CYNTHIANA, Ky. (LEX 18) — The first COVID-19 case in Kentucky was announced March 6, 2020.
The patient was reported out of Harrison County. Schools were shut down immediately and restaurants quickly scrambled to find PPE and sanitizer.
Although Harrison County was the first to experience life in a new normal, the virus quickly spread across the state until every county was reached.
Among those standing by Governor Andy Beshear in those first briefings was Dr. Crystal Miller, director of the WEDCO District Health Department.
"They (people in Cynthiana) were scared. Very much unsure of what this was going to look like," said Dr. Miller.
There were many questions, so Karey Riddell temporarily closed up Burley Market and Cafe for a few weeks to find some answers.
"How can we help our customers? How can we still pay our bills? And it was really the smartest thing to do," said Riddell.
The cafe bounced back, even as they completely shifted their business model and spent thousands of dollars on disposable items for carryout.
"Right now, about 67% of my business is curbside and takeout, and last year at this time, it was 25%," said Riddell.
Riddell and other owners worked closely with the health department to make sure they could meet the guidelines and keep everyone safe while staying open.
In addition to consulting businesses, schools, and other entities in the county, the health department has staff members dedicated to contact tracing. These contact tracers are working 12 hours a day, six days a week.
"They make contact with that positive case, they roll their life back 14 days, and they make contact with where they've been," said Dr. Miller.
Right now, Dr. Miller says she's especially working with schools on internal contact tracing as students return to the classroom.
"So when we get positives in the school, whether it's a student or a staff member, the school system works directly with us on contact tracing so we're making sure all protocols are being met internally," said Dr. Miller.
Eastside Elementary recently welcomed students inside for the first time in almost eight months.
"To have students in our building feels amazing. They want to be here. They're complying with everything we ask them to. So they are enjoying being back as well. We're just blessed to have them back," said Eastside Principal Melissa Miles.
Miles says the school released a detailed plan upon return and is enforcing mask compliance by every student.
In Biancke's Restaurant, workers are wearing masks as they move around the dining room.
The kitchen at the oldest restaurant in town is bustling even if the customers aren't always inside.
"Our delivery and takeout sales have went from last year at this time from 5-7% to 28-32% (this year)," said owner Jon Gruchow.
The business dates back to the late 1800's, and the owner says they're continuing to evolve with the times.
"We wipe down all the menus. We put them in a different location, wipe them down all the time before we put them on the tables. We sanitize all of the tables. Sort of become a normal practice now. That kind of thing will probably stay after the pandemic's over," said Gruchow.
For the town that experienced the new normal first in Kentucky, the end of the pandemic can feel far away. But Karey Riddell can't wait to see Cynthiana's future from her restaurant window.
"This is my little corner of happiness. I love Cynthiana, my staff loves Cynthiana, we just want to see everybody through this really hard time and have really good stories to tell l