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Q&A | COVID-19 positivity rates, new travel advisory

Published: Jul. 21, 2020 at 1:44 PM EDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) – As Kentucky's own COVID-19 cases increase, the state is asking recent travelers from potential hot spots to self-quarantine for 14 days.

"I am appealing to Kentuckians who have traveled to these states or to Puerto Rico to consider the interest of your health and the health of others. Please, if you have been to any of these places, stay home for 14 days, starting from the date you left that location," said Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky's Public Health commissioner.

MORE: Interactive | Breakdown of Kentucky’s COVID-19 cases

The current list of places with the recommended self-quarantine on return includes eight states and Puerto Rico.

What does the positivity rate mean?

After sheltering in place and social distancing entered the coronavirus vocabulary, the positivity rate became a new term being mentioned by health and elected officials.

The positivity rate is a metric used to determine to spread of a disease.

It's the percentage of people who test positive for the virus. Rather than simply looking at one day, a seven-day rolling average is used to give a smoother view into trends. Rolling averages avoid having one abnormally high or low day stand out when there could be reasons behind them, such as weekends or lab reporting delays.

What is Kentucky’s new travel advisory?

The Kentucky Department for Public Health's advisory is for Kentuckians who have traveled to states reporting high numbers of COVID-19. The state's advisory recommends a 14-day self-quarantine for travelers who went to any state reporting positive testing rate equal to or greater than 15 percent for COVID-19 testing.

States are identified from data reported to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center.

On July 21, the website lists eight states exceed 15-percent positivity rates: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Nevada, and Texas. The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico does as well.

"Avoid going to these areas, if you are able," Dr. Stack said. "If plans can't be changed, self-quarantine after getting back to Kentucky."

Dr. Stack added that people planning to visit these destinations in the near future would be wise to reconsider their travel plans.

Is the advisory to self-quarantine required?

In the announcement, Dr. Stack stressed that advisory for returning travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days is a recommendation and not a mandate.

What does self-quarantine involve?

In its announcement, the Kentucky Department of Public Health says home quarantine includes these steps:

  • Remain at home and avoid all in-person activities. This includes work, grocery stores and pharmacies, public events and public places.
  • Do not have visitors in your home.
  • If you live in a home with other people, stay in a separate room. If this is not possible, wear a face mask when you are in the same room and stay at least six feet away from others.
  • Wash your hands and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer often. Do not share personal items such as dishes, cups, forks, spoons and towels.
  • Do not leave home except to seek medical care. If you need to see a provider for reasons other than a medical emergency, please call in advance and discuss the care you need.

In the event of a medical emergency, call 9-1-1. Indicate that you are in home quarantine for novel coronavirus exposure. Keep a face mask on until you are asked by a health care provider to remove it.

  • Do not use public transportation or ride-share services.
  • Check yourself for fever twice a day and record it in a log or piece of paper.

Contact your local health department for additional help, including arranging for food and other essential deliveries if you are in need.

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