The coronavirus claimed a second life in Hopkins County Monday.
Health Director Denise Beach said the latest victim is an adult with “comorbid conditions,” as the first COVID-19 victim was. But Gov. Andy Beshear did not mention the death in his late-afternoon briefing. The official state death toll was 11 Monday night.
Judge-Executive Jack Whitfield Jr. revealed Saturday that the first victim, a 77-year-old man, and several coronavirus patients had attended the same church prayer meeting.
“We have to remain intelligent and wise,” Whitfield said during a Facebook Live briefing. He then apologized Monday for any impression that he was attacking churches.
The number of confirmed cases countywide jumped from three to 10 on Saturday, then at least 11 Sunday. The updated total Monday night was 17, based in part on results from commercial labs.
“This is now a community spread virus,” Beach first declared Saturday. Among other things, that means no more information will be released on the number of tests of potential patients.
“We will now just be contacting positive COVID patients,” Beach said during a Monday briefing. She estimated the 17 confirmed patients have hundreds of “contacts,” which are defined as people directly within six feet of a patient for at least 30 minutes.
Mayor Kevin Cotton also announced Monday that the City Park golf course would close at day’s end. For 91-year-old Bill Sullivan, the news didn’t make any sense.
“I’m out in the fresh air, and I’m by myself,” Sullivan said as the rest of his foursome arrived for an afternoon round. “I’m not talking to anybody, and I need the exercise. I’m still walking.”
But Sullivan is in a prime group that Cotton is trying to protect. The Centers for Disease Control website says “older adults” are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
“I know you’re mad,” Cotton said in general terms Saturday. “I know the community is upset. But I would rather have you upset with me as a leader... for trying to save the community than being upset because your family member is the one who is a fatality.”
Cotton closed Madisonville’s skate park hours after that comment. The mayor wants parents to know where their children are.
“Don’t let them hang out at the Lowe’s parking lot,” Cotton said Monday. “Don’t let them hang out at the Kangaroo parking lot in Nortonville.”
He didn’t make up that last one from thin air. Sheriff Matt Sanderson confirmed his deputies were called to the Circle K in Nortonville Friday night about young people gathering in the parking lot.
“Our role has changed a little bit,” Sanderson said he told his deputies Monday, “from a criminal nature to a public health kind of role.”
Cotton said people who see potentially unsafe groups should call their city hall or the county government office, instead of Central Dispatch.
As coronavirus turns the U.S. into a nation of germophobes, Whitfield even suggested Monday that people take more showers.
“Shower after you go to the grocery store. It might be a good idea,” Whitfield told WFMW Radio’s “Western Kentucky Live.”
But Roy Qualls, one of Sullivan’s golf partners Monday, understands why the restrictions are necessary.
“God’s still in control. He’s in charge, and we’ll get through it,” Qualls said.
In other new developments related to COVID-19:
• the Hopkins County Madisonville Library Board met by video conference and decided to leave a reopening date open-ended until at least its next meeting Thursday, April 16. “It’s not going to get better,” board member Tara Edwards said.
• Nortonville reduced the hours for staffing City Hall. A clerk is now on duty Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon. The April City Council meeting has been canceled.
• the Kentucky Department of Public Health reported Hopkins County had no new flu reports in the week of March 15-21. It had 131 the week before.
• the old Hopkins County Courthouse was included in Beshear’s daily briefing, with video of bells ringing at 10 a.m.