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City officials discuss rationale behind nonpartisan vote

Following Monday’s 5-1 vote to move toward a nonpartisan former of elections for city officials, several councilmembers detailed their reasoning behind supporting the measure.

The ordinance was sponsored by Ward 3 Councilmember Adam Townsend with Ward 5 Councilmember Frank Stevenson assisting in the draft of the ordinance.

Ward 4 Councilmember Amy Cruz was the lone vote against the ordinance.

The offices for the mayor and city council will be nonpartisan beginning with the upcoming election in 2022. Wards will still be kept in this ordinance and each ward will receive equal representation remaining at one person per ward on the council just now with no party affiliation.

If more than two people file for one seat then a primary will be had, according to Townsend.

“If three candidates file prior to the primary election then two of those would be elected to go to the General Election, and nobody would be able to file after the primary was done,” Townsend said. “You would know in January if you are going to have a primary or go straight to the General Election.”

Stevenson said there has hardly ever been a time where more than two people have filed for the same office.

“Historically, there have been hardly any cases where there have been more than two people and in that case, they would go straight to the general ballot,” he said. “If there are more than two that file for a particular ward office, then a nonpartisan primary is still held and the ward still retains its capacity to have a voice on who goes to the General Election.”

Cruz explained her reasoning for voting against the ordinance by saying she believes that everyone leans either towards the Republican or Democrat side of the political spectrum.

“I think everyone of us are who we are based on that,” she said. “I’m a moderate Republican but we all have things in how we were raised, where we attend church or even if we do attend church, all that plays into it. I think at the local level we are not making big mass decisions ... but I just think some people come in to vote for the party at elections.”

There was one public comment from Pat Vincent, who serves as local chair of the Democratic Party.

Vincent said the issue of nonpartisan city elections had come before the council on “many different occasions” and in different terms.

“Most of you are new to this session,” she said. “I didn’t know if you all are aware of the cost for putting on an election.”

Vincent said the cost of a nonpartisan election would increase because of the need to print a nonpartisan ballot in the precincts of the city.

However, Townsend said funding would not increase because the candidates are voted on citywide ballots during the General Election anyway.

Townsend said during his talks with Hopkins County Clerk Keenan Cloern about the possibility of nonpartisan elections, the topic of a cost increase was never discussed as a possibility or a concern.

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Hospital preparing for continued surge of patients

Kristy Quinn

Baptist Health Deaconess officials remain worried about how the winter months will impact patient numbers as the COVID-19 surge continues and the flu and holiday travel seasons approach.

Kristy Quinn, marketing and public relations director, said the hospital has seen more positive tests and had more COVID-19 inpatients in the past few weeks than any prior time during the pandemic.

“These patients were generally quite healthy prior to COVID, they are younger, and they are much sicker,” she said. “They are also staying in the hospital longer.”

She said the hospital has seen a plateau of cases and hopes that means a decline will soon occur, but they are not sure when a new variant could emerge.

“If we do not continue to increase vaccinations and masking when indoors, we could continue to see the spread of the delta variant,” said Quinn.

Quinn said the hospital had 47 COVID-19 patients on Tuesday, with 41 unvaccinated and six vaccinated. There were 15 COVID-19 patients in the Critical Care Unit, with 13 unvaccinated and two vaccinated. COVID-19 patients make up 38% of the hospital’s total patient population.

She said they are encouraged by the news that Pfizer submitted data to get emergency use authorization for children 5 to 11 years old, which could help protect another large group of people from contracting COVID. Pfizer submitted for FDA approval on Monday.

“The other ways we have worked to protect ourselves, such as masking and hand hygiene, are still important for COVID as well as other illnesses we generally see this time of year,” said Quinn.

Although Baptist Health has not seen a shortage of monoclonal antibody treatments, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced on Monday that Kentucky would receive 4,960 antibody treatments for the week even though hospitals administered over 5,000 treatments last week.

“We will have at least one monoclonal antibody treatment provider in each of our Area Development Districts, but there’s not going to be enough anywhere,” said Beshear in a news release. “If you’re putting off a vaccine to have an infusion, let me tell you, an infusion is much more invasive, and there are not going to be enough of those anywhere in the commonwealth. Get that vaccine.”

