Tuesday morning, local officials gathered in the Pike County courtroom for a joint county press conference, in which Pike County Judge-Executive Ray Jones announced that Pike County, after Tuesday, will be under a state of emergency. Upon Jones’ executive order, several of Pike County’s elected officials and officials took to the podium to discuss how the recent announcements will effecting day-to-day operations.
On the heels of announcements by President Donald Trump and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear declaring a national and state emergency due to the concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, Pike County joined more than 40 other counties within the Commonwealth to declare a state of emergency.
According to Jones, the county has not had anyone test positive for the virus, but there will be measures put in place to ensure it helps contain a possible development of, or possible spread of the virus. Jones said the executive order will take in effect Wednesday, March 18 and will be as follows:
• The Pike County courthouse will be closed to the public, employees will continue to work regular hours while using a designated entrance until further notice. The Phelps and Belfry courthouses will also remain closed until further notice. Individuals in need of an emergency protective order or in need of filling criminal charges through the Pike County Attorney’s Office may contact their office at (606) 432-6250, or they can contact the EPO’s office at (606) 432-9794.
• All Senior Citizen Centers will be closed, but will continue to provide home deliveries and pickup services.
• All Pike County Community Centers will be closed until further notice. Individuals who have paid a deposit can get a full refund.
• The Pike County Animal Shelter is closed to the public until further notice. However the shelter will be taking emergency calls.
• All Pike County public libraries will be closed until further notice. Public library employees shall report to work as directed by library management.
• Pike County government will not be allowing any vacation time outside the state of Kentucky. All county employees who have traveled outside of the state, where the COVID-19 virus exists, will be ordered to be quarantined for 14 days before returning to work. These employees will be required to use any accord sick or vacation time for the period of quarantine.
• All Pike County employees and residents are discouraged from traveling to any county, including the state of Kentucky, where known cases of COVID-19 exist.
• All law enforcement agencies, including the Pike County sherrif’s office, are directed to enforce Gov. Beshear’s executive orders, as well as the Pike County Judge-Executive Ray Jones’.
• All public gymnasiums and fitness centers, churches or other religious groups, as well as other public organizations are “strongly” encouraged to adhere to President Donald Trump’s recommendations that all public gatherings be limited to no more than 10 people.
• All county residents are urged to immediately register for the RAVE emergency alert system. The alert system can be done by two, individuals can go to the Pike County Emergency Management FaceBook page, near the top of the page, under the Emergency Management’s header, there is a blue button, which reads Use App. Once hit, it will walk individuals through the registration process. The other way to register is to visit the website www.smart911.com.
“Let me be clear, if the members of the general public do not adhere to the CDC and President Trump’s recommendations for social distancing, further appropriate orders will be issued,” Jones said. “It is my understanding that Gov. Beshear will be taking other action with regard to theaters and other public facilities. We are working hand-in-hand as you can see, we have most of the elected officials from Pike County and we are working hand-in-hand with our brothers in the city government, and also at the state level.
Pikeville Mayor Jimmy Carter
“I just want the citizens of Pikeville know that we’ve been working on a contingency plan for over two weeks now,” Carter said. “Our department heads came back with some great recommendations and a great plan, we didn’t know if we were going to have to use it, but we have to use it.”
According to Carter, starting Friday, March 17, Pikeville City Hall will be closed to the public. City employees will be working from home. When an individual calls into City Hall, that call will be transmitted back to a department head’s cell phone.
“These are steps that we think is necessary to keep it to a minimum. To keep people away and if we don’t have anything like the judge says, if we do not have any cases we’ve done our job,” Carter said. “A lot of people are going to say, ‘Well you’ve wasted a lot of money, wasted a lot of time,” but we saved a lot of lives and that’s the way I feel about it at this point.”
The city’s EMTs, police department and fire departments will be running regular shifts, as there will be no change. Carter also added that UMG’s services for the city will continue as normal.
There is currently a scheduled Pikeville City Commission meeting set for Monday, March 23, but the city is working through some issues and will probably conduct the meeting via Facebook live. Carter said the commission will take questions if the people watching have any.
“I want to thank the city and the citizens of Pikeville,” Carter said. “And all the city employees for being very patient with us and just continue to be patient. We’re probably going to have some other things that come up throughout the next week or two, but we just have to keep moving forward.”
Arguably the biggest news to come from Carter was the announcement that the annual Hillbilly Days festival will be cancelled for this April. Carter added that there is a possibility of postponing the festival until the fall, but if not, it will be the first time since HBD began in 1977 that festival will not take place.
Coal Run Mayor Andrew Scott
According to Scott, “a whole big team” has been working on this together. Though not ideal, Scott said the county leaders all felt it was important, adding that the city of Coal Run would also be taking similar measures as both the city and county.
