Darren Doyle, story:
A better outlook was reported today for COVID-19 related news in Edmonson County today from the Barren River District Health Department with five new recoveries over the past three days. Total confirmed cases have somewhat plateaued in the county over the past two weeks, specifically at Genesis Health, Edmonson Center, who hasn't reported a new positive resident case in over two weeks.
Warren County's confirmed cases reached 1,000 today with 1,544 cases reported in the BRDHD. There have been a reported total of 793 recoveries throughout the district for a 51% recovery rate so far. Total deaths reported for the district are 39 for a 2.5% death rate from confirmed cases.
As of 5 p.m. May 29th, Governor Andy Beshear said there were at least 9,464 coronavirus cases in Kentucky, 283 of which were newly confirmed Friday.
“Today’s report is up, and up a fair amount, in cases. We’ll have to wait the next couple days to see whether it is just labs getting caught up from the weekend or whether it is in and of itself significant and something we’ll see moving forward,” said Gov. Beshear. “If you look at the last four days on average, it would be 158 cases per day.”
Northwestern Portion of County Falling Behind
Darren Doyle, story:
Census response rates in Edmonson County are currently behind the national and state average, according to data available on the U.S. Census Bureau's website.
As of today, the county as a whole is at 47.5% response rate, with the lowest responding tract in the Mammoth Cave/Nolin Lake area at somewhere between a 31% and 40% rate. Kentucky's rate is now 63.9%, and the National rate is 60.2%.
The results of the 2020 Census will help determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding flow into communities every year for the next decade, according to 2020Census.Gov. That funding shapes many different aspects of every community, no matter the size, no matter the location.
"Think of your morning commute: Census results influence highway planning and construction, as well as grants for buses, subways, and other public transit systems," the site states.
The response rates also affect local programs and schools, as they help determine how money is allocated for the Head Start program and for grants that support teachers and special education.
"The area in brown is part of the Update Leave operation, where Census employees are currently dropping off questionnaires at houses; this is a no-contact operation,: said Julie Travillion, the area's partnership specialist for the Census Bureau. "The next lowest area is the pink area, below 50% self response. Blue areas are best, and the darker the blue, the better the response rate."
Citizens can respond to the Census online at 2020Census.Gov and look for Respond. There are also other options which include by mail, or by calling 844-330-2020.
Nursing Home Resident Cases Still Holding
Darren Doyle, story:
Edmonson County has three more confirmed COVID-19 cases since Friday, according to the Barren River District Health Department. That brings the county's confirmed cases to a total of 59 with one new recovery for a total of 13 recoveries and 9 total deaths reported.
No deaths have been reported outside of Genesis Health, Edmonson Center and there have been no new resident cases reported there in over two weeks. They have a total of 30 reported resident-positive cases with 4 positive staff member cases.
Throughout the Barren River District, there was a total of 1,464 positive cases reported with 603 reported recoveries. There have been 27 deaths reported in the district.
KY's COVID-19 website reported 8,951 total confirmed cases statewide, which is 122 more than reported yesterday. The following businesses were allowed to open yesterday, provided they follow their specific guidelines:
Darren Doyle, story:
The seller of the property purchased by the county last year for the purpose of a future animal shelter was granted a penalty-free extension on clearing out the property by the Edmonson County Fiscal Court in a vote today.
Rollin Rountree sold the property to Edmonson County Fiscal Court in September of 2019 for the purpose of a future animal shelter and county storage. Stipulations in the purchase contract said the seller would be penalized $1000 per week for time spent at the property past the acquisition date, which is June 1, 2020. Personal property of the seller still remains at the site which includes multiple vehicles and various pieces of large equipment.
Mr. Rountree spoke to the fiscal court today and said the property where the vehicles and property were going to be moved had been too wet to do so and he simply couldn't do it in the time period since September. He said many of the items were moved over the weekend but he still needed more time and asked the court for an extension. He also said he had no intention of still being on the property now when he sold the land to the county back in September.
Judge Cannon said a penalty-free extension would neither hurt the county nor cost the county any more money as nothing yet had been put in place for the use of the property. He suggested magistrates make the motion to allow an extension through July 1st. A motion was made by Magistrate James Vincent and seconded by Magistrate Johnny Brooks with a unanimous vote yes. Mr. Rountree thanked the court for their understanding.
The majority of today's meeting was dedicated to issues with money owed to the county from The Edmonson County Tourism Commission and a former tourism employee, which can be read about here.
There were a few reports given to the court from county offices:
County Road Supervisor Greg Carroll said crews had been installing tiles on Denham Road, Alexander Creek Road, Sulphur Road, Villa Drive, Cedar Grove Church Road, and Reagan Road. He said mowing crews were in district 5 and were moving a bit slower than normal due to low manpower. He also said crews were still working on paving various roads. He said the county insurance on the recent backhoe resulted in $36K claim from the insurance company and he was currently on the hunt for a similar model that could be purchased for around that amount.
Sheriff Shane Doyle said his office was continuing to work with the Corps of Engineers for patrol around the Nolin Lake and campground areas through a yearly contract and that it was working smoothly. He also reported that up until this weekend there had been no issues with Hart County Jail accepting local prisoners during the coronavirus pandemic. He said one prisoner ran a slight fever and was taken to the hospital but even with medical clearance the jail refused to take him. He said the issue was eventually worked out but that the jail's requirements needed to be better outlined to prevent a similar situation in the future. He ended his report by discussing several new drug investigations and that one deputy that had been attending the law enforcement academy was planning on returning in July when virus restrictions are loosened.
County Clerk Kevin Alexander reported that his office had been busy throughout the virus pandemic. He said that he knew people were frustrated that certain business couldn't be handled in-person at his office, but there are only a few employees there and they can’t afford for one member of the staff to be sick. He said his office will likely be closed to foot traffic until after election, which is June 23rd. He also noted that most other county clerks where staying closed until July 1.
He reported that the state is recommending absentee voting for all voters. He stressed that there are no local races here, which usually results in a 12-15% turnout. He also noted that even though there was a presidential primary, both republicans and democrats have their candidates set. He said he wasn't a fan of the voting situation but it's what we all have to deal with, currently. He noted that several poll workers had already declined to work polls as a result of health concerns if normal polling places would've been opened. He added that people can still vote in-person at one place, which will be the Community Center, but that ballots can be requested online at GoVoteKY.com or by calling his office at 270-597-2624.
The court also voted to:
A. Approve County Clerk’s April 2020 Excess Fee Account Report, pending final audit.
B. Acknowledge EMS Week Proclamation.
C. Approve to adopt Huckleberry Lane into Edmonson County Road System, contingent upon receipt of survey and deed transfer.
