LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — With more than 60 percent of Lexington’s adult population now being fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the mayor (and former nurse) felt comfortable making the big move.
"It's time to reopen government offices and facilities to the public," Mayor Linda Gorton declared during a press briefing at City Hall where, by the way, masks are now optional.
Gorton was forced to shut down those government buildings, and many of the city's public facilities like pools and playgrounds when coronavirus began to spread late last winter. On June 11 most of those services will return along with the employees who provide them.
"We are, division by division, making decisions on whether people can work from home some of the time," Gorton said. "Some people are interested, but most people want to come back!"
Gorton said city officials have learned a lot over the past year and can pivot on a moment’s notice if the need arises due to an unforeseen spike in new cases.
The status quo will remain in place as it pertains to visitation at the Fayette County Detention Center, where in-person visits won’t be allowed until July. City pools will also continue to operate on a limited schedule, but that’s due to a lifeguard shortage, not the virus. But, perhaps the biggest beneficiaries of the new rules will be Lexington’s senior citizens.
"The sense of community within a senior center is so beautiful," said Kristy Stambaugh who runs aging and disability services for the Lexington Senior Center. "We have four decades of people. We have 60-year-olds, 70-year-olds, 80-year-olds, and 90-year old people coming together sharing their experiences, enjoying something new, learning something new," Stambaugh continued, while sounding a little emotional about next Friday’s reopening.
"That's why we do this. To be with people," she said.
The seniors had that taken away for the last 15 months and for many, it was their only consistent social outlet. But Mayor Gorton knew early on she had no choice but to shut it down.
"As a registered nurse I knew the potential dangers of a new virus in a place like senior centers," she stated.
Now she knows the danger has been mitigated thanks in large part to widespread vaccinations across her city.
"We've been waiting for this day for a long time," the mayor added.