Several government organizations in Whitley County, Corbin and Williamsburg are closing their doors to the public, and one of the few not closing its doors is encouraging people not to go to their offices in person unless they absolutely have to.
Friday morning, several Whitley County leaders took part in a press conference at Corbin City Hall, which was broadcast live on Facebook, to announce what is being done throughout the community regarding the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 response that has shut much of the country, if not the world, from normal, every day business.
“We made a decision to bring community leaders here to city hall today – everybody is keeping their distance from each other – just to let you all know the most current and updated information that we have got,” Corbin Mayor Suzie Razmus said at the start of the event Friday.
“I just want my fellow Corbinites and the Tri-County area to please understand that we are all doing the best we can. You don’t need to worry. We will all get through this together.”
As of 4 p.m. Friday, Corbin City Hall will close to the public.
Playgrounds are still open for now, but this could change if new orders are issued from the governor.
Limited “physician-driven” testing
Baptist Health Corbin President Anthony Powers noted that the hospital has set up a “physician-driven” testing center near the hospital at The Corbin Center.
“What I mean by physician-driven that means you can’t show up and say, ‘I want to be tested.’ You have to have seen a provider and have a physician order to be able to get tested. Why are we doing that? Why are we just not testing everyone? There is a very, very limited number of tests currently,” Powers said.
“At some point, we hope to be able to open that up to everyone, but right now, we need to conserve those tests for the most vulnerable population, and the people that may have been directly infected or come in contact with someone that has COVID-19.”
The testing center has been able to do testing in the car, which is most effective for people not sick enough to need hospitalization, he said.
“This keeps them from exposing who knows how many people in the emergency department and lobbies as they are coming in an out of the hospital,” Powers said.
About 45 people have been tested there so far.
Powers added that our local physicians have done a great job with this, and similar testing centers in other areas had to be shut down because 200-300 people showed up at those centers.
Orders from other independently licensed medical providers will also be accepted in addition to orders from doctors.
“The hospital is prepared. We are nervous like everyone else, but we do have protocols in place. We practice this all the time. It is here,” Powers said.
Powers noted that patient visitation policies have changed three times over the past two weeks.
“We are discouraging visitation across the board,” Powers said.
The number of visitors is being limited to one per patient.
The hospital is in the process of getting iPads and other devices to assist patients in communicating with friends and relatives, especially people, who don’t already have access to those devices, such as some elderly patients.
Hospital officials are also using supplies judiciously so it won’t have a shortage later one, Powers added.
The Whitley County Health Department is currently closed to the general public, but is still seeing some patients by appointment only.
Testing for COVID-19 is not being done at the health department.
“You do not need to be tested for COVID-19 unless you have symptoms,” Public Health Director Marcy Rein noted.
The health department continues to provide essential clinic services, such as STD testing and treatment, and emergency immunizations like tetanus shots.
The needle exchange is remaining open, but will operate by drive through.
The health department is still doing first time Women, Infant and Children (WIC) certifications. Most of the WIC services can be done over the phone.
She added that with the exceptions of true emergencies, such as a heart attack, people should not show up at their health care provider’s office or the hospital without calling first.
“We won’t take walk-ins. We need you to call first,” she added about the health department.
Rein encouraged people to engage in safe practices, such as social distancing or staying at least six feet away from other people, coughing into your sleeve, and staying home when you are sick.
“I am impressed everyday when I see neighbors taking care of neighbors, and looking out for each other,” she added.
For health department services, call the Williamsburg office at (606) 549-3380, and the Corbin office at (606) 528-5613.
For questions about COVID-19 visit kycovid19.ky.gov, or call the public hotline at 1-800-722-5725.
Judicial center remains open
Pretty much the only government building not closing its doors to the public in the near future will be the Whitley County Judicial Center (the new courthouse in Williamsburg), and its satellite office in Corbin, but officials are encouraging people not to go to the office in person if they don’t absolutely have to.
“We are in a little different situation than a lot of the other offices right now,” noted Whitley Circuit Court Clerk Gary Barton. “Most people say they are closing. We are not.”
Barton noted that certain statutes require some things in the court system to be done in a timely manner, such as domestic violence petitions, and certain hearings, which have to be done within a set time frame.
“Emergency protective orders are one of those things we have to stay open for,” he said.
Barton said that his office has been ordered not to issue driver’s licenses. “Basically they told us to forget we even have that equipment,” Barton explained.
If your driver’s license has expired recently will soon expire and you get pulled over, you will not receive a ticket, and if you do, the ticket will get dismissed, Barton said.
“The state police, local police, everyone understands this,” he explained.
Also, driver’s license testing has been suspended until further notice, but will resume when local officials get notification from Frankfort.
“I know that is disappointing to a lot of kids, who were ready to get out and get their license,” he said.
Barton noted that police are still issuing citations, but his office isn’t setting court dates in any of those cases until late April or May and in some cases even June.
Barton said that 125 new jurors were supposed to report for jury duty last week, but that has been continued.
Barton encouraged people owing fines or having questions to call his office first before coming in.
“If you have a fine that has a timely payment on it, the judges aren’t going to issue any warrants. We have been notified to issue summons. We don’t want any additional people in jail. We have enough already and are trying to get some of them out,” he said.
The circuit clerk’s office can be reached by calling 549-2973 or 523-1771.
Local utility companies are waiving many late fees, credit card payment fees, and are discontinuing service disconnections during the crisis.
They are encouraging people to continue paying their bills on time though, if possible.
Corbin City Utilities Commission General Manager Ron Herd encouraged people to conserve water and electricity, and not flush hand wipes, paper towels, and substitutes for toilet papers as this can cause sewer back-ups.
Corbin Tourism Director Maggy Kriebel noted that the local restaurant taxes and motel taxes have been suspended until further notice.
“They can hold onto those tax dollars and potentially be able to use those to pay employees during these trying times,” she explained.
February payments due in March are no longer due.
Hotels and restaurants are still open and functioning. No restaurants in the city have closed due to coronavirus.
She and others encouraged everyone to support local businesses and restaurants.
Kriebel also encouraged people to get outside and utilize the areas natural resources, but to make sure they practice social distancing.
Corbin Superintendent Dave Cox said that school officials are trying to get laptops and other devices into the hands of students that do not already have one.
The school district is feeding about 500 people per day, and is distributing sack lunches and breakfasts from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the new elementary school, which is located on Kentucky Avenue in the old Corbin Middle School building.
Local churches are also working to help deliver meals to students too.
Food service workers are also working to send meals to students for Saturday and Sunday, Cox added.
Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison encouraged people to observe safe practices, and follow the governor’s recommendations.
“Just do those little things and it will end a lot sooner than if we challenge it,” he added.
He noted that all city facilities have canceled events, and aren’t currently taking reservations for future events.
The lobby at Williamsburg City Hall is closed although employees are still inside providing services through telephone and online, and through the drive-thru window.
The Williamsburg Tourism Center also closed its lobby to visitors effective Friday.
Corbin police and fire departments have closed their lobbies.
Corbin firefighters are not issuing burn permits right now.