D. Acknowledge Big Reedy Watershed 2019 Financial Report.
E. Acknowledge Edmonson County Conservation District 2019 Financial Report.
F. Approve to hire Rob Logsdon, full time road department employee, at $12.50 per hour, date of hire 5/18/2020.
G. Approve to advertise Backhoe Bids
H. Approve to advertise Road Material Bids for FY 20/21.
I. Approve 2020/2021 Waste Tire Grant. (Cannon noted that this was different than tire amnesty, and that this grant allows the county assistance in removing old tires from road sides and other county property).
The next fiscal court meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 8th at 9am at the Edmonson County upstairs courtroom.
Fiscal Court Votes To Terminate Former Tourism Director As County Employee Amid KSP Criminal Investigation
Darren Doyle, story and photo:
The former director for Edmonson County Tourism, Rhonda Clemmons, was terminated as a county employee today, in a vote by Edmonson County Fiscal Court as a criminal investigation led by the Kentucky State Police Drug Enforcement and Special Investigations unit is underway.
It was learned at the last fiscal court meeting that the Tourism Commission was behind $22,000 in payments to the fiscal court. An item on last meeting's agenda stated, "Approve to hold previously approved payment of $3,645.28 and future payments until $22,000 is paid in full by Tourism Board as recommended by the County Attorney." The amount of $3,645.28 has been collected by the county in room taxes.
During the last meeting, Judge Executive Wil Cannon explained the current situation with further guidance from County Treasurer Tammi Willhite. Cannon said local room and rec taxes are collected by the Judge Executive's office with all room taxes being turned over to the tourism commission. All in-county businesses that provide lodging are required to pay this quarterly tax. The tourism commission was directed by Rhonda Clemmons, under the authority of the tourism commission board, with Shaska Hines currently serving as chairman. Until today, Clemmons was a full time county employee with salary and benefits but the tourism board paid the county $8,000 per quarter for their portion of her salary. The Edmonson County Planning Commission also contributes to Clemmons' salary and benefits package for her role as secretary there.
Cannon reported at the last meeting that when the commission was asked about the past due payments, Clemmons allegedly said there was no money as a result of the coronavirus pandemic; however, Cannon also said over that time period, the county turned over more than $50,000 in room taxes over to Tourism, much of which was prior to the pandemic.
Today, Judge Cannon said that despite the money being owed to the county by Tourism, the county needed to back the Tourism Commission as much as possible and turn over the current amount to them, in order for Tourism to pay their current bills to survive.
"At this time, I feel that the fiscal court needs to back up Tourism as much as we possibly can because they are a vital part of the economic growth in Edmonson County," Cannon said.
The Judge Executive also added that the Tourism Commission had a current plan in place to get their bills paid, including what is owed to the county and he asked Edmonson County Tourism Chairman Shaska Hines and Treasurer Rene Childress speak to the fiscal court today regarding the situation.
"As Wil has already said, there is a criminal investigation going on, but without getting into all of that, basically, we have a plan on paying back the county all the money that we're finding out is owed," said Mrs. Hines. "As of right now, we owe the fiscal court $22,000 and the city of Brownsville $1800, those are the only two outstanding bills that we're aware of at this time. We plan on continuing to operate with just volunteers at this time, which is by commissioners without a director. At some point when the monies are recovered and the money starts to come back in, we plan on hiring another director."
Mrs. Hines referenced a written outlined plan that was distributed to magistrates and said the commission was bringing in a CPA to overhaul the organization's finances and monitor the books. After the meeting, Mrs. Hines gave a statement to the Edmonson Voice on behalf of the Tourism Commission.
"The board as a whole feels heartbroken. At this time, there is an investigation by the Kentucky State Police as the board has found recent forged checks and ACH (electronic) payments from the board bank account paid to personal accounts. The board has found transactions to Windstream paying an account not owned by Tourism and reimbursements and checks payable to businesses without board approval."
KSP had no information available regarding the current criminal investigation.
Cannon recommended the court continue to turn over the room tax to Tourism in order to help them continue to operate. Magistrate Edd Rich, who was part of the meeting through phone call, made the motion which was seconded by Magistrate Mark Meeks. The motion passed unanimously.
Hines also confirmed to the Edmonson Voice that Clemmons was no longer an employee of Edmonson County Tourism. Despite this, Clemmons officially still remained a county employee.
The court later went into closed session to discuss the county employment of Ms. Clemmons. Once open session reconvened, fiscal court was set to vote on agenda item "Approve to terminate Rhonda Clemmons' employment."
Judge Cannon began the open discussion with the following statement after informing the court that Ms. Clemmons' father passed away yesterday:
"The question was whether or not we need to do this another day or wait another two weeks on it, but I think I'd probably be delinquent in my duties to go another two weeks, and on the other hand, everything in me says to go another two weeks, but it is my job to protect taxpayers in the county and we can't control events outside of this, persons dying and what have you, and it might seem heartless, but my recommendation after thinking it over is to just go ahead with it."
He also opened up the floor for other motions and that the issue could possibly be tabled, but putting it off would cause the county to have to pay another round of insurance for Clemmons and place the county at risk for other record keeping issues during that time period if the court ended up terminating her employment anyway.
"As heartless as it may seem, I see that we have a duty to take care of the business we've been elected to do," he said.
Magistrate James Vincent asked if the termination would be handled by registered letter or by some other means.
Cannon said it would be certified mail as he doubted there would be further face-to-face contact with Ms. Clemmons. He said the county has previously sent certified mail to her and there has been no response. Cannon then asked for a motion.
After a brief wait, Magistrate Johnny Brooks made the motion to terminate her employment.
"I don't see that we have a choice," Brooks said in the motion. Magistrate Edd Rich seconded and all magistrates and the Judge Executive voted in favor except for Magistrate Meeks, who chose to abstain from the vote.
Ms. Clemmons did not immediately reply to messages sent today from the Edmonson Voice.
Darren Doyle, story and photos:
Fallen Edmonson County Veterans were honored today in a private ceremony in the Brownsville Courtyard at the Wiley N. Willis Veterans Memorial Wall.
Hosted by the Edmonson County DAV 32 and local DAV Auxiliary, a few veterans and their families attended today's private event to honor local veterans who were killed in the line of duty.
DAV Chapter #32 Commander Jack Hasty opened the ceremony with prayer and Adjutant and KY State Jr. Vice-Commander Mike Stoyonovich read each name of the fallen from the war memorial. An honorary wreath, donated by Madison's Flowers, was placed in front of the memorial wall just before DAV member Benny Durbin played "Taps" at the conclusion of the ceremony.
"We thank you for coming today," said Maurita Miller, DAV Auxiliary member. "We couldn't have our normal ceremony under the circumstances, but we felt it was important to have something on Memorial Day. We hope to have a full ceremony later on when there is not as much danger to the public to meet."
Mr. Hasty had similar comments.
