Four months after the closure of school classrooms to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, Hopkins County Schools has again announced the rescheduling of high school graduation ceremonies.
The district made its announcement Wednesday morning on its Facebook page.
“Given the increasing number of new cases of COVID-19 in Kentucky, Hopkins County Health Department has recommended that we reschedule the graduation ceremonies,” the post reads. “We support this recommendation. We are sorry to make this announcement, however the health and safety of our students, staff, and community is a top priority.”
Supt. Dr. Deanna Ashby has previously said that if in-person graduations were not possible on those dates that there will be some sort of celebration on the same days.
The announcement had Facebook users in an uproar. Nearly all 78 comments by Wednesday afternoon were negative with users questioning why going back to school in a few weeks was safe, but having an in-person graduation wasn’t.
In addition to the uproar about graduations and going back to school, many citizens have differing views on the efficiency of masks or if Gov. Andy Beshear has the power to mandate the use of masks.
“Personally, I do not like the mandate, but also I do like wearing the mask,” Hopkins Judge-Executive Jack Whitfield Jr. said Wednesday morning during the weekly city-county Facebook Live update. “That’s a disconnect between, in my mind, that we should require and what’s just a good idea.”
He added that what bothers him most about the mask debate is the attitude of those who disagree with another’s views. (See Whitfield’s column on Page A5 of today’s publication.)
“Whether you believe the masks help or not, really should not affect how you respond to somebody asking you to wear one,” Whitfield said.
Many local businesses have signs posted about the mandate and employees may ask customers to wear a mask. Whitfield suggests that if you have an issue with someone or the validity of the mandate, speak to them in a calm, measured voice before you call the sheriff’s department or the local hotline set up for complaints related to the mandate.
“Even if you don’t think the Governor can do it, that business certainly can,” Whitfield said.
To report a business with multiple patrons in non-compliance with the executive order, you are asked to leave a message for the health department at 270-821-5242 ext. 258.
Whitfield, who briefed the community six feet away from Baptist Health Madisonville’s Dr. Wayne Lipson, said the hotline has received 34 calls since Monday. Those 34 calls have led the Hopkins County Health Department to send investigators to 45 businesses. Businesses who are not in compliance receive a warning first, a $50 fine second, a $75 fine third and $100 fines for each subsequent offense. Repeated violations could lead to immediate closure of the business by the health department.
The mask mandate went into effect on Friday, July 10.
The Hopkins County Health Department updates its page every weekday with the number of cases in the county.
There are 319 total cases of COVID-19 in Hopkins County. That number jumped up 10 cases in one day from Tuesday to Wednesday.
“We want to see that number just stop,” Whitfield said.
He added that 222 people have recovered, leaving 63 active cases.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what this new mask requirement does to those numbers,” Whitfield said.
Lipson said despite the uptick in recent cases, those hospitalized at Baptist Health Madisonville with COVID-19 is in the single digits. That could be because a younger local population is contracting the virus.
Whitfield and Madisonville Mayor Kevin Cotton will be joined by Dr. Ashby for next week’s briefing.
As was announced Wednesday afternoon by Beshear, there are 20,677 cases of COVID-19 in the commonwealth. The death toll sits at 645.
In other news related to the coronavirus and schedules:
• parents of students in the Hopkins County school district are asked to call the district if they have not received a phone call by the end of the day today about the upcoming school year. Parents can call 270-825-6000.
• road tests for new drivers are being scheduled. For more information, call 270-875-1017. To schedule a permit test, call 270-824-7501 ext. 1.
• the Madisonville-North Hopkins High School Maroon Band has announced the cancellation of its band camp. The band hopes to have some camp days in August, but the status is determined by the health department and the school board. The district and the Kentucky Music Educators Association should release some guidelines in the coming days.
The Dawson Springs Panther Band announced June 29 that it will not participate in marching band field shows this season and that band camp is also canceled.
• the Miss, Miss Teen and Miss Pre-Teen Hopkins County pageants have been scheduled. The pageants are open to Hopkins County residents. Entry fees are $40 per person.
The Miss Hopkins County pageant will be at 7 p.m. Aug. 11 at the Midway Hall at the Ballard Convention Center. Haylee Phillips at 270-836-0121 is the contact person for the pageant.
The Miss Teen Hopkins County pageant will be the following night at the same time and location. For more information, call Tonya Rickard at 270-339-6308.
The Miss Pre-Teen Hopkins County pageant will be at 7 p.m. Aug. 13 in the Midway building. Kathy Carver, at 270-836-6751, is the pageant contact. The registration deadline is July 30. The pageant is open to girls ages 8 through 12.
In addition, each pageant has a Facebook page with information and registration links.
• the Crowded House restaurant in Madisonville reopened Tuesday after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. Although the employee had not been at the restaurant last week and the health department cleared the business to be open, the owners closed the restaurant for deep cleaning. In a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page, owners said there was no spread of COVID-19 as employees tested negative.