By Jeff Neagle
Two cases of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus have now been confirmed in Adair County. Judge Executive Gale Cowan and Lake Cumberland District Health Department Executive Director Shawn Crabtree held a joint press conference on Tuesday when the first case was confirmed. On Wednesday, Cowan sent out a press release stating that a second individual had tested positive for the virus.
“This is not the time to panic. It is something we have expected, and we’ve been preparing for,” said Cowan.
The two positive tests are the first of what is expected to be a rising number over the next few weeks. Both cases are now self-isolating at home. One case is known to be an elderly gentleman who falls in the high-risk category for the severe symptoms of coronavirus. Information on the second case was not made available before the print deadline.
Judge Cowan asked the community to act responsibly. “Please keep both of these individuals and their families along with our community in your prayers. I ask that you respect people’s privacy and don’t jump to conclusions. Make sure your information is accurate before you share false information. Do your part to combat this disease. Stay home if possible or only go out for essential items. Wash your hands and cough or sneeze into your elbow or tissue.”
Director Crabtree spoke about the severity of the disease. “People talk about the coronavirus and say it is no worse than the flu, but it is worse for several reasons. One, since it is new to the human species, no one has a resistance to it which means everyone is susceptible to catching it. Also, there is no vaccine for this virus, unlike the flu, so there is nothing to prevent it other than the social distancing we are talking about to avoid being exposed to it. The public can be our greatest asset if you follow our guidance and do social distancing. Stay away from crowds, wash your hands regularly, avoid touching your face, cough or sneeze into a handkerchief or your elbow, keep your clothes washed and stay home if you are sick.”
COVID-19 stands for Coronavirus Disease 19. The 19 is for the year 2019 when the disease made the jump from animals to humans. It comes from the SARS Coronavirus 2. Only a few months ago, the disease was only transmitted between animals, but the virus mutated and was transferred to humans. The disease is now capable of being transferred from human to human.
According to Crabtree, the Lake Cumberland District is still in the containment mode and have not yet shifted into mitigation mode. There are quite a few people in our community who could have severe consequences if they catch the disease. There are limited number of hospital rooms and ventilators in our area to care for those who the more severe consequences of the disease. If the number of people needing hospitalization rises rapidly, hospitals will be overrun, and it will be difficult to treat anyone for anything, including medical needs unrelated to coronavirus.
Of great concern is the lack of cooperation from some members of the community. In stores that are still open, there are often many people who are in the stores not practicing social distancing or following guidelines for protecting themselves and others. Not everyone is following the steps needed to slow the disease.
Crabtree stated, “The actions the Governor has taken has allowed Kentucky to be faring better than most states. But there are quite a few people who don’t seem to take this very seriously. You can go down the road and pass by department stores and you will see there is quite a crowd. While those stores are still allowed to be open, if you go you should look around and see that if it is a busy time, come back at a time when it is less crowded.”
In addition, local police say there have been several times they have had to disperse groups who are not following guidelines. Columbia Police Department Chief Jason Cross noted, “One thing we are doing is when we see a group of kids or people gathering in larger groups, we stop to ask people to disband and move on. We don’t want to have to issue a curfew and it’s not something we’ve really talked much about at all. We prefer to ask that parents keep a close watch on their kids and not allow them to be congregating. Too many are not taking this seriously. We’ve never seen anything like this in our lifetime and some people are having a hard time accepting that for the safety of everyone, we all need to do our part.”
Governor Beshear has been issuing guidelines, and then orders, to help slow the spread of the virus. Kentucky has seen fewer cases than surrounding states except for West Virginia, which has only a fourth of the population of the Commonwealth. However, as people continue to refuse to comply, restrictions are likely to become even tighter.
Just today, the Kentucky Supreme Court issued further limitations for all courts throughout Kentucky. As of April 1, all judicial facilities are closed to in-person services. Only attorneys and parties required to attend emergency, in-person hearings and individuals seeking emergency protective orders or interpersonal protective orders will be permitted inside the building. They have required all filings to be mailed, eFiled, or conventionally filed using a drop-box outside the judicial building. Payments should be mailed by money order or paid over the phone with credit card. Citations can be paid online through ePay at kycourts.gov. Those needing to post bond should contact the circuit clerk’s office by phone. Driver’s licenses expiration has been extended for 90 days.
All civil jury trials are to be postponed and rescheduled for a later date, but currently ongoing trials may be completed at the discretion of the judge. They may also choose to use video technology to conduct hearings in civil cases.
On Monday, Governor Beshear issued an executive order limiting out of state travel. The order states that residents of Kentucky are “instructed not to travel into any other state, except when required by employment, to obtain groceries, medicine or other necessary supplies, to seek or obtain care by a licensed healthcare provider, to provide care for the elderly, minors, dependents, or persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons, or when required by court order.”
The order further stated that Kentucky residents already outside the state who are traveling back home must self-quarantine for 14 days.
While many of the orders from the Governor have been restrictive, there are a number of orders designed to help the state get through the current crisis. He has eased restrictions on nurses who live out of state to make it quicker to obtain a license in Kentucky. He has expanded unemployment eligibility to allow those not normally covered to get unemployment payments. Evictions have been suspended in the state for the duration of the emergency declaration. New telehealth options have been added to allow Kentuckians to enable them to speak to a doctor from home.
The current crisis is far from over. The peak of the virus is still predicted to be weeks away. The longer there are individuals who do not follow the safe health guidelines such as social distancing, handwashing, and not gathering in crowds, the longer it will take to reach the peak and begin to see a decline.
For the safety of everyone in the community, local leaders, law enforcement officials and healthcare workers ask that you look out for each other and follow the guidelines.