"We will plan to have a ceremony later that will combine our Vietnam Veteran ceremony that we didn't get to hold in March. We appreciate seeing you all here today," he said.
The following names of Edmonson County soldiers killed in the line of duty were read aloud:
World War I Deaths:
Edmonson County April 6, 1917 through November 11, 1918
June 27, 1950 through January 31, 1955
August 5, 1964 through May 7, 1975
Darren Doyle, story:
Edmonson County's confirmed positive COVID-19 cases rose by two more today, according to the Barren River District Health Department. The BRDHD also reported a total of 1,399 confirmed positive virus cases in the district with 509 recoveries and 27 total deaths.
Edmonson County's total number of confirmed cases are now at 56 all-time with 12 recoveries and 9 deaths, with all deaths reported from Genesis Health, Edmonson Center.
The center reported no changes in their numbers today, which include 30 positive residents and 4 positive staff members. The nursing home facility has reported no additional positive residents in almost two weeks.
As of 5 p.m. May 22, Governor Andy Beshear said there were at least 8,426 coronavirus cases in Kentucky, 141 of which were newly confirmed Friday.
“We now think that we have not only plateaued but are in a decline on overall number of cases, especially when you look at the amount of testing that we’re doing. And that is really good news,” said Gov. Beshear. “It doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods, but it’s really good news. It’s a place that I’m happy where we’re at.”
Beshear also reported five new deaths Friday, raising the total to 391 Kentuckians lost to the virus.
Gov. Beshear announced that new guidelines are now available for fitness centers, auto racetracks and movie theaters, which all can begin operating again June 1. Auctions also can be held starting June 1. Horse shows can be held again starting June 8. Bars, gatherings with 50 or fewer people and venues that hold 50 or fewer people can reopen June 29, if they meet guidelines.
Businesses that can open today, May 22, at 33% capacity can expand to 50% capacity a month later, on June 22, if they meet the guidelines. For more information on the Healthy at Work timeline and industry requirements, click here.
Courthouse To Remain Closed, Freedom Fest Cancelled For 2020
Darren Doyle, story and photo:
Edmonson County Judge Executive Wil Cannon has announced that Edmonson County Parks will reopen to the public May 22, 2020, this includes Bee Spring Park, Chalybeate Park, and Hwy 70 Park.
Judge Cannon is reminding everyone to please practice social distancing measures and clean personal hygiene with proper handwashing while at the parks and especially when using the restroom facilities.
Basketball courts and walking trails will be open to the public in time for the Memorial Day weekend.
"The pavilions will also be available to use on a first come, first serve basis," he said. "We're asking for common sense and social distancing for all these areas."
Cannon also said that the courthouse will likely remain closed to foot traffic to the public until sometime in June; however, Tuesday's upcoming fiscal court meeting will be held there.
"Yes, it's going to be an in-person meeting available to the public but we're hoping the amount of visitors will be limited," he added. "As far as the fiscal court is concerned, we're asking only the essential members of the court and the associated county employees to attend. We can't keep anyone from attending, but we are asking anyone who comes to please follow the guidelines and spread out."
Cannon also said that this year's youth league baseball and softball seasons have been officially cancelled and as a result, there will be no Freedom Fest fireworks gathering this year.
"With the restrictions in place, we can't properly plan for a fireworks gathering this year," he said. "We won't be able to accommodate a large gathering or serve concessions like we normally would so we're simply going to have to put it off until next year."
Edmonson County High School named Emma Rose Vincent valedictorian of the 2020 senior class and Lauren Ballance the salutatorian at ECHS.
Emma Rose is the daughter of Tom and Laura Grace Vincent of Chalybeate. She has been offered a scholarship at Centre College in Danville, KY where she plans to play basketball for the Colonels. She finished high school with a 4.425 GPA.*
Lauren is the daughter of Bill and Tyra Ballance of Smiths Grove. She has been offered a scholarship at Western Kentucky University where she plans to attend in the fall. She finished high school with a 4.417 GPA.*
*Grade point averages higher than 4.0 are made possible by taking dual credit courses in high school which also grant college credit.
School Record Set For Dollar Amount
Darren Doyle, story:
Edmonson County High School has announced this year's scholarship award winners with totals that have set an all-time high for single-year scholarship amounts.
"The Class of 2020 is the highest ranked class in terms of scholarships earned in the history of Edmonson County High School," said school counselor Michael Meredith in a released statement. "The class of 2020 has earned a one-year total of over $484,100. The four-year total worth of these scholarships can be up to $ 1,807,000." Mr. Meredith is retiring at the end of this school year.
The following scholarships and their winners were announced today:
Kyrock PTO- Mia Goad
South Edmonson PTO- Lauren Ballance
Edmonson County Lions Club- Trace Brantley
Edmonson County Education Association (Teacher) Alex Shae Horn
Edmonson County Education Association (Member) Luke Meredith
Jeremy Priddy Memorial- Morgan Graham
Alex Shae Horn
Keystops LLC- Dalton Webb
Washington Meredith Lodge- Luke Meredith
Luther Franklin Alexander- Emma Rose Vincent
SKYCTC EC Student of the Year- Ben Elmore
Mills Family Scholarship- Breanna Dennison
Patton Funeral Home Scholarship- Samantha Massey
Alex Shae Horn
Emma Rose Vincent
Braeden Combs Memorial- Jacob Vincent
Alex Shae Horn
Reverend Willie and Leona Doyel Memorial- Trace Brantley
Emma Rose Vincent
Virginia Elizabeth Webb Memorial- Carlie Pierce
A.R.M Scholarship- McKayla Bradford Whitaker
Alfords Pharmacy- Katie Hogan
Class of 1980- Eli Booker
American Red Cross- Alex Shae Horn
EC Band Boosters- Macie Glass
Kentucky Coaches Association- Lauren Ballance
National Beta Club- Gabriel Lindsey
Emma Rose Vincent
Scott Skaggs Photography- Alex Shae Horn
Edmonson County Farm Bureau- Emma Rose Vincent, Trent Taylor
Bluegrass Cellular- Emma Rose Vincent
Three Corners- Tiana Scheiter
All A Classic- Luke Meredith
The following have been awarded scholarships to universities
SKYCTC- Ben Elmore
Murray State University- Katelynn Mencer
University of Kentucky- Nick Yusupov
Centre College- Emma Rose Vincent
Campbellsville University- Chance Lucas
Lindsey Wilson College- Dalton Decker
Western Kentucky University- Lauren Ballance
Western Kentucky University- Breanna Dennison
Alex Shae Horn
Western Kentucky University- Dalton Webb
The class of 2020 will go down in history as the first group of ECHS seniors to have a virtual graduation ceremony at the end of their high school careers, although a formal in-person event is scheduled for this September.
Enjoy the video presentation, produced by Edmonson County High School. From everyone at the Edmonson Voice, may God bless the class of 2020.
