In efforts to address the "public health elephant in the room," as Mayor Robert Blythe put it, the county and both cities are working proactively to attack the coronavirus (COVID-19) head on, meeting jointly with other health agencies including local hospitals, the health department and the emergency management center.
At Tuesday evening's Richmond City Commission meeting, in which additional bottles of hand sanitizer were abundant, Mayor Blythe assured that there are no cases of COVID-19 in Madison County, but all parties were being proactive having developed plans should there be a need to respond to "what may come down the pipe."
As of Wednesday, eight people in Kentucky have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, five of which are from Harrison County, two from Fayette County and one in Jefferson County.
"We are doing what we can to the best of our abilities to prepare to respond," he said. "We are already in each other's ear…. This is an opportunity for those of faith, and those not of faith, a time to really be our brother or sister's keeper, and that we must be concerned about each other…. We have got to be sensitive with where we are, we have to be careful, be vigilant and be aware."
Berea Mayor Bruce Fraley said addressing this issue was best to be done as a unified front and not have governments doing three different things and working with the health department because they are the lead agency when you have any potential pandemic threat.
"In a situation like this where there are so many unknowns," Fraley said, "our job is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and that is what we have been busy doing…. Lines of communication between the three governments, the health department and two local hospitals are wide open."
He told The Register that the local health department had been working since the first case appeared on the West Coast, to introduce plans and measures in the county and cities.
Mayor Fraley encouraged citizens to inform themselves, to be educated on what to do and do those things instead of being fearful.
And after the decision to cease instruction at Berea College was announced Tuesday, prompting the move out of all students by Saturday, Fraley said he spoke with President Lyle Roelofs who assured there are no confirmed or suspected cases at the college.
County Deputy Judge/Exec Colleen Chaney affirmed both mayors' statements assuring a coordinated effort was being made to address the issue proactively.
Chaney told The Register that while the county already has an operation pandemic plan, they have recently updated the document to include the coronavirus.
"We are in contact with both Richmond, Berea and the health department and other agencies to discuss ways in which first responders can respond should a situation arise," she said.
One of these actions, she said, includes 911 dispatch taking action asking preliminary screening questions regarding the virus prior to sending in first responders to avoid a departmental quarantine.
"We are stressing to our employees the same things that we are telling citizens," she said. "The situation is evolving, and the health department and emergency management team are handling it but there is a lot of communication with our counterparts to see what they are doing."
She stressed individuals should follow instructions of hand washing for 20 seconds or more with soap and warm water, using sanitizer with a 60% or higher alcohol level and if you are in contact with someone who has traveled or traveled themselves to self report and make a case plan.
"We want to make sure everyone knows to follow CDC guidelines and that we are monitoring the situation and are in contact with state emergency management and governor's office daily," she said.
Madison County Detention Center
Jailer Steve Tussey of the Madison County Detention Center said he spoke with Governor Andy Beshear's office on Wednesday, as well as the Department of Corrections, to discuss the guidelines and response to COVID-19 in jail facilities.
And although many jails have ceased visitation privileges to lessen the likelihood of spreading any illness, Jailer Tussey says this is not an issue for MCDC as they rely mostly on electronic, video visitation so no one is ever face to face.
"With the electronic visitation, we have essentially eliminated on site visiting, and even if there is a visitor who comes in, they will still do a video chat in the lobby. So it still is not one-on-one, or personal, it is a video visit, so this is not really a concern for us," he said.
One difference the jailer has implemented in response to COVID-19 is the limiting of outside groups, such as religious services and GED services, from coming in.
"I am limiting services that aren't critical to the daily mission here at the jail and we will limit it temporarily until I have reason to believe that it is safe," he said.
As of now, he said inmates that are sick would be treated through standard protocol of isolation and receiving treatment accordingly on a case-to-case basis.
"Again we are just following general guidelines and nothing in particular is different for COVID-19, it is the same as you would protect for another illness, just a little additional sanitation and personal hygiene," Tussey said. "We are obligated and going to take this seriously."
Looking towards the future, the jailer said his office had discussions of introducing measures which would take the temperature of each inmate booked in, and adding additional questions pertinent to the virus on intake questioning.
McCready Manor, Telford Terrace and Saint Andrew's Place and local hospitals
With seniors being one of the age groups found to be more susceptible for any illness, including COVID-19, the director of McCready Manor, Telford Terrace and Saint Andrew's Place in the county have implemented restrictions and safeguards to keep their residents safe.
In a press release sent out on Monday, facility officials said they will first begin to limit visitors and require entrance from the front door only with everyone answering questions and taking temperatures if necessary.
They encourage loved ones to limit their visits, and send cards or make a phone call instead.
The groups will also cancel outside entertainment and resident outings, claiming it best for everyone to limit their outside activities to populated events.
It is said that if a resident is sick they will be asked to remain in their room and meals will be brought to them, and couples are to follow suit.
"Last, as things change we will keep you updated and ask that you keep McCready Manor in your prayers," the release says.
Baptist Health Richmond is also closely monitoring the evolving coronavirus (COVID-19). In an abundance of caution, the hospital has activated the appropriate infection control protocols until further notice to protect patients, as well as staff and community.
They encourage visitors to remember to wash your hands with soap and water when entering and leaving patient rooms. Those with fever, runny nose, body aches, or respiratory symptoms should not visit.
"The well-being and safety of our patients and the community is always our top priority," said Greg D. Gerard, president of Baptist Health Richmond. "Our caregivers are highly trained and ready to handle any kind of emergency. We respectfully ask that visitors adhere to these temporary restrictions so that we can maintain the safest possible environment for everyone."
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The Kentucky Department for Public Health has made available a new 24/7 COVID-19 hotline for the public: 1-800-722-5725.
The Kentucky Department for Public Health's COVID-19 website has been improved and tracks state-specific information on cases in Kentucky and other updates (www.kycovid19.ky.gov). The United States Center for Disease Control's COVID-19 website remains a great source of information on the virus as well (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html).
Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter at @TaylorSixRR.