The first Hopkins County test for the coronavirus apparently occurred Tuesday. And five days after saying he didn’t expect to declare a COVID-19 emergency, the Hopkins County Judge-Executive did exactly that.
“It is spreading more across the state,” Jack Whitfield Jr. said after making the declaration at Tuesday’s Fiscal Court meeting.
As of Tuesday night, Hopkins County still had no confirmed COVID-19 cases. But a map posted by the Kentucky Health Cabinet during the afternoon showed tests in the county had been conducted. The exact number has not been confirmed.
A positive test for coronavirus was confirmed Tuesday afternoon in Lyon County. It’s the first such case in western Kentucky.
Whitfield explained his emergency declaration is based on finances as well as public health.
“There probably will be some costs associated, so we want to be ready to apply for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funding,” Whitfield said.
The declaration followed a similar one Monday by Madisonville Mayor Kevin Cotton. In both cases, emergency status allows the government more flexibility to act.
“If there are bills that come in that we need to pay, for example with food banks or something like that, then I can do that under the state of emergency,” Whitfield said. He would not have to convene the Fiscal Court for a special meeting in those situations.
The magistrates voted unanimously to transfer $50,000 from reserve funds to the Community Development Program to cover possible COVID-19 expenses.
“We don’t know what’s going to be needed in the next week or two,” magistrate Charlie Beshears said. “The Health Department could need money. Emergency Management could need money. In reality, it’s probably not big enough.”
County Treasurer Tracy Browning said afterward that she’s not sure if it’s too big or too small.
“We might not have to do any,” Browning said. But she said the money will be available if food banks or other agencies need it.
Browning should be busy right now preparing a proposed Hopkins County budget. But COVID-19 has affected that, too.
“I don’t know how to predict what’s going to happen to our totals,” Browning said. “You’ve got people not working. They’re going to be drawing unemployment, so the occupational tax is going to go down. Profits are going to go down.”
The next scheduled Fiscal Court Budget Committee meeting is Tuesday, March 31.
Later in the day, the Sheriff’s Office announced it would close to “foot traffic” and stop “non-essential services” for the time being. Regular law enforcement will continue. Other county agencies have also announced limited in-person interactions as a result of COVID-19. For a complete list, go to The Messenger’s Facebook page.
In other news Tuesday from Hopkins County Fiscal Court:
• Whitfield announced that the Circuit Court Clerk’s office in the Judicial Center will close until further notice as a COVID-19 precaution. The County Clerk’s office has closed as well. Marriage licenses are available by appointment.
• Clerk Keenan Cloern said it’s not clear if the postponement of the Kentucky primary until late June will affect other election-year deadlines. She hopes to have a new calendar from the commonwealth by the end of the week.
• Sheriff Matt Sanderson said that Hopkins County property tax collection is 97% complete.
• Jailer Mike Lewis said the twice-a-year state inspection of the county jail will proceed Thursday, even though the jail remains under lockdown.