In the wake of reports that the COVID-19 infection rate is rising in Madison County, Berea city officials are imploring citizens to step up efforts to avoid catching the virus. Mayor Bruce Fraley made the announcement Tuesday evening during a virtual meeting of the Berea City Council.
“This is a single-day record for our county,” Fraley said, noting that Tuesday saw 144 new cases in Madison County. “I’m calling upon all of us to help spread the word to please protect yourself, and protect others. I encourage everyone to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Kentucky Department of Health guidelines, including wearing a cloth mask when in public, frequent hand washing, maintaining at least six feet physical distancing from others, and avoiding large gatherings. It’s just a call to redouble our efforts to protect ourselves and to protect others.”
Fraley also encouraged residents to get more information from federal, state, and county health online resources, which are posted on the City of Berea website at: https://bereaky.gov/covid19/
Berea City Councilman Steve Caudill also called the numbers sobering, noting the steep increase in infections in the two months since school went back into session.
“Our incident rate, which was about 16 (cases per 100,000 people) is now up to about 41.6. What that means is out of 100,000 people, roughly 41.6 per day are contracting COVID in our county,” Caudill said. “It’s getting higher and higher. So let’s do what we can. The more that we work on this together and realize this is an apolitical issue, the faster hopefully, that this will be over,” Caudill said.
Councilmembers Emily LaDouceur and John Payne urged people to try to connect with others during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, but to do so in a way that is at least safe. “If you can stay home, and avoid having that large gathering this year, it will benefit everyone, as much as it stinks,” LaDouceur said.
The discussion of rising COVID-19 infections came on the heels of announcements that some holiday events in Berea are either cancelled or changed because of the continuing pandemic. Caudill revealed that the Berea Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade has been canceled due to health concerns, but that the chamber is working to develop alternatives, such as a holiday decorating contest for businesses, organizations, and homeowners.
Meanwhile, Fraley revealed a November 28 virtual program that will take place in Old Town, which will include the lighting of a Christmas tree, caroling, the reading of The Night Before Christmas,” a performance of “Silent Night” by Becky Brown, as well as a Christmas message from the mayor. Those festivities begin at 5 p.m. and will be broadcast online.
In other business, the council heard the first reading of the amended budget for fiscal year 2020-2021. The spending plan reflected a projected increase in General Fund revenues of $533,000, in large part due to federal COVID-19 grants.
The plan also increases spending after steep cuts were made last spring during the uncertainty of the pandemic.
As a result, city employees will receive a 1.7 percent annual pay increase and funding is being made available for more police officers, The budget amendment also includes $365,000 for body cameras for police officers, including the accompanying software, accessories, and cloud to store data.
The current body cameras are old and breaking down, according to officials. LaDouceur requested the council receive more detail on that expenditure before a final vote is taken on the budget amendments on Dec. 1.
Berea Police Chief Eric Scott briefly addressed the council after Councilmember Ronnie Terrill raised concerns about reported acts vandalism at Berea City Park.
Chief Scott assured the council the department is stepping up patrols in the area, and said he is working on long term plans to provide for better monitoring of the park. Scott noted that the park was monitored more frequently on bike and foot by two officers, who have since had to divert their attention to training.
Also Tuesday, the council welcomed Lt. Colonel Edward Williams of Bluegrass Chemical Activity. Williams noted there has been significant progress in the destruction of chemical agents, including projected destruction of all mustard gas rounds expected by next year.
Small business Saturday
Concerning small businesses, Mayor Fraley introduced a proclamation declaring November 28 Small Business Saturday, encouraging local consumers to show support for local retailers and small business owners. Councilman Jim Davis echoed the sentiments of the measure, reminding citizens that local purchases are critical to the success of homegrown businesses.
Councilmember David Rowlette agreed, urging people to also support those Berea merchants who have on online businesses though they may not have a traditional storefront.