Johnson County Judge-Executive Mark McKenzie and City of Paintsville Mayor Bill Mike Runyon streamed live on Facebook Wednesday, March 18 from the WSIP-FM studio in Paintsville to give the public an update on the many changes that have been made in the community in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the two did declare a state of emergency within the county and the City of Paintsville, they noted that this does not mean there has yet been a positive case of the coronavirus confirmed in Johnson County. Runyon stated that one of the motivating factors for declaring states of emergency was to, “make decisions quicker and get things done without going through a lot of red tape and jumping through a bunch of hoops. That’s very beneficial for us.”

Runyon said there are some obvious changes to city operations.

“You can still come to City Hall, you just cannot enter the second double door area,” he said. “We have an area in-between the two doors with a drop box where you can drop off paperwork or if you need to pay taxes or whatever and also we can visit with you through the other door. It’s a little bit impersonal, but it’s one of those things where we want the public to visit our building, but at this time we had to take the steps to make sure we ensure the health of our employees. The best thing we can do is to conduct business by email, fax or phone. Also, our recreation center is going to be on a week-to-week basis whether or not that’s going to be opened back up.”

McKenzie noted the county government offices were taking similar steps. For instance, the Johnson County Public Library is closed to the public until further notice, but their services may be accessed online.

“The downtown courthouse building on Court Street is now locked and closed to foot traffic,” McKenzie said. “Drug Court, Fiscal Court, the PVA Office and the Big Sandy Community Action Program are still staffed but no longer offer in-person services.

“One change I want to specifically mention is the County Clerk’s Office,” McKenzie continued, noting that County Clerk Sallee Holbrook would be utilizing both a drop box and an audio/video doorbell system to communicate and conduct business at her office. “She’s doing everything she can to stay open and provide those services.”

McKenzie also noted that the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office is utilizing a drop box system and that Circuit Court Clerk Penny Adam’s office will utilize a drive-thru tube system to conduct business, although renewal of all drivers’ licenses are suspended at this time.

McKenzie explained that while all emergency management, law-enforcement and 911 dispatch agencies are up and running, 911 does have new protocol for screening callers for COVID-19 symptoms and advising those who may have symptoms on what to do next.

“The thing is, you don’t go running into your doctor’s office or your emergency department. If you would, by chance, have contracted it, you’re going to put all those people at risk,” said McKenzie.

Runyon stated that the city’s street and sanitation departments are taking appropriate safety measures such as utilizing gloves and masks during this time.

McKenzie stated that the road department is also prepared and continuing their efforts.

“The Johnson County Road Department is outside working every day,” he said. “We’re still on projects, getting things taken care of and also are assisting with anything related to the emergency declaration. If there’s any needs that might arise, the road department stands ready to assist with those needs as well as the other work that they’re doing.”

The two also commended the Johnson County Senior Citizens Center and local schools for making efforts to keep seniors and students fed during the crisis, implementing home-delivered and curbside pickup meal options. Information on this topic can be found on their respective social media pages.

McKenzie then emphasized the importance of supporting local restaurants and businesses during this time, stating, “Just because the governor said they are to close doesn’t mean they aren’t still providing foods. Retail has not been shut down at this point, but you’ve got to practice the social distancing.”

He did note, however, that Governor Andy Beshear called for the closure of hair salons, spas, gyms and movie theatres to begin on that evening.

McKenzie then took time to discuss the unemployment issue surrounding the outbreak.

“If you are laid off due to the coronavirus outbreak, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance,” he said.

There are some things the governor has done to help that, McKenzie added, such a waiving the seven-day waiting period and utilizing additional ways for citizens to file online.

McKenzie continued, “We have a Kentucky Career Center here in Johnson County on the third floor of the downtown courthouse. They are taking a bigger role in this because of the volume of processing that’s going to take place. You can visit and do their online application or visit their Facebook page for information. The local office has also set up a phone number just for unemployment application information. That number is, (606) 789-2857.”

McKenzie encouraged community members to utilize this time to complete the 2020 Census and emphasized the need for social distancing and pleaded for the public to understand that things will continue to change. He noted that to stay up-to-date on information, it would be wise to listen to what the governor and the president are saying about the outbreak.

“We need to be considerate of one another and not put each other in harm’s way,” he stated.

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