Government stays open, focuses on basic service

As the COVID-19 pandemic intensifies, City government will stay open to focus on basic services, and to care for citizens and employees, Mayor Linda Gorton said today.

Our state is at a tipping point, Gorton said. “Experts have said that, for Kentucky, the next few weeks are critical in the battle against COVID-19,” she said. “Since Lexington, Louisville and Northern Kentucky are the largest concentrations of population in the state, what Lexington does will affect the entire state.”

In keeping with her declaration of a state of emergency on March 6, the Mayor today is opening the Emergency Operations Center for disaster response coordination, focusing on critical supply needs, requests for assistance and donations.

Lexington Fayette County Commissioner of Health Dr. Kraig Humbaugh said, “Social distancing continues to be important — please stay home as much as possible, getting out only for groceries, medical issues or other life-sustaining needs. This doesn’t mean you can’t get outside and go for a walk, but be sure to keep at least 6 feet from everyone.”

Protecting employees

Gorton said, in keeping with the importance of staying at home, the City is following the Governor’s executive orders. “The Governor is encouraging all of us to be healthy at home,” Gorton said. “Starting Saturday morning, that’s where many of our employees will be.”

The Healthy at Home plan for employees, designed in part to slow the spread of the virus, is flexible to ensure we can continue basic service to our citizens, the Mayor said. Employees will receive their regular salaries and be prepared to assist where the community needs them in coming days. The policy will continue until further notice.

Government will remain open to focus on services that protect and sustain life. “Public safety, waste management and water quality are among our top priorities.” Scaling back the number of employees coming in also allows us to shift the City’s supplies of personal protection equipment to these divisions.

Gorton said the City has experienced its first known case of COVID-19 among employees. On Thursday, a member of the Fire Department tested positive for the virus, and is in the process of a 14-day isolation period. This appears to be the result of a non-occupational exposure.

In keeping with the CDC guidelines, eight other members of the Fire Department, who have been in close contact with the firefighter who was exposed, are also in quarantine. The Lexington Fire Department is working closely with the Lexington-Fayette Health Department and will be monitoring all of the firefighters closely. The Department’s ability to respond to emergency incidents has not been affected.

Gorton said the City has identified a facility where first responders can be quarantined, when needed. The City has also made arrangements for a facility where people who are experiencing homelessness can be quarantined, when needed.

Our Homelessness Prevention and Intervention Office and our shelters are working hard to make sure our sheltered population is following CDC guidelines, and all staff are protected, as well.

Parks, natural areas, golf courses

Gorton also announced changes at the City’s natural areas (Raven Run and McConnell Springs), golf courses and parks. Natural areas and golf courses will close this evening.

In all parks, high impact sports areas are closed, including athletic courts and athletic fields, and skate parks. Rental facilities are closed and all parks programming is canceled until April 20.

“We have been overrun. It’s warm, it has been sunny, and hundreds of people have been attracted to our parks, our natural areas and our golf courses. Even our trails in remote areas are crowded. While we are glad so many people are visiting our facilities, our visitors are not maintaining proper social distancing, and that’s dangerous,” Gorton said.

Gorton called upon citizens to take calls for social distancing seriously, even when outside. “Our first case in Kentucky was March 6, just three weeks ago,” Gorton said. “Now we have over 200. What we have been seeing in our Parks, the numbers of people congregating there in groups, is absolutely disappointing, and is endangering lives.”

Yard waste

Fayette County residents can take yard waste to Haley Pike Waste Management Facility at 4216 Hedger Lane.

“We are not picking up yard waste at residences until we get a firm handle on COVID-19,” Gorton said. “Our Waste Management employees need additional staffing flexibility to keep our garbage and recycling pick up operating properly. These steps are necessary to protect our Waste Management employees, as they provide this critical service.”

In the meantime, citizens can take yard waste to Haley Pike. Effective immediately, the limit on the number of free loads a resident can bring each month is being waived while curbside collection of yard waste is suspended. An ID that shows your Fayette County address is required. Material can be delivered in yard waste bags.

Hours for Haley Pike are 8 a.m. – 6 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.