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Senior Center closes because of coronavirus; Public schools going to ‘nontraditional instruction’

By Friday afternoon, the Jessamine Senior Center was all but deserted, schoolchildren were being bused home for a long spring break, the jail wasn’t letting anyone visit its inmates. The circuit judge had allowed attorneys in court, but not their clients. Starting Monday, most hearings will be postponed until the middle of April.

It’s the new reality for Kentucky communities because of the coronavirus.

“I want Kentuckians to start thinking a little bit differently about what the next couple of months are going to be like … . This is us against the coronavirus,” Gov. Andy Beshear said that morning.

At the time of his 9 a.m. press conference, there were 11 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, a debilitating and potentially-deadly respiratory illness. Six of those were in Harrison County, three were in Fayette and one was in Jefferson.

There were none in Jessamine County, according to the Health Department, but precautions are being taken to prevent the spread of the illness which has been declared a pandemic.

One of the latest policy changes in response to the outbreak was for the governor to order all senior centers closed because the elderly are “the most vulnerable” to serious illness caused by the virus, he said.

The Jessamine Senior Center was open early in the day and served lunch, before 2 p.m., the Journal was notified that all of the seniors had left or were “on their way home.”

Starting Monday, if they want the meals, they will have to have them delivered to their homes or vehicles.

“We already had plans in place to follow the school district” in closing even before the governor made his announcement, said Troy Roberts, executive director of the Bluegrass Community Action Partnership, which runs the nursing home and several others.

“It’s until further notice,” he said.

Roberts said senior center staff will also be calling their clients at home to check on them and make sure they’re well.

Also on the advice of the governor, who has declared a state of emergency in response to the virus, Jessamine County Public Schools will be closing Monday until after spring break, and are scheduled to return to classes April 6.

Patrice Jones, a spokesperson for the school district, said Jessamine County Schools will use the remaining seven of its 10 non-traditional instruction days during that time so students and teachers can work online from their homes, and provisions have been made for other students.

“We do have packets that are sent home for those that do not have computer access,” Jones said.

On Friday, Jessamine County Jailer Jon Sallee decided not to allow visitors inside the jail with few exceptions, such as medical providers for those who need care and lawyers who can’t do what they need to do with their clients by telephone.

Sallee said inmates and others were also being screened for the virus.

Friday was a circuit court day in Jessamine, but there were no trials scheduled, and the hearings that were held involved only lawyers and judges.

Chief Justice John Minton of the Kentucky Supreme Court issued an order that all civil trials and hearings be postponed and that most criminal dockets be canceled with a few exceptions, such as domestic violence hearings, evidentiary hearings and emergencies. All courtroom attendance would be limited to the parties and their attorneys. The order is effective March 16 through April 10.

Health care providers have also put in place restrictions to try to reduce the spread of the virus. CHI Saint Joseph Health announced Thursday that its hospitals and other facilities, including its ambulatory care center in Jessamine, would limit visitation to two immediate family members, and those who had traveled to high-risk areas for COVID-19 would not be allowed inside.

Asbury University’s president published a letter saying students would be expected to return from spring break no earlier than March 29, and Asbury Theological Seminary had shifted most of its classes to online.

The Jessamine County Public Library will be closed Monday through April 5.

The Jessamine County Extension Office was not closed Friday, but it had canceled all of its meetings and programs until further notice.

The governor has asked that nursing homes not allow visitation except for patients receiving end-of-life care.

Some Jessamine County churches, including the largest, Southland Christian, and one of the smallest, the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, had decided to cancel their public gatherings this weekend and instead offer online worship. Others, including Edgewood Baptist and St. Luke Catholic, were planning to go ahead with worship, but take recommended precautions.

Bishop John Stowe has said Catholics have no moral obligation to attend Mass during this time. For those who do attend Mass, there will be no chalice, only the bread, and parishioners are encouraged to have no physical contact.

Most businesses, however, including restaurants, remained open Friday.

About Whitney Leggett

Whitney Leggett is managing editor of The Winchester Sun and Winchester Living magazine. To contact her, email whitney.leggett@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0049.

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