Health

The Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness says it’s too early to tell what kind of impact recent protests across the city will have on coronavirus numbers.

During Thursday’s COVID-19 briefing, officials announced seven new cases of COVID-19, bringing the city’s total to 2,972. The death toll also increased to 189.

Louisville Metro’s Chief Health Strategist Sarah Moyer said there has been a slight rise in positive cases over the last couple of weeks, but she attributed that to more tests being conducted.

“It’s hard to know yet if that is due to the reopening or the crowds,” she said. “It’s too soon to be due to the protests… We’re keeping an eye on that just like many states across the country.”

The city offered testing to protesters at two locations — Norton Audubon Hospital and behind City Hall — over the weekend. Testing coordinator Bill Altman estimated that nearly 300 people were tested at the City Hall site.

Altman noted the higher risk of transmission that comes with such large gatherings of people as the driver for setting up the sites.

“The virus is here,” he said. “It has not gone away, and whenever you’re in situations where [there are] groups of people, you have to take the appropriate precautions, and you’re at higher risk. So it was that premise that compelled us to say, ‘Well, why don’t we provide testing services down at the protest site?’”

Results from those sites have not yet been released. In the event that there is an increase in positive cases, the city is strengthening its contact tracing capabilities.

A new contact tracing team with backgrounds in nursing, social work and community-based organizations will begin taking on new cases Friday. Between 80 to 100 positions out of more than 2,600 applicants are expected to be filled.

Moving forward, protesters are encouraged to stay in small, segmented groups and to continue monitoring for symptoms.

John Boyle covers southern Indiana communities and health for WFPL News. He is a Report for America Corps member.