FRANKFORT, Ky. — Since the statewide contact tracing and tracking system went live in May, investigators have made contact with more than 50,000 COVID-19 patients.

What You Need To Know

  • Kentucky Department for Public Health provides update to lawmakers

  • Nearly every KY county using Kentucky Contact Tracing and Tracking System

  • Lexington to use the system by mid-November

  • Lawmakers also discuss bill that gives state employees 12 weeks of paid parental leave

The numbers come from an update the Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH) provided to state lawmakers Tuesday. Sixty of the state’s 61 local health departments have now synced up with the state’s system in some fashion.

“Basically what that does is it allows for some cross-training and cross-utilization of resources because everybody is working off the same system,” KDPH Executive Director Mark Carter said. “It’s the same theory as Southwest Airlines flying (Boeing) 737s: so any cockpit the pilot gets in it looks the same. It’s the same for our disease investigators and our contact tracers here.”

Carter told the Kentucky Interim Joint Committee on State Government the state has enough funding to continue contact tracing for a while, but money from the federal CARES Act expires Dec. 30, so the state is waiting for an extension from Congress.

“I think we all believe it will be [extended], but with the election coming and so forth, we’re probably not going to get that answer until after next week,” Carter said.

The only health department not on board with the state’s contact tracing system is the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, but that’ll change in mid-November.

Department spokesman Kevin Hall said the department has been doing contact tracing since March with its own system.

“By getting an early start on this, this allowed us to get multiple employees on board, working to do the investigations so that we have people working seven days a week as part of this outbreak,” Hall said.

The county has been using its own software though, and Hall said it takes some time to adjust to the state’s system.

“It’s not as simple as moving into the house, flipping on the lights, and being ready to go,” Hall said. “There’s training involved, there’s a familiarity with it, and just to make sure that what we have done in the past matches up with where we’re going in the future.”

Hall stresses that if a contact tracer calls you, just answer and be courteous to them.

Paid Parental Leave

The state government committee also heard testimony regarding a proposal to give Kentucky state employees 12 weeks of paid parental leave.

The benefit would apply to mothers and fathers and would have to be used within 24 weeks of childbirth. It also applies to newly-adoptive parents.

Two Louisville representatives spoke about the bill: Democrat Josie Raymond and Republican Jason Nemes.

Raymond returned to work at the Capitol in early February after giving birth to her third child just a few weeks prior. She said more women are more likely to return to work and stay in the workforce if they’re provided paid parental leave.

“I came to this issue because I’ve had three babies at three employers and I got one paid leave,” Raymond said. “And I knew that in that situation I was calmer, I was more secure, I was more loyal to the employer.”

Nemes said it will bring Kentucky in line with what the federal government and other states are doing.

“But I’m not bringing this bill, and I don’t think Representative Raymond is bringing this bill, because Democrats and Republicans across the country are bringing it,” Nemes said. “We’re bringing it because it’s pro-Kentucky family, it’s pro-Kentucky job, and most importantly, it’s pro-Kentucky baby.”

Raymond pre-filed another bill to require employers with 50 or more workers to also provide 12 weeks of paid parental leave. Both require the employee to have worked a full year for the business or government agency.

Lawmakers are scheduled to return to Frankfort for the next legislative session Jan. 5.

Editor’s note: Rep. Josie Raymond is married to Spectrum News 1 digital reporter Adam Raymond.