LAUREL COUNTY — The Laurel County Health Department is reporting its first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Laurel County. A 53-year-old Laurel County man has tested positive through a commercial lab for COVID-19 and has been hospitalized.

Mark Hensley, director of the Laurel County Health Department, said he was not sure of which hospital that is, as the information was just relayed to him around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. HIPPAA regulations prohibit any specific information about the individual.

“We will have more information tomorrow (Wednesday),” Hensley said. “We have just gotten the notification and we are in the initial stages of our epidemiological investigation.”

That investigation will include information regarding exposure, contacts, case monitoring and other detailed information to learn more about the case.

“We just don’t have that information until we conduct the investigation,” he said. “There are so many unknowns about this virus and so many unknowns as to the patient at this point. But we do know that one person from Laurel County has tested positive for COVID.”

Hensley said the public should continue to heed the recommended precautions from the CDC to prevent continued spread of the coronavirus and that health officials are prepared to respond to any cases that arise.

“We have a plan in place to provide operational framework to respond to any communicable diseases and we have qualified staff who have been trained and are ready to respond.”

The Laurel County Health Department Epidemiology Rapid Response Team is collaborating with the Department for Public Health to track individuals who have had close contact with this individual and are at risk for infection. Those individuals will be instructed on proper quarantine measures and monitored to safeguard their own and the public's health.

"The Health Department is committed to protecting the health and wellness of its community," Hensley said.

The Laurel County Health Department released the information in a press release on Facebook around 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. The released said the notice was intended to encourage caution in our community.

Eighty percent of the population will develop only mild symptoms, according to the release. There are. however, specific populations that are at a higher risk of this illness. These include adults over 60 and people with serious health conditions such as diabetes, lung, heart disease, among others.

"We strongly encourage individuals within these high-risk populations and their loved ones and caretakers follow the preventive measures outlined by CDC and DPH," the release said.

“To those individuals who live, work, eat, pray and play in Laurel County, I assure you that LHDH is doing everything in our power to keep the public protected from this disease and we appreciate the support from our community, partners, and state and local leaders regarding these efforts," Hensley said.

The recommendations outlined by the health department are:

- stay home from work or school if sick;

- avoid close contact with people who are sick;

- avoid large gatherings;

- wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;

- if soap and water is not readily available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol;

- avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;

- cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your elbow; and

- clean and disinfect frequently touched object and surfaces using a household cleaning spray or wipe.

Social distancing practices are essential to slow the spread of this disease, the release said.

Nita Johnson contributed to this report.

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