Hopkins County officials are begging citizens to heed the advice of health organizations as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county continues to increase.
During the daily update on the City of Madisonville’s Facebook page, Judge-Executive Jack Whitfield said the community has seen an increase from two confirmed cases on March 26 to 26 confirmed cases on March 31 because large groups are still gathering.
“If you look at the map, Hopkins County is a hotbed. I was told not to say that but I’m going to say it anyway because it’s the truth. It’s just the way it is,” he said. “We have not been following all the procedures we should so this disease is spreading faster here than anywhere else around and we need to stop that.”
Whitfield said the number of confirmed cases is misleading though, because there are many people in the county who haven’t been confirmed with a test but are self-treating while quarantined at home.
Madisonville Mayor Kevin Cotton also asked the community for their help in slowing the spread by limiting their social interaction. He recalled seeing several children at a schoolyard basketball court who had hopped the fence to play together. He said he’s received calls about businesses with large lines of customers who are well within the recommended six-foot radius. He said people in the community are still going grocery shopping as a family instead of sending a designated member with a specific list.
“You need to designate somebody to go, that person needs to go in, get exactly what they need and then they need to come back out and go home. That’s how you’re going to have to shop right now. It’s not a time for you to come out and decide which basketball you want to get or if you want to buy something else off the bike rack. It’s not that time,” he explained. “It is serious. It is time that we listen. It’s time that we comply and it’s time that we’re thinking about not just you and your family but that we’re thinking about the families that are serving you as you are there in those stores.”
Cotton said he understands many kids are tired of being at home and said as a foster parent, he understands how that’s difficult on the parents, too.
“...But here’s the reality to that--if you're still congregating as a group you still take the risk of getting sick or passing that off to somebody else. So please do not do that,” he added.
Whitfield said he spoke with representatives at the GE Aviation plant regarding safeguards the company might be taking to protect its employees. He said he couldn’t say how many of its employees have tested positive but could report the plant shut down for several days for “deep cleaning.” He said plant representatives reported doing what they’re able to do to limit contact between employees but the plant must remain in operation.
“GE is an essential service according to Homeland Security and the Department of Defense so they almost have to keep running,” he explained. “With that being said, I think they have probably loosened up their requirements for vacation and sick time right now so if you are at GE and scared, you can use vacation and sick time if you don’t feel like you can be in that plant.”
Cotton listed a number of city-run, public entities and services which are currently closed but said the public transportation will remain in operation. He said there are people in the community who rely on public transportation to get to and from the grocery stores and other essential services, but warned against taking joy rides across town just to get out of the house.
Whitfield and Cotton asked community members to also remember to take care of their neighbors who are already sick. They said one of the ways to ensure people who are sick don’t feel the need to go out in public is being a good neighbor to those who need it, picking up medications or groceries and dropping those things at their doorsteps.
Whitfield and Cotton asked Hopkins County residents to continue using the hashtags #WeAreMadisonville and #WeAreHopkinsCounty in the coming weeks as a means of maintaining the sense of community and sharing experiences.
Hopkins County Schools Superintendent Deanna Ashby said the district has provided more than 10,800 meals to students including breakfast and lunch, and they’ve been able to maintain the Backpack Blessings program which serves approximately 500 students. She reported the school has hit some bumps in ordering supplies because most of the schools in the commonwealth order from the same vendors, but said many local vendors have stepped in to help.
Ashby said at this point they’re still delivering meals five days a week but she and her staff have been working on a contingency plan to continue serving those meals each week when they start losing staff either due to illness or to fear of illness. She said that plan would involve fewer delivery days but continued service of the same number of meals. Before that change took place though, she said the district would issue a one-call to the families of students to notify the change.
“We certainly don’t want to diminish the amount of food we’re getting to our students,” she added.
Ashby said the school has implemented a number of protocols including distancing between employees and checking the temperatures of food service workers and transportation employees before each shift.
Ashby acknowledged the transition to schooling at home has been difficult for everyone involved, including the parents and their children at home, but thanked them for their patience in the transition. She noted those who don’t have computers or internet access at home may call the school to request paper packets. She said it’s “impactful and important” for the students to take their work seriously because the work they’re doing counts toward their final grades.
Ashby said she’s received many calls regarding the last day of school, asking if that has changed. She said the last day of school is currently scheduled for May 15 and Governor Andy Beshear and the Kentucky Education Interim Commissioner Kevin Brown have asked schools to prepare enough skills days to get through May 1. She said after spring break, district personnel will reassess the situation and determine the best plan of action.