Six New COVID-19 Cases In Edmonson County: Governor Lays Out Schedules and Guidelines For Reopenings
Darren Doyle, story:
Six new positive COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Edmonson County since Tuesday for a total of 54 total reported cases since the coronavirus pandemic. One of those cases was confirmed to be a staff member of Genesis Health, Edmonson Center yesterday, but the positive cases are still holding firm at 30 for residents at the facility. Deaths still remained at 9 and recoveries at 12 for Edmonson County, with all deaths reported from Edmonson Center.
The Barren River District Health Department also reported a total of 1356 positive confirmed cases for the district with 478 reported recoveries and 27 reported deaths from coronavirus. BRDHD also reported the first confirmed virus death from Barren County today.
Governor Andy Beshear reported a total of 8,286 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in Kentucky today with 386 deaths (4% death rate from all cases in KY). There have been a total number of 3008 recoveries in KY from the virus, or 36% of the total confirmed cases.
Also today, Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) Secretary Eric Friedlander announced that on June 8, in-home child care programs can open. On June 15, center-based licensed child care programs can reopen to all families.
“Today is a day of really good news for many people. Child care is one of the areas we know is critical to reopening the economy. It is critical to parents and has been critical to our essential workers,” said Sec. Friedlander. “It’s always a balance between protecting ourselves and our families and going to back to being Healthy at Work.”
The Governor's office reported in a press release today that the maximum group size will be 10 children per group. Children will remain in the same groups all day and staff will be assigned to the same children each day to reduce exposure. All adults must wear a face mask while in any child care program (in-home or center-based). Children 5 or younger should not wear masks, but older children may wear masks as they are able.
The Governor also said that programs should stagger playground time, eliminate center-wide family events, eliminate field trips and use centralized drop-off/pick-up locations to eliminate unnecessary traffic to classrooms and reduce exposure.
The Governor also announced auctions could be held starting June 1. Horse shows can be held again starting on June 8. Bars, gatherings with 50 people or fewer and venues that hold 50 people or fewer can reopen June 29 if they meet guidelines.
Businesses that are opening May 22 at 33% capacity can expand to 50% capacity a month later, on June 22, if they meet the guidelines.
“Based on the numbers we are seeing right now, we think we will be responsible and that we can hit it at that time,” said Gov. Beshear. “It all depends on how good we do at being Healthy at Work.”
For more information on the Healthy at Work timeline and industry requirements, click here.
MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND INFO:
Gov. Beshear and state health officials are asking all Kentuckians to keep gatherings to 10 or fewer people.
“We’ve done a wonderful job coming together and showing our care and concern for each other in Kentucky,” said Kentucky Department of Public Health (KDPH) Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack. “The works not over, and if we take our eye off the ball, in June or July, we’ll have the very problem we’ve averted so far.”
Other guidance includes wearing masks, maintaining social distancing of six feet or more, gathering outside instead of inside, washing hands frequently and covering food and individually wrapping plates.
Edmonson County Voters Will See Drastic Changes This Cycle
Edmonson Voice Report:
The structure of the 2020 Primary Election on June 23rd for Edmonson County and for the Commonwealth of Kentucky will be unlike any other before. After the Covid-19 outbreak in early March, a decision was made by Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams to reschedule the election from May 19th to June 23rd. After much discussion among the Governor’s office, the Secretary of State’s office, the State Board of Elections, and county clerks statewide, the makeup for this particular election was established.
As a result, like clerks throughout the state, Edmonson County Clerk Kevin M. Alexander is encouraging local voters that plan to vote to do so from the comforts of their own home.
“We want people to vote, yet we want them to vote in the safest possible manner” Clerk Alexander said.
Edmonson County will only have one location available on Election Day, which will be the Edmonson County Community Center in Brownsville. The plan, according to Clerk Alexander, is to have two machines set up that day with poll workers present to facilitate the voting process.
“We will be open from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m., and social distancing will be implemented. People that choose to vote in person will need to wear masks and stand six feet apart in line. Since we will have to sanitize the voting area after each voter, we are really trying to encourage voters to vote by mail.”
Voting by mail, traditionally, has been done by calling in and requesting a ballot. That has always been a two-part process, in which you first receive an application, return the application by mail, and then receive a ballot from the Clerk’s office to mail back. For this election, that option remains in place, but the State Board of Elections is providing a new option this Primary.
Beginning this week, the State Board of Elections is mailing out postcards to all voters statewide, which include instructions on how to receive mail-in ballots. Voters will have the option of going online to www.GoVoteKY.com website and complete an online application to receive a ballot. After verifying voter registration, a ballot will be mailed. Voters then complete those ballots and mail them to the County Clerk’s office in a postage-paid envelope.
Voters who do not want to mail in their ballot will have the option of dropping off in a ballot box that will be located near the Clerk’s office at the Edmonson County Courthouse.
“With several of polling locations being in schools and fewer available poll workers, our local Board of Elections, which includes Sheriff Shane Doyle, Democratic Representative Markeeta Wood, and Republican Representative Bob Kleier, realized this change is necessary. Fortunately, this ballot has just a few federal offices being contested, but no local races” said Clerk Alexander.
Mail-in voting will have an impact on how results are tabulated on Election Day, with several machines set up at the Courthouse to scan ballots. Clerk Alexander said any ballots postmarked by June 23 but arriving later will still be counted.
“We will have a vote total on June 23, but it will not be a certified total” he said. “The county will have until June 30 to have the results certified.”
Alexander said that his office will try to accommodate any resident who is unable to vote through the mail. The County Clerk’s Office will be available for voting by appointment on the dates of June 8-June 22, during the office’s regular business hours on Monday through Friday. Those wanting to vote this way should call the Clerk’s Office at 270/597-2624 or email Clerk Alexander at firstname.lastname@example.org or Deputy Clerk Jason Alexander at email@example.com. Saturday office hours have been suspended since the Courthouse closure in mid-March.
In addition, County Clerk Alexander said that individuals wanting to be on the General Election ballot for the local elections for Brownsville City Mayor, Brownsville City Council, School Board Districts One, Three, and Five, and four positions on the Soil Conservation Board have until June 2 to turn in their paperwork.
“I know that it is odd that those wishing to file for these positions will have turn in the necessary paperwork prior to the Primary Election, but we have been advised that this deadline was set prior to the Primary being pushed back, and remains the same” said Alexander.
Currently, the only filings have been current Brownsville Mayor Jerry L. Meredith and Brownsville City Council member Greg Nugent refiling, and incumbent school board members Alexander Ulm of District One and Paul Forester of District Five.
Clerk Alexander went on to say “If someone is seeking to file for one of these positions, they can call our office or reach us by e-mail and we will find a way to get them their filing paperwork. Likewise, when their paperwork is complete, we make arrangements to receive them before that June 2 deadline.” Ballot positions will be scheduled to be drawn at a later date.
