By: Lisa Bicknell
Estill County Judge-executive Donnie Watson provided a rundown of the latest Estill County coronavirus numbers during Monday night’s fiscal court meeting. Watson explained that the virus is at a critical point, as he urged county residents to take it very seriously. Wear masks, wash hands frequently, and practice good hygiene, he reminded.
Dr. Steven Stack, Ky. Public Health Commissioner, also had plenty to say about COVID-19.
“We are in a pickle,” he told the fiscal court. He urged the county judge and fiscal court’s help in promoting the wearing of masks.
“People listen to people they can relate to,” he said.
Stack said that although the coronavirus kills about one percent of the people who contract the virus, many of those are over 65, or with underlying conditions.
He went on to explain that many Kentuckians have underlying conditions. Fourteen percent are diabetic, and tobacco use is highest in Kentucky, etc.
“We are lucky we have done as well as we have,” said Stack.
He urged people not to let a personal belief or their identity keep them from wearing masks.
Stack explained that aside from the illness itself, there is great risk of overburdening the state’s health care system. He said if 5 percent of one million people with the virus end up hospitalized, that is 50,000 people in the hospital for the virus, not counting all the other reasons people need to be in the hospital.
“Hospitals are filling up,” he said, noting that many are pausing important elective surgeries such as heart surgeries. Fifteen percent of beds in the state are occupied by COVID, and many hospitals ran close to capacity before the virus.
“The reality is…if they don’t believe what I say, the virus will make the point,” said Stack, noting that the number of cases has tripled in the last two months, and quadrupled since last July.
He sounded hopeful that upcoming vaccines will “get us to a better place,” but until then, the safest thing to do is wear a mask.
*In other business, the fiscal court heard a second reading of budget amendment #1, acknowledging the receipt of federal funds.
*The court gave approval to advertise for bids for a new roof on the jail.
*Several CSEPP contracts were approved.
*The court gave permission to advertise for a partial refurbish of the Chestnut Stand Tower Site, the oldest tower site in the county. Ronnie Riddell, CSEPP director, said the transformer will be taken from the pole and put on the ground, which will help but not eliminate lightning strikes.
*The court approved a contribution of $1,400 to take part in a broadband study.
*A resolution was read affirming Woods Cemetery Road as a county road.
*Kentucky State Representative Elect for the 91st District Bill Wesley asked the fiscal court to provide him with a list of concerns to start working on. He said he looks forward to serving the district, the largest in the state.
*The court heard from department heads. Riddell, with CSEPP, said that the county has their own weather station, where wind speeds and other weather data can be collected. For example, at the tower at the Senior Citizen building site, wind gusts of 48.5 miles an hour were recorded on Sunday.
Derrick Muncie, chief of the Estill County Fire Department, said that runs are up considerably already this year. Last year, there were 331 runs as of Nov. 16, 2019. This year, as of Nov. 16, there have been 370 runs.
Jimmy Wise, ambulance director, said it has been a “unique year” to say the least. Typically, the ambulance service makes 4,200 to 4,300 runs a year, but this year, in March and April, they didn’t receive many calls. However, he said calls are picking up. Wise reported some “remarkable runs and saves,” and also some bad runs. He said they see a lot of the drug epidemic on a daily basis, one day responding to five or six overdoses. Wise said, “we are in favor of” the syringe exchange, and that when he and his staff come in contact with used needles, it is a relief to them to know they have not been used as much.
Wise also reported that to date, none of the 40 or so employees of the Estill County Ambulance Service have tested positive for COVID-19, despite having been in contact with it a lot. He said the ambulance trucks are cleaned thoroughly, and they are “burning through the PPE.”
*The court also heard from the building and surplus property committees. Gerry Flannery has been helping with mowing and weed-eating at the animal shelter. He reported that the BB&T building has a bad place in the roof, and one heating and cooling unit is bad.
Mike Abney reported that he and Paul Tipton have been making a list of surplus property. The court agreed to check on listing the items with gov.deals, a website that the judge said has 85,000 bidders. Watson explained that the county gets the full amount of whatever is paid for the items, but the buyer has to pay a 12.5 percent fee.
*In other considerations, Zena Melton was hired part-time to help at the animal shelter.
The next meeting of the Estill County Fiscal Court is scheduled for December 21 at 5 p.m.