run the COVID testing strips, but due to demand, the machines were on back order for several months. We also supported several mass-testing sites by becoming a hub for outside providers and provided kits, shipped the kits to the lab, and provided staff to support the mass testing sites.

We provided support for several months from late spring until the end of last year through the state contract with Gravity lab.

3. Why were school staff put at the back of the list when it came to testing and vaccination?

Early on, there weren’t enough testing kits to prioritize any group. Later on, testing was being provided by so many community partners, anyone who wanted to be tested could do so. In the tiers for vaccination, teachers were put in the same category as first responders and only next in line to those who were directly giving patient care to receive vaccinations.

4. With the push by the state Republican party to get the schools re-opened, and since square footage is limited in the schools and ventilation isn’t ideal, why were social workers and mental health staff put ahead of teachers? Weren’t teachers 1b and social workers and mental health workers 1c? Teachers can’t just kick students out of school for being non-compliant.

While the Governor made broadly public the “brief” Phase definitions, the specific, detailed information was provided via the state DPH to the LHDs.

This information more clearly defined what all professions, for example, counted as “medical” staff. Mental Health Counselors/Social Workers were included in the list of 1a medical providers as they work in hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities.

5. Why were some schools in our district vaccinated weeks after others?

There wasn’t enough vaccine to do every school all during the same week. Therefore, the school vaccination effort was spread out across three to four weeks. The state DPH provided us with the list of which schools would go first.

6. It seems all you guys at the health department did was “count beans”. How was this helpful?

That bean counting is referred to as epidemiology. It shows us where cases are spiking or declining and directs the overall public health response.

Outside of our case reporting, we had other duties assigned to the health departments from DPH. Early in the pandemic, all public front facing businesses were closed. Our job as the health department was to ensure that those that did stay open did so safely.

We were also responsible for responding to issues of non-compliance with the Governor’s order to close down businesses specifically told to shut down for a period of time. That involved a lot of education for our community partners that were behind the scenes that the public wasn’t really aware of… communication directly to emergency responders, media, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and businesses. We helped them figure out ways to reduce virus transmission rates, reduce contact, improve cleaning, etc. We also have responsibility to the Emergency Response. Early in the pandemic, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was at a critical shortage, so part of our response was to distribute PPE from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). When PPE was at critical shortage, we asked for donation of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from the community at large. We collected and distributed donated PPE to community partners.

During the pandemic, we were responsible for evaluating local hospital ventilator and isolation room capacity and reporting. Later, our response became centered around contact investigations and issuing isolation orders for positive Covid-19 cases. We also issued quarantine orders for high-risk close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases.

Lately, we have administered 90% of all vaccine that has been given to us within seven days of receipt. Additionally, we received our first shipment of vaccine on 12/21/20 and gave all 1,000 doses by close of business on 12/23/20.

We are in the process of planning for mobile vaccination clinics to reach community members that may have difficulty reaching the health department for vaccination.

7. You guys did really good during Swine Flu, but didn’t seem to do much at all during COVID-19. How would you handle something more serious like the bubonic plague?

We actually did a tremendous amount of things that might not be very well publicly known: case investigations, contact tracing, media and public updates, dissemination of a variety of information to area business and medical providers, pre and post exposure planning with all long-term care facilities, jails, and schools, and many businesses and churches, monitored and helped secure PPE for various medical providers, received and distributed face masks and sanitizer to the area schools, facilitated testing in our area, participated in multiple media interviews, kept the public informed via Daily Briefs, and weekly live public/media updates via YouTube live, worked with area leaders on planning at every stage of the pandemic, provided vaccinations.

As far as the bubonic plaque, every response is different. We do handle the bubonic plague under the umbrella of public health. The public health response helps to control the disease spread of any infectious disease.

8. What would you say to the politicians and medical providers who are frustrated with your response?

That we have done the very best we could with a complex and rapidly evolving situation on an unknown disease that we had no prior knowledge of or immunity to and where resources often were far less than what was needed.

Our local and district boards contain members of the medical community and elected officials. They have been pleased with our response to the pandemic.

9. If a person is exposed to a positive case two weeks past receiving the second shot, what are the chances that they will contract COVID? Should they be tested before they have contact with family? Could they contract COVID and not show symptoms? What is the safest thing to do in this case?

The vaccines in use are effective 70-95% of the time at preventing covid 19 infection; they are excellent at preventing severe disease should one fall in the % where they are ineffective and the person becomes infected. It is possible to have asymptomatic disease after being vaccinated ,but much less likely if not vaccinated; it is also possible to transmit the disease, though less likely after vaccination ,when the number of virus particles has been found to be low. To ensure perfect health, one should continue to protect oneself and others by wearing face coverings, distancing and using good hand hygiene.

10. I have heard that a lot of people are preferring the Johnson and Johnson shot because of only having to take one shot. Can you talk to us a bit about how effective the Johnson and Johnson shot is verses the ones that require two shots of the vaccine?

We cannot compare the percent efficacy between the different vaccines as the trials were done during different times-when variants were circulating or not in the communities tested-in South Africa, Brazil, Europe or USA etc.

We do know that they are all excellent in preventing moderate or severe disease, hospitalization and death, even with new variants. We urge anyone in the community to take whatever vaccine is available to them right now. Do not wait to obtain a specific vaccine because there is not a guarantee that you won’t be exposed to Covid-19 while waiting for a vaccine.