While the County Clerk’s Office handles a number of items, elections are among the forefront of all responsibilities. As a result, Clerk Alexander said that the election is one of the primary reasons he is not planning to re-open his office until the coronavirus pandemic has further subsided, which could be after this Primary Election.
“We must be able to safely have an election. In a four-person office like ours, especially given the nature of this virus, safety is of the utmost concern” he said. “We really want to be able to re-open as soon as possible, but we have to get through this election, without question.”
In closing, Clerk Alexander is hoping for safety for everyone.
“If you plan to come to the Community Center to vote in the usual manner, just know that it will likely take a bit longer and lines could become long. I know some people want to vote the way they always do, and we respect that and are making sure that option is available.”
*NOTE: Party affiliation changes made after December 31, 2019 prohibit voters from voting in this Primary Election.
Lauren Goins, Andrea Webb, Bruce Lindsey Honored
Edmonson Voice Report:
Campbellsville University’s 34th annual Excellence in Teaching Award Program Ceremony was canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, 217 teachers received the Excellence in Teaching Award from 76 districts and/or private schools in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which included those from Edmonson County.
The 2020 Excellence in Teaching Award recipients include the following: Lauren Goins, Kyrock Elementary School; Andrea Webb, Edmonson County 5-6 Center; and Bruce Lindsey, Edmonson County High School.
Goins, of Bee Spring, Ky., has taught 1st grade at Kyrock Elementary School since August 2012. She received her Bachelor’s in Elementary Education from Western Kentucky University in 2009. She earned her Master’s in Special Education from the University of the Cumberlands in 2017. She is a 2003 graduate of Grayson County High School. She is the daughter of Robin Burton of Caneyville, Ky., and Eric and Cindy Huff of Leitchfield, Ky. She is married to Kyle Goins, and they have two children, Greenlee and Brylee Goins.
Webb, of Brownsville, Ky., teaches language arts at Edmonson County 5-6- Center. She received her Bachelor’s in Elementary Education from Western Kentucky University in 2010, and her Master’s in Guidance Counseling from the University of the Cumberlands in 2017. She is a 1998 graduate of Greenwood High School in Bowling Green, Ky. She is the daughter of Sheila Johnson of Smiths Grove, Ky., and Johnnie Vincent of Bowling Green, Ky. She is married to Jason Webb, and they have three children: Dalton, Callie and Carter Webb.
Lindsey, of Caneyville, Ky., has taught agriculture at Edmonson County High School since 2001. From Western Kentucky University, he received his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in 1978 and his Rank II. He is a 1974 graduate of Caneyville High School. He has two children, Denise Stice and Matthew Lindsey.
Darren Doyle, story:
A Grayson County man has been killed as a result of a single vehicle crash according to the Edmonson County Sheriff's Office.
Local law enforcement reported that a single vehicle collision occurred around 9:12PM on Tuesday, May 19, 2020, at the intersection of KY HWY 259N and J Carroll Road. According to the Sheriff's Office, emergency personnel located a 2004 Chevrolet pickup that had exited the roadway and overturned at the intersection where they also found the driver, James W. Stinnett, (58) of Leitchfield deceased inside the vehicle.
According to a press release, the Edmonson County Sheriff's Office and the Edmonson County Coroner are in charge of the investigation. No other vehicles or persons were involved, the Sheriff's Office said.
Also assisting at the scene were the Kyrock and Brownsville fire departments, as well as Edmonson EMS, Edmonson Jaws, and both the Grayson and Butler County Sheriff's Offices.
UPDATE: 5/20/20 12:23PM: The Medical Examiner has identified the victim as Freddie A. Wells (67) of Summersville, Kentucky. Identification of the victim was confirmed by The Medical Examiner, who was assisted by Hart County Coroner Anthony Roberts. The investigation continues by Detective Courtney Milam.
Edmonson Voice Report:
The Kentucky State Police, are investigating the death of an unidentified individual in a fatal structure fire in Hart County, according to a press release from KSP Post 3 in Bowling Green.
KSP reported that they were requested at 2:18PM on Tuesday, May 19th to respond to the location of a fire in which an individual was located in a detached garage/barn that was destroyed. Troopers and detectives reportedly found an unidentified adult in the debris and the coroner pronounced the subject deceased upon removal.
The cause of death is unknown, and the body has been taken to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Louisville for an autopsy, according to troopers. KSP said the adjacent residence was unoccupied and not damaged.
The ongoing death investigation is being conducted by Detective Courtney Milam. She was assisted at the scene by KSP Post 3 and Special Operations Personnel, Hart County Sheriffs Department, Lynnwood VFW, Hart County Coroners and Hart EMS.
One Additional Death Reported Over the Weekend From Edmonson Center
Darren Doyle, story:
An additional COVID-19 virus case was confirmed in Edmonson County today from the Barren River District Health Department; however, their death total had not been updated from Edmonson Center, who reported one additional death from the facility over the weekend for a total of 10 deaths in Edmonson County, all from the center.
The center has also had no new confirmed virus cases in 8 days, a positive sign that they have possibly reached a plateau.
The new coronavirus case confirmed in the county today brought the total number to 48 positive cases with 12 recoveries reported.
For the BRDHD, the total number of cases reported was 1260, with 818 coming from Warren County. There have also been a total of 464 reported recoveries and 23 deaths.
Gov. Beshear spoke today about the next steps and latest guidance for businesses as Kentucky's economy begins reopening.
“This is a big week. There is a lot of additional activity, but we have to make sure that we do it safely,” the Governor said. “I trust in you, and you have done so well thus far that I believe we can do this safely, but it has to be done differently. Let’s make sure that again Kentucky can do this just as well as anyone else.”
The Healthy at Work website now includes guidance for barbershops, cosmetology, hair salons, tanning salons and tattoo parlors. Gov. Beshear said the state also will be expanding June 1 reopening guidance to include aquatic centers (excluding public pools), fishing tournaments, and auto/dirt track racing.
On Tuesday, the Governor said June 8 marks the projected return for museums, outdoor attractions, aquariums, libraries and distilleries. Further out, June 11 will bring back the Kentucky Horse Park, Kentucky State Park campgrounds and Otter Creek; and on June 15 some child care and limited-contact youth sports will be allowed.
As of 5 p.m. today, Gov. Beshear said there were at least 8,069 coronavirus cases in Kentucky, 164 of which were newly confirmed Tuesday. He also reported 20 new deaths Tuesday, raising the total to 366 Kentuckians lost to the virus.
Beshear also said today that Walmart is greatly expanding its testing operations in the state.
In addition to Louisville and Bardstown locations, which are currently operating, new testing sites will open Friday, May 22, in Ashland, Bowling Green, Leitchfield, London, Paducah, Pikeville, and Richmond.