Quinn said while it is not affecting the hospital yet, the fewer people who receive the interventional treatment could result in higher hospitalization rates, which could lead to concerns of staffing and bed capacity.

“The hospitalizations are a vicious cycle that impacts every person in the community and many other services we provide,” she said.

The hospital has not had to deal with staffing shortages, though staffing does ebb and flow with the hospital census, she said. So far, the hospital has been able to work through staff quarantines and those who have to stay home with children in quarantine.

“That makes staffing more difficult and those that were scheduled to be off many times pick up those shifts,” said Quinn. “We do have staffing agency support as well in some areas to help us get through this surge.”

School district, police taking steps to address social media vandalism challenge

The TikTok “devious licks” challenge that has negatively impacted schools from California to Virginia has made its way to Hopkins County.

Hopkins County Schools Superintendent Amy Smith sent out a letter to parents on Monday addressing the issue and asking for their help to stop the vandalism.

“The Devious Lick challenge on the social media app TikTok has encouraged students to vandalize schools and school property,” Smith said in the letter. “In Hopkins County Schools, we have had soap dispensers torn from restroom walls, soap removed from dispensers, and various items, including library books, thrown in toilets.”

Lori Harrison, the school’s community and communications engagement specialist, said one elementary and six secondary schools have been targets of the challenge. They estimate the total damage cost is around $5,000, but that figure does not include labor costs to repair.

Assistant Superintendent Marty Cline said the damage is widespread across multiple buildings, though the bathrooms seem the be the main targets for the challenge. He said bathroom stall doors have been broken, hanging sanitizer and masks have been removed, and whole rolls of toilet paper have been flushed down a toilet.

“Things we have out often that are easy to access, a lot of time have been part of this problem,” said Cline.

School officials considered the acts to be vandalism and theft, which goes against the school district’s Code of Conduct, he said. Criminal charges could also be filed against anyone who participates in the challenge, and restitution for the property damaged would be sought.

“Restitution would be expected to be paid, and that is a precedent that has been established with vandalism in the past in our school district, as well as charges — if applicable — will be filed,” said Cline.

He said the schools are working with their school resource officer to assess the situations and identify potential charges within the law.

Hopkins County Sheriff Matt Sanderson said one of his school resource officers has already had to deal with the TikTok challenge and has charged a few children with damage resulting from the challenge.

“He said since that has happened, they haven’t had any more issues,” said Sanderson.

Madisonville Police Chief Steve Bryan said his officers are also working closely with the faculty and staff. In the past, criminal charges have been brought against students depending on the severity of the crime.

“I hope that young people will realize that just because you see something that becomes a trend on social media, does not mean it is a good idea and does result in criminal charges and is something you will have to deal with for the rest of your life,” he said. “It is just not worth it.”

Bryan encourages students to make good decisions and not let other people talk them into doing something that could lead to trouble.

Sanderson is encouraging parents to talk with their children about this issue and explain that they can be charged with a criminal matter if they damage school property.

“Parents need to make sure they are monitoring their kid’s social media activity for sure — and to the kids, they need to understand that they will be held responsible for the actions they take,” he said.

Lewis: Zero COVID-19 cases among county's jail inmates

At Tuesday’s Hopkins County Fiscal Court Meeting, Hopkins County Jailer Mike Lewis said the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the jail inmate population has proven to be successful.

The jail went on lockdown on Aug. 25 following an inmate testing positive for the virus. The suspension included visitation, community service programs, in-house programs and volunteer services.

“As of today, we have zero positive inmates and zero quarantined due to contact,” said Lewis. “We are going to stay on lockdown continuing through this week and next week. After that, we will be working to open up slowly including letting fully vaccinated workers go back to work.”

Lewis said the Hopkins County Health Department will be coming out to the jail today to administer more vaccines. He said that the exact number of vaccinated inmates changes quickly since some are let out of the jail while new arrests are made.

“We’ve done several rounds of vaccinations,” said Lewis, adding that as of Tuesday, there were 354 inmates in the jail.

Lewis credited his staff for their work through the pandemic and said that his staff currently has four out now due to COVID-19.

“We are working around that as well,” he said.

The lockdown at the jail was originally slated to end on Sept. 17, but a decision was made on Sept. 16 to keep it in place until Oct. 1.