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Kentucky is seeing 'warning signs' of COVID-19 spike, expert says

Dr. John Klein with UofL School of Medicine said that while there are warning signs, Kentucky can control its cases by continuing to practice social distancing.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Though Kentucky has not seen the number of cases other states have, local health officials are seeing "warning signs," said Dr. John Klein, the University of Louisville School of Medicine's vice dean of research.

"Our seven-day running average of cases is, I think, at an all-time high for four days in a row now," Klein said during a Facebook town hall with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. "That is concerning."

Klein said emergency room admissions for flu-like or coronavirus-like illnesses are increasing in the region, per CDC data. In May, Texas saw a spike in those admissions as well before seeing a large outbreak weeks later.

"There are some warning signs in Kentucky and in Jefferson County, but at the moment the outcome of those small, little fires is entirely up to us," Klein said.

Klein said that while there are warning signs, it does not mean a large outbreak is inevitable, encouraging people to continue practicing social distancing and wear masks. 

"Florida and Texas in particular...none of them really went into a serious approach towards the virus in the beginning," Fischer said. "Kentucky did...so we have some advantages here, but the virus doesn't care about that either."

Fischer said that through contact tracing, health officials have traced many cases back to people traveling to a high-risk area and spreading it within their house. The mayor also said bars are a "significant problem."

Both Fischer and Klein said few cases have been traced back to protests. In the Louisville area, Fischer said the health department has traced three COVID-19 cases to protests as of Friday. Klein said recent studies also seem to indicate protests have not resulted in a flare, with rare exceptions.

"It looks like there were just enough people wearing masks in the marches to prevent a large flair of cases," Klein said. "I think we can say the surges we're seeing in the southwest and in the south do not appear to have come from protests."

Klein said he believes the area has turned the corner on masks due to the governor's mask mandate and more stores requiring customers to wear masks.

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