Mayor, Health Director provide update on COVID-19 in city
Mayor Greg Fischer, Dr. Sarah Moyer, director of Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW), and Dr. Marty Pollio, superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools, today updated the media on the latest impact of COVID-19 in Louisville.
The Mayor said there remains one confirmed case in Louisville. That individual, a 69-year-old male traveler, has been discharged from Norton Brownsboro Hospital and is finishing his isolation at home.
The Mayor also addressed reports that two additional attendees of a conference in Louisville earlier this month may now have the virus, noting that the city is aware of one confirmed and two presumptive cases among persons who developed COVID-19 recently after they returned home.
“We are communicating with the other local health departments on two news cases, but 1) We don’t know if they contracted COVID19 in Louisville, and 2) Given the timing of the onset of their symptoms, it’s unlikely they were contagious while they were in Louisville.”
The Mayor said a preparedness training exercise planned for tomorrow (Thursday) – to ensure that all internal and external partners are on the same page regarding the potential for community spread of COVID-19 – will be a virtual exercise, which allows the city to test a system that will be used in any crisis situation.
He noted that his office participated in a call with the White House today. The White House reviewed agency activities to contain and mitigate COVID-19, and offered a review of recently Congressionally approved resources that will become available to state and local public health departments in the days and weeks ahead. “We will be working with our state partners to quickly see what resources we need and are available to us,” he said.
Dr. Moyer noted that COVID-19 is now being called a pandemic by the World Health Organization.
“From the last pandemic, Spanish flu in 1918-1919, we know that early social distancing can decrease transmission and decrease deaths,” she said, adding that because COVID-19 is so new, “the data we have to base our recommendations on is the response in China, where early social distancing and cancellation of community events was one of the major interventions they made.”
Because of that, and out of an abundance of caution, she said, the health department has updated its guidelines for congregate events, including a recommendation for cancellations.
Because of that guidance, John O'Dwyer, president of the Irish Society of Kentuckiana and the Ancient Order of Hibernians, said the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be postponed.
"We didn't want to press our luck and hurt anyone in the community or put anyone in peril," O’Dwyer said.
The Mayor added that Louisville Metro Government has put together a working group to help advise city officials on public events going forward. The team is comprised of health and public safety officials, along with the city’s Special Events representatives.
The Mayor repeated that “every decision made will be based on public health and safety.”
Louisville Metro Department of Corrections
During a press conference this morning, Gov. Andy Beshear advised all state prisons would be closed to visitors, and recommended that local jails follow suit.
The Mayor noted under our current policy, visitors do not come to Louisville Metro Department of Corrections; visitation is non-contact through a video screen. That will continue, although officials are looking to see if they can stagger the visitors, so there are fewer gathered in a room at once. DOC also is canceling non-court-ordered volunteer programs, but is looking at alternatives to provide these services in another way.
The governor also this morning urged local schools to make preparations now to ensure they are prepared, if necessary, to close schools with as little as 72 hours’ notice.
Dr. Pollio said today that while no decision has been made – and JCPS is holding classes now – the district has been making plans for keeping students engaged should classes be canceled. He added that JCPS is canceling all out-of-state district travel for employees and out-of-state field trips until further notice.
Mayor Fischer said the Metro Department of Public Health continues to consult with JCPS and private schools about preparations for COVID-19.
“We’re all grateful that children seem to be less susceptible to this illness,” the Mayor said, “but as the situation evolves, we have to consider the impact on teachers, other school employees, volunteers and parents.”
There’s a ripple effect to be considered here as well, he said, if schools close – in terms of childcare and the impact on our Out of School partners, including city libraries and Parks. “We are reviewing that potential impact to ensure we’re ready if necessary,” he said.
Houses of worship
The governor also today recommended that houses of worship across the commonwealth temporarily cancel services to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The recommendation came as a part of a larger push to ask all Kentuckians to minimize their presence in any large group settings.
Mayor Fischer acknowledged that this recommendation is difficult for many, but he urged local faith leaders and their flocks to follow public health guidance to keep their congregants safe and healthy.
“The nature of city government is so varied, from 24-7 public safety to back-office billing, we have to have some discretion by departments on how we do this,” the Mayor said.
He said Metro’s HR team will, by Friday, develop an emergency paid sick leave policy, for employees who are in medically directed isolation, and is working on telework and other workplace options.
“In order to effectuate these changes,” he said, “we are working an Executive Order that outlines steps we can take to mitigate any negative impact on LMG.”
Because of budgetary challenges, Metro had already limited travel for employees to only those things that are essential. That policy will continue, as long as they are not contraindicated by the CDC guidelines.
In closing, the Mayor encouraged residents to stay informed about COVID-19 in the city by relying on credible sources, including the city and state websites.
“To be clear, we still expect to see increasing cases here and we have been preparing for that since January,” he said. “What is most important is for the city and our residents to take appropriate steps to keep all of us safe:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue.
- Avoid contact with sick people, and stay home if you are sick.
- Stay home if you are 60 and older or have chronic medical conditions.
- Practice social distancing.
- Rather than shaking hands, for the time being, let’s greet each other with a good elbow bump.
- And, if you have questions, please call the KY Coronavirus hotline at 1-800-722-5725 or visit Kycovid19.ky.gov."
The Mayor is urging businesses and schools to stay informed and post informational flyers in public places. Flyers can be downloaded in English and Spanish here. If you are aware of price gouging, please report that at 1-888-432-9257.