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Louisville Officials Cancel Events, Contemplate Funding Shift In Coronavirus Response

Louisville officials unveiled a number of more severe measures aimed at stemming the spread of coronavirus in the community, in a press conference that synced up with Gov. Andy Beshear's announcement of a new confirmed case of COVID-19 in Jefferson County.

There are now 10 cases in Kentucky, with two in Jefferson County.

Mayor Greg Fischer acknowledged the new case, saying the patient was in isolation but said he didn't know whether it was the Humana worker reported earlier Thursday.

Fischer also issued an order canceling or postponing all events hosted by Metro, at Metro facilities or permitted by Metro, through April 5. Officials are urging people to avoid crowds and practice social distancing by staying six feet away from others to decrease the risk of transmitting the virus.

“We have the advantage of seeing what's happened in other countries here, in the last two months or so. That gives us a good solid foundation for knowing that we need to act aggressively,” Fischer said.

Canceled events range from library story times to Kentucky Derby Festival events such as the Fillies Derby Ball. The ban will end before Thunder Over Louisville, which is scheduled for April 18 and expected to draw 725,000 attendees.

Churchill Downs, Inc., issued a press release Thursday saying plans to run the Kentucky Derby on May 2 remain in place, but that it may reevaluate that decision. Any changes to the event could have significant economic repercussions in the Louisville region.

“With the event still seven weeks away, a decision will be made closer to that date, with respect to postponing the event until later in the year, using the most recent information while working with and seeking guidance from public health experts and authorities,” the press release said.

The track will run races without spectators through March 28.

Another development from the Thursday evening briefing was the announcement from councilman Markus Winkler of District 17, the head of the Metro Council’s Democratic caucus, who said he would be entering an ordinance on Monday to shift surplus funding away from pension payments to shore up emergency support for those affected by coronavirus.

Winkler said the $2.7 million could go to the Metro Department of Resilience and Community Services to deploy for emergency housing and food.

“Citizens should know that if their income sources are impacted through any sort of work stoppages, furloughs, those sorts of things, that they don’t need to worry that they’re going to go hungry, they don’t need to worry that they’re going to be homeless,” he said.

He said they were working with the administration to determine the exact mechanism for deploying the funding.

Council members discussed the proposal in a budget committee meeting Thursday evening.

President David James of District 6, a Democrat, voiced support, saying this could help those who earn too little, who do not get paid sick leave or who do not have childcare and therefore feel they cannot take off work.

"I think it's important that this government say that we recognize that this is an emergency and that we stand ready to assist and please don't panic because we are trying to help you," he said.

But Anthony Piagentini of District 19, a Republican, said he thought shifting funding was a "huge mistake" because there is too little information available regarding what forms of public support might be needed. He described it as a "nice gesture" but questioned whether allocating funds this way would be most beneficial.

Amina Elahi is LPM's City Editor. Email Amina at aelahi@lpm.org.