MURRAY – The Calloway County Health Department’s new director of public health spoke at Thursday’s Murray City Council meeting after being invited to give an update on COVID-19.
Jamie Hughes said that while there is still a high number of cases in Calloway County, cases are trending downward and the county is no longer in a red zone, which is when there is a seven-day incidence rate of more that 25 daily cases per 100,000 residents. As of Thursday, Calloway was one of six Jackson Purchase counties in an orange zone, with an incidence rate of 21.2, according to the state’s COVID-19 website.
Hughes said he has been asked a lot about what people should do to stay safe on Halloween. He said that although there are no specific recommendations from the state for orange counties, there are some basic guidelines families should try to stick to based on what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has previously recommended.
“The guidance is out there for individuals if they’re going out to make sure that they’re safe,” Hughes said. “It depends on how you handle things, because I’m not going to tell anyone exactly how to do their Halloween, but make sure people are staying distant, that they travel in groups but kind of small groups, and it would be great if it was family groups.”
Regarding the flu vaccines that are coming out now, Hughes said CCHD is trying to focus on demographics that aren’t already being covered by doctors’ offices and drug stores in order to best use their resources and avoid duplicating services. As for the COVID vaccine, he said people can get one at any pharmacy in town, as well as the health department. He said CCHD mostly uses the Moderna vaccine because it doesn’t require the extreme refrigeration that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine does. He added that the available data shows that natural immunity starts to fade around 90 days after someone has COVID, so the health department is encouraging people who have previously had the virus to still get vaccinated.
Councilman Burton Young told Hughes he didn’t think the community was doing enough to publicize the importance of getting vaccinated. Councilman Jeremy Bell countered that getting vaccinated is a personal choice and that there was nothing the city could do to make people get the shot if they didn’t want it.
Transitioning from the discussion of Halloween safety recommendations, Mayor Bob Rogers proposed setting trick-or-treating hours in the city for 5-8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30, and the council unanimously voted to approve those hours. Rogers said the drive-through Trail of Treats will be at Central Park on Friday, Oct. 29.
Street and Solid Waste Manager Ron Allbritten updated the council on the sidewalk project on Miller Avenue, which will eventually cover about half a mile. While the city has typically bid most work like that out to contractors, the street department is doing this project completely in-house. Allbritten said street department employees had done sidewalk repair in the past, but had never installed sidewalks from start to finish, and he expects significant savings from that decision.
“I’m expecting we’re going to save at least $150,000,” Allbritten said. “To contract it out, we had an estimate from the engineers of $250,000. It is half a mile of sidewalk from 16th to 18th Street, so between the concrete, materials and everything – not counting our labor – I figure we’re going to spend probably close to $100,000.”
Allbritten said the project doesn’t only include sidewalks, but street department workers will be installing multiple drainage pipes, drainage boxes and grates as well.
In other business:
• Councilman Johnny Bohannon, chair of the city’s temporary park committee, gave a report on the committee’s first meeting that took place on Sept. 30. He said bids for soccer field lights would open on Oct. 28, and the committee will meet again some time after that.
• The council voted to approve a resolution authorizing the mayor to accept donations and negotiate, enter into, sign and execute donation agreements with corporate entities and individuals for the parks system. This includes naming rights up to a 30-year term.
• The council heard the first reading of an ordinance accepting a newly constructed street in the City West Office Park subdivision. The street will be called City West Drive and is 808 feet long, with a 50-foot right-of-way, two 14.75-foot drive lanes and an overall roadway section 29.5 feet wide.
• The council passed the second reading of a 2021-22 budget amendment for a $171,466 Community Development Block Grant. The money will be utilized by West Kentucky Allied Services to assist city residents with utility payments.
• The council approved a cost increase in the city’s employee health insurance plan. Health Insurance Committee Chair Jeremy Bell said the increase for a single person would amount about $10 a month.