“What will happen in the days to come, I don’t know,” Scott said. “But, I can tell you, I want everyone not to panic. You’ve got a great team at the health department. You’ve got a lot of dedicated professionals and I think it’s important to stress that we don’t have a case here in Pike County, Coal Run or Elkhorn City.”
Scott added that there may be a case occur in the coming days or weeks, but that it’s no reason to panic, as contingency plans are in place. Scott also urged residents to practice social distancing and good hygiene.
“I want to commend the Judge and the City of Pikeville for doing this,” Scott said. “Because we can’t let this get out of control like it has in other parts of the world.”
Elkhorn City Mayor Mike Taylor
Taylor said before coming to Pikeville for Tuesday’s joint press conference, the city commission closed city hall and will remain closed. Adding, that he has two workers currently delivering to elderly people.
“We don’t want them to get out in no way,” Taylor said. “That’s what we need to stand with.”
According to Taylor, nearly 70 percent of the population in Elkhorn City is made up of elderly people, those who are among others with the highest chance of feeling the worst effects of the virus, and city residents, as well as members of the whole county need to do what they can to help insure that they stay safe.
Taylor said he has ordered employees who are conducting deliveries that if they end up “mingling” or coming in contact with others while out, then they need to return home, shower and change clothes before making their respective deliveries to the elderly.
“We got to keep this down,” Taylor said. “We have a lot of sick people in Elkhorn City, but also the county and I think these measures are a great thing because everyone is working together to keep this from spreading. We got to take every precaution we can.”
Pike County Commonwealth’s Attorney Bill Slone
Slone said his office will remain open as normal. However, Slone added that if things change they will proceed with closing down the lobby.
According to Slone, individuals that are incarcerated will continue to have their hearings, through video conferencing. But, he added that the court system is operating under a “very limited basis.”
Any individuals scheduled who aren’t incarcerated will be continued.
Pike County Sheriff Rodney Scott
Scott said the main thing is for people not to panic and remain cautious, while also echoing Taylor’s sentiments regarding taking care of the elderly.
According to Scott, beginning Wednesday, March 18, the sheriff’s office will be closed to the public. Staff will be in the office and if residents need anything then feel free to call.
If any individual needs to pay their taxes they can do so online or mail them in. Scott added that if any elderly out there needs anything, then call the office at (606) 432-6260 or 911.
Work release program changes
Jones returned to the podium to address two other issues regarding the Pike County Jail Work Release Program, which was suspended effective Wednesday, March 18, according to Jones. Regarding the other issue, Solid Waste, he added that a contingency plan is currently being put in place.
“We ask any members of the public to go to the Pike County Solid Waste Facebook page for details about how your pickup schedule will change,” Jones said. “There’s no choice but for us to make changes to the system, we don’t think it’s going to be a significant inconvenience, but without inmate labor, the schedule will have to change. There may be some hiccups and if there are problems with the revised schedule, contact the solid waste office at (606) 432-6245.”
According to Jones, individuals can still pay their bills online and hopefully by the end of the week, a drop box will be in place for those who wish to drop off their payments.
Pike County Jailer Brian Morris
According to Morris, the jail has cancelled all visitation. However, thanks to the recent implementation of video-visitation, inmates will still get to speak to their loved one during this time.
Morris said all inside activities have been suspended until further notice. He added that the recent suspension of its work release program was done to help protect the citizens, as well as insuring that the jail continues to not have any cases within its walls.
Pike County Attorney Howard Keith Hall
Hall encouraged all residents to follow the recommendations from the president, governor and Pike judge-executive. According to Hall, he wanted to touch on one topic that has yet to be discussed, which is, what happens when a individual refuses to comply.
Hall said he was issued a memo, in which, lists six different charges to tell law enforcement to charge individuals who violate rules. Hall alluded to the possibility of someone dying due to an individual failing to comply, then he or she may have to deal with consequences.
Pike County Clerk Rhonda Taylor
Taylor said the clerk’s office will remain “business as usual.” However, the office will be closed to the public. Individuals who need to make a payment can do so over the phone, by mail or can go online to www.driveky.gov.
Taylor said hopefully everything can get under control, within the county, state and country, but until then everyone should follow the necessary practices.
Pike County PVA Lonnie Osbourne
Osbourne said the PVA office will remain normal except individuals can go online or call the office, where employees can Xerox the property card and then mail it out. Individuals can also visit www.qpublic.net.
Others who spoke included Pike County Emergency Management Director Doug Tackett, who talked more in depth about the RAVE alert system while outlining CDC recommendations. Pike County Health Department Director Tammy Riley, who reiterated the latest information regarding the COVID-19 virus and steps to prevent the virus from spreading or developing. Mountain Water District General Manager Roy Sawyers said the district would also be making changes to its operations, which will include closing its office as well.
“None of us who are standing up here ever thought that we would ever be dealing with a situation like this,” Jones said. “This is unprecedented territory in the nation’s history, but like I said, we’ll get through this.
“We want to make sure we continue to protect the public and that’s why we’re here today,” Jones added.