The Governor previously said that in partnership with Kroger, new testing locations would open in Richmond, Mayfield, Louisville, and Hartford this week. Information on how to register at more than 70 sites throughout the Commonwealth can be found at kycovid19.ky.gov.
Edmonson Voice Report:
The Edmonson County Clerk's Office will stay closed to foot traffic a bit longer after the courthouse is reopened to the public, according to a press release from Clerk Kevin M. Alexander today.
“It is a frustrating situation for everyone” said Clerk Alexander in the release. “We enjoy being open and waiting on our citizens, definitely more than doing almost everything by telephone or mail. Most County Clerk’s offices have already given out a firm July 1st opening, but we’re going to monitor the situation weekly.”
Alexander said that since the Covid-19 outbreak in early March, the Clerk’s office has been processing renewals or vehicle registrations through mail, over the telephone, and via online renewals done by individuals through the Kentucky Department of Transportation’s website, drive.ky.gov. He also said that most transfers of title have been done through the mail, some transfers of title, along with the issuance of marriage licenses and notary public paperwork, have been performed by Deputy Clerks or Clerk Alexander via appointment by going directly to individual’s vehicles, and that will continue for now.
“Going back and forth, getting paperwork and bringing it in, typing it and returning it, it’s a lot of on-the-go” said Clerk Alexander. “Most people have been wonderful about just mailing in transfers, which has helped us tremendously. However, some situations require more help, and we’ve been trying to do that. Our telephone stays in use almost constantly, but that means we are busy.”
Clerk Alexander also clarified why his office's hours could differ from some of the other county offices during the reopening of government agencies and other offices.
“Yes, the Judge-Executive’s office opened up today (May 18) and the Sheriff did too, but those offices do not have the volume of walk-in traffic that ours does” he said. “We have the responsibility of preparing for a Primary Election on June 23rd that will be completely different than any other we’ve had, too, and with a four-person office, we are going to take as much precaution as possible to stay healthy so we can have a successful election. This isn’t out of want, but necessity.”
Alexander also said he is hopeful things will return to some sort of normal soon.
“We love waiting on our people. That’s really what our office gets to do that most of the others do not. This has really been a difficult thing for our community, our state, and our entire country. I know not just our staff, but all community officials are looking forward to brighter days ahead.”
Information on the upcoming election and the changes in procedure will be released later this week, Alexander said.
Darren Doyle, story:
Two Edmonson County Deputies killed in the line of duty were honored today at the conclusion of National Police Week, with the Edmonson County Sheriff's Office placing memorial wreaths at each deputy's grave.
Sheriff Shane Doyle said his office is proud to honor the county’s fallen deputies while remembering fallen officers all across America.
Nathaniel “Nathan” Payton Merideth was a county deputy sheriff shot and killed responding to a domestic disturbance with a listed EOW (End of Watch) recorded July 19th, 1925.
Eric Shane Stafford was a county deputy sheriff killed in a traffic collision on I-65 with a listed EOW recorded on June 26th, 1996.
“Placing these wreaths on the graves of our fallen deputies is a very sobering experience," said Sheriff Doyle. "It’s the least I can do to honor the sacrifices of these fine people."
Darren Doyle, story:
One new confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported in Edmonson County today from the Barren River District Health Department with one new reported recovery as well.
"The number of confirmed cases are going to go up because they're total numbers," said Matt Hunt, Director of BRDHD in a phone interview last night. "Those are obviously important, but we also want to stress the amount of recoveries, too."
That brings a total number of cases in Edmonson County to 47, with 12 reported recoveries and 9 total deaths. All in-county deaths have been reported from Genesis Health, Edmonson Center. Their number of cases have remained steady all week with 30 confirmed cases from residents and 3 staff members. They have reported one death this week.
Total number of cases in the district are 1,116 with 395 reported recoveries and 21 total deaths.
Across Kentucky in one week, there has been a slightly higher rate of increased recoveries than total confirmed cases. Last Friday, the Commonwealth reported 6128 total confirmed cases, which rose to 7444 today, for a 21% rate of increase over a 7-day period, but the reported recovery rate has been just higher with 562 more recoveries over the same period for a total of 2739, or a 26% percent increase.
The death rate from COVID-19 in Kentucky increased from 294 to 332 since last Friday.
To date, more than 127,000 Kentuckians have been tested for COVID-19, according to the state website.
Also A Look Into Context Behind Reporting of Numbers
Darren Doyle, story:
One more confirmed positive COVID-19 case was reported today in Edmonson County by the Barren River District Health Department which brings the total amount of cases to 46 with 11 reported recoveries. While the BRDHD's numbers showed 8 deaths in the county from the virus, Genesis Health, Edmonson Center has reported 9 total deaths from COVID-19 in their facility.
The facility reported no changes today.
"To date, Edmonson Center has had 30 residents and 3 staff members test positive for COVID-19," the center said in a statement on Wednesday. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to those impacted by COVID-19, especially the families of the nine residents that passed away. All residents in the building have been tested for COVID-19 at least twice and the staff have all been tested once. There have been no official recoveries at this time."
It is also important to understand context behind the numbers that we've provided during the coronavirus pandemic. We rely on daily numbers from the BRDHD for Edmonson County totals as well as regular updates from Edmonson Center, and both sources have been extremely cooperative in their communication with us thus far.
However, many readers will see "46 confirmed cases" in our update today and assume that means there are currently 46 active positive COVID-19 cases in Edmonson County, which is not accurate. That simply means there have been a total of 46 cases from the beginning, which also includes recoveries and deaths.
It's also important to note that out of 46 total cases reported in Edmonson County, 33 of those are within the nursing home. Obviously 33 cases are serious and the 9 deaths reported from the facility are real and the fact that the facility has been able to contain these numbers is outstanding when you see other breakouts in similar facilities that have seen much higher numbers. But if you put the facility's numbers aside, that leaves 13 total cases otherwise reported in Edmonson County and out of those 13, there have been 11 reported recoveries, leaving only two current positive cases of coronavirus reported in Edmonson County outside of Edmonson Center.
That does not count for the very real and scary possibility that others could be carrying the virus and not know they have it, so it is unfair to say there are no more than only two positive cases outside the nursing home numbers. In no way is the Edmonson Voice saying you should not be concerned with the virus or disregard social distancing, hygiene, or other necessary practices; however, it is very important to understand how these numbers are calculated and what they mean when they are reported each day.
Edmonson Voice Report:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District's Corps-managed campgrounds in Kentucky will reopen June 11th in alignment with Kentucky's Phase 2 reopening plan. Some facilities within campgrounds, such as beaches and playgrounds, may remain closed at this time in accordance with Kentucky's phased reopening plan.
