Jefferson County Judge Gerald Robinson announced the city of Pine Bluff has recorded its first COVID-19 death, during Tuesday's Quorum Court meeting.
Jefferson County Judge Gerald Robinson announced during the Quorum Court meeting on Tuesday that Jefferson County had its first COVID-19 related death in Pine Bluff. Held in the rotunda instead of the Quorum Court Chambers, of the Jefferson County Courthouse, Robinson said he prayed the county doesn’t receive anymore bad news.
“Ladies and gentleman, this is real,” said Robinson. “This is serious.”
Confirmed to the Pine Bluff Commercial Wednesday morning by Jefferson Regional Medical Center marketing manager, Glenn Crain, Pine Bluff did have a patient death from COVID-19.
Crain could not release any additional information but according to Robinson, the death happened Tuesday.
Jefferson County Coroner Chad Kelly said he had zero knowledge of the death due to it not being reported to his office on Tuesday.
“We have had a few that they were testing but have had no deaths where they said it was confirmed to actually be COVID-19,” said Kelly.
According to Kelly, all deaths are to be reported to the coroner’s office.
“I have requested that I be notified when they test someone for COVID-19 and the tests results, whether they are negative or positive.”
Absent from the Quorum Court meeting was District 11 Justice Danny Holcomb. According to Robinson, Holcomb’s wife tested positive for COVID-19 and as a result Holcomb was in self-quarantine.
“We’ve had a couple of employees that had to go into quarantine,” said Robinson. “I felt that it was best that we close the courthouse down in an effort to not spread this pandemic of the COVID virus.”
The Jefferson County Courthouse has been closed until April 27 according to Robinson. The public will still be restricted from entering when the courthouse reopens.
“We are in the midst of this pandemic,” said Robinson. “We haven’t seen how severe this is going to be yet.”
Robison says due to the seriousness of this pandemic, everyone was instructed to wear masks and gloves at the meeting. Temperatures were checked and screening questions were also asked upon entering the facility.
He also asked those in attendance to not leave their homes and not go to public places unless it is absolutely necessary.
Jefferson County Sheriff Lafayette Woods Jr. released a statement Tuesday that his office would closely monitor the unincorporated areas of Jefferson County to ensure citizens are following social distancing guidelines.
The county-wide curfew hours for those eighteen (18) years of age and older will be 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., during which time all non-essential travel is prohibited. Similarly, juveniles below the age of 18 will be prohibited from roaming from 7:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. with the same exemptions as adults.
“Our office has and continues to proactively remind all citizens of the importance of social distancing during the rising threat of Coronavirus (COVID-19),” stated Woods. “This is a unique situation, the likes of which most of us have never experienced before. Again, our number one priority is the safety and security of the community we serve. We believe that this is the best way to ensure the safety of all citizens.”
As Quorum court moved forward with their meeting, the four items listed on the agenda under new business was motioned to be approved by one vote. The motion carried.
Justice Ted Harden said the items on the agenda were passed to Quorum Court during the Budget and Finance Committee meeting.
Those items include an appropriation ordinance to provide a supplemental appropriation to fund 1,000 County General-County Clerk in the amount of $1,500; an appropriation ordinance to provide a supplemental appropriation to fund 1000 County General-OEM in the amount of $1,131.17; an appropriation ordinance to provide a supplemental appropriation to fund 1000 County Judge County building in the amount of $9,295.03; an ordinance approving master development agreement with the P# group regarding Jefferson County Health Unit and other facilities; and an ordinance to authorize the issuance of industrial development revenue bonds under the municipalities and counties industrial development revenue bond law for the purpose of securing and developing industry.
During the announcements Robinson took that time to talk about how the coronavirus is affecting the county.
“This has taken a great effect on our local economy,” said Robinson. “We know that the casino is closed and those revenues that we thought would be coming in are not going to be coming in.”
Robinson also stated other businesses scheduled to come in may not happen for another few weeks He also said a possibility of layoffs may be on the table
“Justices there are going to be some tough decisions that will have to be made,” said Robison. “It may even come to where in order to support our economy, or the lack of revenue that we have coming in, we may be forced to commit layoffs.”
Robinson said he is working with local state representatives, senators and congress for federal relief.
“I have had conversations with those offices,” said Robinson. “If there is money to be got, I want to make sure that we get a piece of the pie so that it will lessen the sting of what our economy has brought.”
Chris Villines, executive director of the Association of Arkansas Counties sent a financial update to all county judges and treasurers stating that all counties need to be prepared for a drop in revenue.
“Many of you have what are typically lean summer months ahead and as we begin to get indicators here at the AAC it looks more and more likely that we will see significant impacts in funding because of the COVID-19 outbreak,” stated Villines in his update.
“I’m going to ask that we continue to work hard, to be open minded, because it’s about moving this county forward,” said Robinson. “We will have to do what’s necessary in order for us to not be bankrupted.”