Chamber president Sandra Wilson

Sandra Wilson, Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce president, took her face mask off Friday afternoon to speak at this week’s COVID-19 news conference at the McCracken County emergency management complex. Paducah Mayor Brandi Harless, McCracken Judge-Executive Craig Clymer and other local officials also attended to present updates.

Kentucky’s phased Healthy at Work plan will lift some restrictions for government offices, retail stores, restaurants and more next week, as local leaders and the community prepare for the changes.

Reopening was a focus for Sandra Wilson, Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce president, in her address Friday at a weekly COVID-19 news conference with government, health, school and emergency management officials. It took place at the McCracken County Emergency Management Complex, where all speakers in attendance wore face masks.

“On Wednesday, we have the retail opening up, and on Friday, restaurants,” Wilson said. “Those two sectors will really show a lot to the community that our economy’s opening back up and we’re excited about that.”

She praised businesses for creativity in serving customers while under restrictions, and noted that getting necessary personal protective equipment has been a “big step” and important in reopening. A list of local PPE suppliers with contact information is available at paducahchamber.org, which is compiled from businesses that responded to its survey.

Wilson emphasized the need to keep up with state guidelines, which can change.

“You have to be keeping up with the latest guidelines that are coming out, but understanding that, and rebuilding consumer confidence is very important,” she said. “We hope that people will feel like they’re safe. We want them to be. We want our businesses to protect their employees and protect their customers and keep that confidence level up.”

The chamber and Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau will host a webinar on new guidelines for restaurants at 10 a.m. Tuesday, and it will involve a presenter from the Kentucky Restaurant Association. Consumers are welcome to listen.

Friday’s conference also featured McCracken County Judge-Executive Craig Clymer, Paducah Mayor Brandi Harless, Purchase District Health Department Director Kent Koster and Jerome Mansfield, director of the Paducah-McCracken County Office of Emergency Management.

Donald Shively, Paducah Independent School District superintendent, and Dr. Brad Housman, Baptist Health Paducah chief medical officer, participated through teleconferencing.

After issuing an executive order Thursday, Clymer went over guidelines for reopening the McCracken County Courthouse to the public Monday.

Guidelines include wearing masks and keeping at least six feet distance between people at all times. From Monday to June 22, the McCracken County Clerk’s Office will be open to conduct private vehicle transfers, marriage licenses and Notary Public applications, but only by appointment. All other business must be done by mail, telephone or online.

As for the city, Harless said it continues to work on plans to help local restaurants expand outdoor dining and it’s been preparing to reopen city facilities soon.

“We have ordered and are installing plexiglass for areas in city hall and are installing signage to help guide the movement around the building,” she said.

“Once everything is installed and we feel we can interact safely with the public, we’ll reopen city hall. No date has been decided at this time, but we’re working very quickly on trying to get that done as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, Koster provided an update on COVID-19 case totals for the health department’s district and other developments.

He said people in public health are “obviously” concerned about a potential increase in the spread of the coronavirus, as more people get out and come into contact with each other and they’re hoping everyone has learned in recent weeks how to protect themselves and others.

“We’ve already had reports of businesses that have opened up and they’re not using masks and their customers aren’t using masks and ... that’s just plain stupid, so you just need to think about others, as we go through this together, because it’s going to take everybody to defeat this thing,” Koster said.

“And if we haphazardly do this like we’ve seen this week, then that’s just not going to help the cause.”

He reported there’s been 84 cases, 51 recoveries and two deaths in McCracken County, while Ballard County has nine cases and seven recoveries. Carlisle County has had three cases, one recovery and one death. Hickman County has five cases and one recovery. Fulton County has had one case.

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