Campground reservations were previously cancelled through May 31st. Additional cancellations will be made for reservations from June 1-10. Individuals with paid reservations for those dates will be contacted by email and full refunds will automatically be processed by recreation.gov with no cancellation fees. Individuals should not contact Recreation.gov nor request a refund or a cancellation fee may be charged. All previous reservations from June 11th and after are still valid. Guests with reservations starting prior to June 11th and extending past it will be contacted for an opportunity to modify their reservation.
This applies to all Corps-managed campgrounds at the following Louisville District Lakes in Kentucky:
Green River Lake, Nolin River Lake, Barren River Lake, Rough River Lake, Buckhorn Lake and Carr Creek Lake.
"Other USACE Lakes in the state of Kentucky are managed by the Nashville and Huntington Districts," the USACE said in a press release. "We recommend the public contact the respective USACE lake office for the latest on their operating status. State-operated campgrounds at Corps Lakes have their own policies in place. We recommend the public contact the respective state agencies for the latest on their operating status."
USACE is also reminding all visitors to follow these steps to recreate responsibly: honor the 6-foot social distance rule, stay away from parks and recreation areas if you are sick or have symptoms, keep parks clean by practicing "pack in and pack out" etiquette, and always wear a life jacket when near the water.
At this time all visitor centers and Corps offices remain closed to the public and all special events and large gatherings remain postponed/cancelled in the interest of public safety. The Louisville District continues to assess the situation and will conduct a phased reopening of these areas/events in alignment with current federal, state and CDC guidance.
"We will share those updates with the public as they become available," the statement said.
For a list of the latest recreational area closures in the Louisville District visit: https://go.usa.gov/xvP3h
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District updates can also be found at www.lrl.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at facebook.com/louisvilleusace and on Twitter at twitter.com/louisvilleusace.
Edmonson Voice Report:
The City of Brownsville announced in a statement to the Edmonson Voice that city garbage customers must ensure that all garbage is bagged before pickup, due to the COVID-19 virus.
"Due to the COVID-19 virus, EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY all garbage MUST be bagged before placing it in the can," the statement read. "If any garbage is found not to be bagged (loose garbage in the can) it WILL NOT be emptied until placed in bags. This is for the public health and safety of our employees and to protect against injury/illness. Thank you for your cooperation."
Special Video Presentation Scheduled For May 22nd Through School Social Media & Edmonson Voice: In-Person Graduation Ceremony Set For September 26, 2020
Darren Doyle, story:
ECHS Principal Brian Alexander released a video and an outline of graduation activities and ceremonies earlier today through the school's social media.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a standard graduation ceremony is not possible at the original scheduled date; however, the school is preparing a special video presentation that will be released through The Edmonson Voice on Friday, May 22, 2020 and available through other school social media and websites.
In an interview with the Edmonson Voice, Mr. Alexander wanted to extend an apology to students and families for the changes, that are inconvenient and unorthodox during this time.
"We're really sorry about the delay in our caps and gowns, our yearbooks, and even our diplomas," he said. "And these are reputable companies used by the school, but the virus pandemic has affected so many aspects of this. We promise that we will remain in contact with our students and their families throughout this process."
Mr. Alexander also said that although the actual diplomas are not yet available, school transcripts are available to all graduates that can be used for school admission purposes and job seeking.
"Of course, whatever you need during this time, we're just a phone call away to provide any help we can."
The following is the Facebook post made by Mr. Alexander this morning on the school's page:
?ECHS SENIORS & PARENTS ?
Local Pastors Speak On How The Coronavirus Has Changed Their Congregations And Worship
Darren Doyle, story and photos:
Churches all across Kentucky have been practically silent for almost two months, which include those in Edmonson County. There are not many places you can go within the boundaries of our county (besides the national park property) and not be within shouting distance of a church. Made up mostly of United and Missionary Baptist churches, our area would seem to be an anomaly for churches per capita.
A large number of families in Edmonson County base their lives around a simple routine that involves going to work, school, and church, and for many here at home, all three have been drastically changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. We've heard plenty about daily numbers of those infected, those that have died, the millions of folks on unemployment, as well as restriction on top of restriction; however, outside of the churches and church families, not much has been discussed regarding the current situation that has kept hundreds, even thousands of worshipers in Edmonson County from assembling together with their congregations.
Governor Andy Beshear began shutting businesses and gatherings down weeks ago and recently released guidelines and projected dates for the reopening of everything currently closed, which includes houses of worship; however, a federal judge recently ruled that houses of worship were not considered the same as a mass gathering, which allowed churches to reconvene in-person effective immediately. Even so, the Governor has still issued an executive order with specific requirements for places of worship. The reality is, restrictions or not, things are not likely to return to normal in local churches for an extended period.
We've had many discussions with locals and have received tons of calls, emails, and messages with questions and comments about the pandemic, and the feelings and opinions cover a broad spectrum. Some are scared for their health, some applaud the Governor, others are disgusted with him, some think the virus risk has been dishonestly reported, and some don't know what to think. As far as church goes, most locals miss their own sanctuaries, many are ready to return, but even those that attend the same church are likely to have different views. Some view the restrictions as necessary safety, others see actions like the reporting of license plate numbers in church parking lots as tyrannical.
What was the ruling and what does that mean for local church restrictions?
On Friday, May 8th United States District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove granted a temporary restraining order against Governor Beshear's executive order, in favor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Nicolasville, that in-person services could be held immediately. Here is an excerpt from the ruling: In the present case, the Executive Order at issue does not just affect Tabernacle Baptist Church. The Executive Order applies to all churches. Therefore, as the Eighth Circuit has recently upheld, injunctive relief may extend statewide because the violation established impacts the entire state of Kentucky.
The actual ruling language stated the following: Defendants (Gov. Beshear's Office) are ENJOINED from enforcing the prohibition on mass gatherings with respect to any in-person religious service which adheres to applicable social distancing and hygiene guidelines;
The following day, Governor Beshear amended an executive order that was first made on March 19, 2020, called the "Mass Gatherings Order," with the following language: Effective immediately, the Mass Gatherings Order shall not apply to in-person services of faith-based organizations. Faith-based organizations that have in-person must implement and follow the guidelines for places of worship, which are attached and incorporated by reference herein.
That means the only thing changed from what the Governor originally ordered is that the restriction from having in-person services was lifted immediately, which allowed churches to meet this past weekend and not on May 20th, as Beshear had first said. All local churches are still required to follow the state requirements, per his executive order, regardless of any additional current ruling. In a nutshell, the judge's ruling says the state can't stop a church from meeting in person, but circumstances still allow for some restrictions. Some of those requirements* include:
We reached out to some local pastors and asked them a number of questions about the state of their congregations and the effects that the virus and restrictions have had on their churches. While not all pastors we contacted decided to participate, five of them agreed to share some feedback. Some of the men spoke on behalf of their congregations, others spoke for themselves only or gave their own opinions. Those are noted in their comments.
