COVID-19 cases in Shelby County rise with outbreak in Hispanic community – Courier Journal


The number of COVID-19 cases in Shelby County has increased by more than 50% over the past week, and the local health department indicates most of those cases have occurred in its Hispanic community. 

The North Central District Health Department noted in a press release late last week that 35 of the 36 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County that day were from its Hispanic population, spurring an outreach effort to that community.

“North Central District Health Department is reaching out specifically to the Hispanic population in common residential areas, frequented establishments, and religious institutions allowing the health department to provide education of how this virus spreads, physical separation, and the importance of wearing masks in public,” stated the release.

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The same May 21 press release also announced the fourth death in Shelby County — a Hispanic man — because of complications from COVID-19. 

On Tuesday, the health department announced an additional 15 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with all 15 being Hispanic.

Roanya Rice, the public health director of the North Central District Health Department, was not available for comment on Wednesday about the rise in cases.

Gov. Andy Beshear announced Tuesday that the number of COVID-19 cases in Shelby County had jumped to 132 — 43 more than the total on Friday. The state had reported 82 cases in the county on May 20.

“We got a spike in our numbers, but we’re seeing what we can do to get it reduced,” Shelby County Judge-Executive Dan Ison told The Courier Journal on Wednesday.

Ison said Shelby County has one of the largest Hispanic populations in Kentucky.

He said that city leaders recently met with civic leaders and ministers from the local Hispanic community to talk about the rise in cases and address specific challenges to protect them from the pandemic. 

“We talked about the issues as it relates to families who cannot social distance and the culture — not being able to say they’re sick, and if they do, then they’re out of their friendship circles,” said Ison, noting that many Hispanic people in the community work in agriculture.

Beshear said at his press conference Wednesday that 15% of Kentucky’s confirmed COVID-19 cases are Hispanic — several times larger than their estimated 4% of the state’s population.

The governor said he did not know the exact cause of the increase in Shelby County over the past week, buthe  added that its county leaders recently “turned down a Walmart testing facility.”

“We thought that that was interesting, but ultimately a health department and a county judge have to make decisions on that,” Beshear said.

Reach reporter Joe Sonka at or 502-582-4472 and follow him on Twitter at @joesonka. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today:

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