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Powell County adjusting to challenges of COVID-19 impact

Hikers Rescued From Red River Gorge Over Weekend
Posted at 5:33 PM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-23 18:57:27-04

STANTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — As spring blooms in the mountains, you can normally count on an explosion of traffic in Red River Gorge.

"Every parking lot would be full. You'd have trouble getting through there as well as the Gorge pull-off areas. It would be just inundated with folks," said Powell County Judge Executive James Anderson.

But this March 23, some of the restaurants and cafes that surround the Gorge aren't opening. Instead, they're shutting their doors due to safety concerns.

"Miguel's Pizza. That's everybody's heart is Miguel's Pizza. And right now you have none of that," said Lisa Johnson.

Crabtree's Candies is still open in Stanton. The walk-in's are met at the door, not with a warm greeting, but a sign with a phone number.

"We like to serve our walk-ins. Of course, we can't right now unless they call us and we can hand-deliver the candy outside," said Brenda Crabtree, owner of Crabtree's Candies.

Crabtree is happy to still be in business, but the impact of the virus and restrictions have hit her loved ones hard.

"My granddaughter that helps me, her husband is laid off. Another granddaughter, well two more granddaughters are laid off," said Crabtree.

Anderson says the locals and tourists have worked together to build Powell County's business infrastructure, and missing even a month of visitors will leave a lasting impact.

"While we know it's necessary, it's very concerning for those business owners that have put their lives' work into that," said Anderson.

Rural areas such as Powell County share unique challenges in this unprecedented time. The nearest hospital is nearly 30 miles away, which could leave EMS and ambulance workers even more taxed if the spread spikes in the county. Anderson says that so far, the people of Powell County have responded well to the outbreak and the impact.

"Our people have really heeded all the advice and recommendations, and for the most part, have done wonderful," said Anderson.

In this age of social distancing, more people are asked to work from home, and schools are communicating online with their students. However, internet service is unavailable in many Powell County homes.

"Our ability to isolate, do telemedicine, to have our students be able to work from home; it's not like how it is in urban areas," said Anderson.

Anderson hopes this age highlights the need for more online access in rural areas.

"It's not just economic development. It's social well-being and health of the community to have adequate internet in these rural areas," said Anderson. That's the hope for the future. But for right now, local businesses will do whatever they can to outlive the impact of COVID-19.