"I'm 76 years old and this is the first time in my lifetime that our people have not been able to go to church," said Jerry Patton, pastor of Jock United Baptist Church. "The effect has been devastating to our community. It's really like we've had a right taken away."
John Chidester, pastor of Brownsville Missionary Baptist Church had similar thoughts with the effects of not being able to gather, even though his congregation has had online worship and other means of ministry.
"The biggest difference for us was not being together," Chidester said. "This is the longest span in my entire life that I have not gathered with the saints. I miss it terribly. I miss not seeing our people. I miss not interacting with our senior adults, our young families, our teenagers, and our kids. This time has renewed a sense of how important those interactions are. This is especially true during the times of pain. We have lost people in the last few weeks and due to the circumstances their funerals were private. I hate that for their families and for those in our church that have a great desire to minister to them in their time of need."
Richard Minton, pastor of Chalybeate United Baptist, said he personally wasn't in favor of alternative methods of worship outside of meeting together, and he described this period of Chalybeate's congregation being separated as difficult. Brother Minton is the father-in-law of Darren Dennison, who made a miraculous recovery from COVID-19 after being at the brink of death.
"As for me, it's not my personal choice to use some of the worshipping methods that others might use," he said. "I feel that the Holy Spirit is spontaneous with people, and without experiencing that with people together, that's difficult. Right now it hurts that we can't be with our people like we normally would."
Father Tony Bickett, a priest at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Sunfish and St. Joseph Catholic Church in Leitchfield, said that COVID-19 has prevented his fellow churchgoers from being "Church" in many ways during this time, which also includes loss of revenue.
"As a pastor, one of the first concerns is the loss of revenue. The church still has bills to pay and this is possible mainly through the generosity of its members giving by way of the Sunday collection/offerings. At the same time several members have lost their jobs and their source of revenue. As the saying goes, "we are all in this together". Another major impact this pandemic has caused is fear, loneliness and uncertainty. How we resume church services as well as many other activities will result in different behaviors, less physical contact, social distancing, washing hands, using hand sanitizer and wearing face masks. The effect of the coronavirus will be with us for several months."
Brother Jerry Patton said that in the beginning of the pandemic, no one knew how serious the virus could be at a local level or really anything else about it.
"No one knew anything about this, and we still don't know a lot about it going forward," he said. "But when the NCAA started cancelling sport events early on and then everything else began to shut down, we could see how important it was to take caution. Lots of folks are happy with the Governor, others not so much and I know everyone has their own opinion but we have to recognize the severity of this virus. I'd hate to make a decision that would put anyone in jeopardy or harm them."
Father Bickett said he has been in favor of the restrictions placed on churches because he feels like they are for the sole purpose of keeping everyone safe.
"I think our governor is looking out, showing concern and has the best interest of all Kentuckians in mind as he makes decisions for our state."
Pastor Chidester said he was receptive to restrictions as they first began to be ordered but that over time, he'd have like to have seen more local decision making power, rather than blanket decisions for all situations.
"As I survey the most recent release from the Governor, I can see that it appears he is trying to group every aspect of life together in how the reopening of the state will be done," said Chidester. "I personally think this is difficult due to the varying situations found within our state. How can something that works well for a church of 1,000 also work the same for a church of 20? I can not dwell on what his motives might be, because I do not know him personally, nor have I ever spoken to him. Regardless of his intentions or motives I think it is time to release most of the decisions to the leadership of the local church, while potentially offering helpful recommendations for any size crowds."
All pastors spoke of the negative effects the pandemic and the current restrictions have had on them personally, as well as their congregations; however, they also spoke of the positivity that it's brought and what it means moving forward. We've also heard reports of families holding their own services at home, some having regular family prayer for the first time, others have shared videos through social media featuring special songs, words of encouragement, and even sermons, something that's not been a common practice among local churches.
Brother Joe Logan, pastor of Otter Gap Missionary Baptist, also agreed to provide feedback for this article but chose to submit that information in the form of a letter to the editor, granting us permission to use excerpts in this article as we saw fit. He was also very clear: his thoughts and expressions represented his only, and he was not speaking on behalf any specific congregation.
"This pandemic has affected all of our churches and though our services stopped for a time, the good part is that our hope and faith in Jesus has never ceased," a portion of his letter stated. "I have been uplifted during this time by things that I might not have expected to bring so much joy, such as hearing the church bells ring. There has been times that my heart would have broken to see only one or two show up for service, but over the last couple of months, when just a few came together on Sunday morning, it has sent thrills of joy to my soul. God is still good. Let us take comfort in knowing that He is near all of us when we call upon Him in truth."
No matter the denomination, doctrine, practices, or methods, all churches locally have always had a message of positivity and hope. All the pastors that spoke with us were hopeful of what was to come, even in the midst of trouble.
"This event has caused us to look at every aspect of every ministry and opportunity," said Pastor Chidester. "First, I hope this leads people to not take for granted the times we are able to gather together as a church. Second, now that we have jumped in with both feet, we will continue to have an active and expanding online presence. We are still evaluating the aspects of ongoing ministry and missions to see how those can be continued and improved upon. Finally, it is my greatest hope that this will cause us to come together for the sake of the mission that Christ has called us to."
Brother Minton said there is not one correct way to move forward.
"We've never seen a situation like this before and no one is an expert on how to handle some of these things," he said. "Some people want to come back right now while there are others that are not ready, and that's okay. Some see it as risky or scary, and I certainly don't want to see more people sick, but we just have to trust the Lord with it all."
Father Tony said times are certainly difficult, but our ancestors had it much worse.
"Times are hard now but they could be a lot worse. Many of our elderly members are the most eager to return to church, however, they are also more at risk from COVID-19. In someways COVID-19 has brought the whole world together, seen neighbors helping neighbors, and giving the opportunity for people to pray more. At the same time, we are still a fallen world and sin, poverty, and selfishness will always remain with us. But in the end, God is good, all the time and all the time God is good, and God remains always close to us, is all powerful and nothing is impossible with God."
Brother Joe's letter had much of the same language as he concluded.
"God is still on the throne. He still has some people holding on and the lost still has a little more time to get ready. Church, let’s be of one mind and do all to stand and fight the good fight." He also referenced Matthew 18:20 at the end of his letter.
"As we move along, let’s hope for the day where we can see the house of God full but remember that, “for where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Brother Patton said he's spoken to several members of his church and his congregation will likely look at a number of scenarios for worshipping in the near future.
"There are still a lot of unknowns, but I don't want to push rules aside or even stretch them," Bro. Jerry said. "This is still a serious situation. We've never been faced with this situation before, but one thing is still certain--God is still on the throne and He's reminding people of that."
*5/14/20: this article was edited to reflect that some of the referenced requirements by the Governor are listed as "should," not "must."