Floyd County businesses and agencies are starting the gradual reopening of in-person services.

All non-life-sustaining businesses were ordered to cease operations on March 26, and local businesses responded by either closing or offering curbside and online services.

The state launched a “Healthy at Work” initiative on April 21 for a gradual reopening. The reopening started on April 23 with healthcare facilities, and continues this month with businesses and other organizations reopening with limited capacity and staff.

“I’m thrilled that the doors are opening. I can’t wait to see our customers,” said Vicki Pack, owner of Little Rascals Boutique in Prestonsburg.

She described dealing with the closure of her small business as “insane,” talking about how difficult it has been to move to online purchasing.

She’s owned the business for eight years and said it took her 14 years to save up enough to buy it. She traveled to Georgia to buy merchandise in January, before COVID-19 started, and worried about spending those funds after the pandemic hit.

“If it fails, I’ve lost 14 years of my life,” she said.

The Easter holiday is usually important to Little Rascals, and not being able to be open during the Easter season this year was a “shot in the arm,” she said.

“It’s hard. It’s been extremely hard,” she said.

She praised her loyal customers for their support.

“Those who shop local have tried to support us more,” she said. “And that, I am grateful for and appreciate it.”

She encourages residents to help local businesses.

“Just support the local businesses. If they want to keep stores in town, and if they want to have a variety of stores, you’ve got to support them ... If people complain they don’t have this kind of store or that kind of store in their town, it’s because it’s not supported,” she said. “And I’m very grateful, and I know the other stores are too. We have have really had people that said I’m more conscious about buying local now and they’ve tried to help support us.”

On May 11, reopenings started, with restrictions, in manufacturing, construction, auto dealerships, office-based businesses, horse racing, pet care and photography.

On May 18, government offices were permitted to reopen to the public with no more than 50 percent of employees physically present. Employees are required to wear face coverings and government agencies were advised to hold meetings by live audio or live video teleconference, the executive order says.

On Wednesday, May 20, local funeral homes may start  conducting in-person funerals or burials, with restrictions, with no more than 33 percent of the building capacity.

And on Friday, May 22, restaurants, retail businesses may reopen with 33 percent capacity and outdoor seating, following certain guidelines. That day, the state is lifting restrictions so that groups of 10 or fewer people can legally gather and the state’s ban on travel to and from other states will expire.

The openings will continue next week, with barbershops, salons, cosmetology, massage therapy, nail salons, tanning salons and tattoo parlor businesses opening at 33 percent capacity on Monday, May 25.

The state park system is already accepting reservations for the opening of state park lodges, which will take place June 1, alongside reopenings for fitness centers, movie theaters and other businesses. Childcare is planned to open June 15 and bars will be permitted to reopen in July, when groups of 50 or fewer people will be permitted.

The Floyd County Fiscal Court reopened county parks last week, while requesting social distancing and that visitors wipe down playground equipment after use. Prestonsburg also reopened its parks, leaving playgrounds closed temporarily as playground equipment was sanitized.

Addressing the reopenings during his briefing on May 18, Prestonsburg Mayor Les Stapleton encouraged residents to continue protecting themselves and others from the virus.

“We want people to keep using their head. Even though stuff’s opening, keep using your head. Be smart about it ... “The City of Prestonsburg wants to see people following guidelines, and yet still getting out and doing things,” Stapleton said.

He encouraged people to support local businesses and addressed those who may be concerned about visiting local businesses.

“There’s a lot of people out there that are concerned, well, you know, I don’t feel safe. If you don’t feel safe, we will do any accommodations we can to try to help you with that,” he said. “If you don’t feel safe, if you have an autoimmune disease, if you have issues that make you more susceptible, stay home, stay home,” he said, encouraging people to “stay focused and stay safe at the same time.”

Floyd County Judge-Executive Robbie Williams reported that he does not expect the Floyd County Courthouse to reopen until July 1. The facility is open only for limited in-person services, and people are encouraged, instead, to use the courthouse drive through. Williams said those who are permitted to come into the building must be wearing face masks. Fiscal court meetings are still closed to the public.

Williams said this gradual reopening process is encouraging, however.

“I think what it does is it makes folks feel like that we’ve, we’re making progress in our fight to combat the COVID-19 and we’re still doing the right things that the governor’s asking us to do and what we’re asking local folks to do, but I think there’s definitely some optimism in the air now,” Williams said. “I think there for a long time, folks were really concerned about how this was going to affect their lives for the next couple of years until a vaccine or a cure comes to market place. But I certainly think that folks are getting a little excited about what’s going on in hopes of getting out mingling a little more, but, again, we’re asking them to still be cautious and continue to keep their social distance, and the folks that have underlying medical conditions, we’re telling them to stay in. They should still remain in as much as possible.”

The Floyd County Health Department reported on May 18 that 16 people have been diagnosed with the virus in Floyd County to date, and three individuals remain in isolation.

Reporting that 1,200 Floyd County residents have been tested, the department encouraged more residents to have a COVID-19 test.

“The governor today encouraged more folks to get tested since this will help the state understand the numbers of asymptomatic folks in the community and help in the planning for the reopening of the state.

Free testing is available at ARH Archer Clinic Monday-Friday in Prestonsburg,” the department reported on Facebook.

Residents are urged to protect themselves and others by covering their cough, wearing face masks when with others in public, washing hands for at least 20 seconds, avoiding large crowds, sanitizing frequently-touched surfaces and remaining home when sick.

For resources and information about the reopenings and the virus in Kentucky, visit, kycovid19.ky.gov.

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