The Marshall County Health Department held a virtual teleconference Saturday to discuss Gov. Andy Beshear’s new restrictions made in light of surging COVID-19 cases.
Members of Marshall County’s board of health came together on the meeting and determined the governor’s new orders lacked guidance, and therefore are unenforceable. However, the board foresees the state cabinet releasing such guidance in the near future.
Public Health Director Billy Pitts said the “big question” from the new restrictions has been how and when would they be enforced.
“As you noticed, for anybody that’s seen the executive order, it doesn’t say anything about that,” Pitts said to those in attendance. “It doesn’t address enforcement whatsoever — to say who’s going to do it, how they’re going to go about it in any way.”
He added that he sent a request for guidance to the state on what role the health departments would play in the restrictions, but that he had not received a response.
Marshall County Judge-Executive Kevin Neal said he and County Attorney Jason Darnall were considering their options on how to proceed. Neal pointed out that on July 9, when masks were first mandated, it was left up to certain state agencies to come up with the enforcement standards and that it was a month later before county officials heard anything about them.
“I think where we are today is in a similar situation,” Neal said on the call. “The order came out on Wednesday. Where the health department plays in that is obviously we wait to hear from the state, or those state agencies that have been directed, or those committees or boards.”
He added that they have every reason to believe that the guidance would eventually come from the state cabinet, but until then “local agencies are kind of in the dark.”
Neal said the best course of action, in their opinion, is to encourage the public to remain in compliance to the best of their abilities, and that once further guidance is released, the board would determine what policies would work best for local communities.
“I went to a restaurant the other night, and you could tell that the employees and the owner was expecting to go to jail, and our citizens and our businesses should not be in fear of that,” he said. “I think this is good for us to get together as a board and discuss this, and take that recommendation to notify our public that we’re going to wait until those standards or regulations come down from the state.”
Darnall agreed with Neal, feeling the best course of action would be to wait for the state. However, he said the public should pay attention and make note of when that meeting would be.
“I would encourage everyone who is potentially affected by this decision, in this order, to be on the lookout for that hearing in the state cabinet, because you absolutely have a right to have your voice heard before the cabinet,” Darnall said.
Board chairman Joe Ellis directed Pitts to “seek further guidance and clarification” regarding enforcement guidelines, and for Darnall to educate the board and the public once he has read them.
He noted that Marshall County had 200 active COVID-19 cases on Friday, and that the health department is working “overtime” to perform contact tracing and control the virus. He also said there had been 11 deaths in the county attributed to the virus.
“I had a citizen send me a note privately the other day about a business where they weren’t wearing masks — the employees,” Ellis said. “I can’t believe that now, after this length of time, we still have complaints like that there from the public.”
He added that two doctors within their network are COVID-19 positive and that the decisions community members make are “critical” in flattening the latest uptick of the pandemic. Equating the nation’s status to a football game, he said the “last 20 yards” are “going to be pretty tough.”