The local death count from the coronavirus increased Wednesday, and local leaders explained how the Judicial Center will reopen next week for driver’s licenses and court cases.
“The word of the day is ‘patient,’ ” Chief Circuit Judge Susan McClure said during a Facebook Live briefing.
That was true in several ways. Another patient at Ridgewood Terrace Nursing Home died from COVID-19 Tuesday. Gov. Andy Beshear described the victim Wednesday afternoon as a 78-year-old man, as the death toll statewide reached 400.
This makes 24 deaths at Ridgewood Terrace out of 29 countywide. The Kentucky Cabinet for Family and Health Services reports 74 of the 110 residents there developed the virus, along with 22 staff members. The confirmed numbers have stabilized during May.
The Hopkins County Health Department showed no change Wednesday in other counts, with 219 confirmed cases and 164 recovered patients. A call to Ridgewood Terrace asking how many patients have recovered there was not returned.
Drivers patiently waiting to get their licenses renewed will be able to do it next week. But they need to make an appointment by calling Circuit Court Clerk Tanya Bowman’s office.
“We will take absolutely no walk-ins,” she said.
Her office in the Judicial Center will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. beginning Monday for renewals, along with lost licenses, commercial licenses, address changes and transfers.
“We have a schedule that we’re making,” Bowman said, “and that schedule will be given to the security staff every morning. If your name is not on the schedule, they will not allow you inside the facility.”
Beshear extended the deadlines for driver’s licenses by 90 days when the pandemic first reached Kentucky in March. Yet Bowman’s office has been deluged with calls from people having problems.
Bowman said because of an expired license, one resident “for one reason or another wasn’t able to get their stimulus check cashed. Our heart has gone out to you.”
The restart of driving permit tests remains up in the air. Bowman said the current room in the Judicial Center now is too small for social distancing, so officials are looking for a new regional site.
The Judicial Center still may be filled Monday, as suspects have delayed hearings in District Court. Judge David Massamore said in early May that he had a docket of 105 pending cases.
McClure said those cases will be divided into morning and afternoon sessions. The gallery will have marked spots for seating, with only attorneys, witnesses and parties to the case allowed to attend. Massamore has said he will permit media members as well.
“Most, if not all, hearings in circuit court or family court will be held remotely,” McClure added. If a party to a case tests positive for COVID-19, the case automatically will become remote.
Bowman said in early May that all visitors to the Judicial Center would be required to wear masks. McClure adjusted that Wednesday to “facial covering.”
“It can also be a scarf or a bandanna, or even a T-shirt that you pull up over your regular clothing,” the judge said. “Just as long as it covers both your nose and your mouth.”
Purses and enclosed baggage will be barred, McClure said. That rule was imposed by the Kentucky Supreme Court, which is also limiting court offices to 50% staffing.
In other developments Wednesday related to COVID-19:
• a Johns Hopkins University database showed 13.2% of Hopkins County’s coronavirus patients have died. Jefferson County has 10 times as many cases, but only 6.4% of them have been fatal.
• Madisonville Mayor Kevin Cotton said 9,000 protective masks have arrived from the sister city of Dongying, China. They arrived about two weeks later than expected. The delay was blamed weeks ago on Chinese customs rules.
• a “COVID-19 Closing and Response Reevaluation” was put on the agenda for today’s meeting of the Hopkins County-Madisonville Public Library Board. The board will meet by video conference.
• Hopkins County Judge-Executive Jack Whitfield Jr. said with the virus count steady, he and Cotton will reduce Facebook Live briefings to once a week. Unless there’s breaking news, the next briefing will occur next Wednesday.