• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Gill wants people back to work, economy moving

As retail businesses and restaurants began reopening last week, Woodford County Magistrate Mary Ann Gill told the Sun it’s time to get the economy moving again and people back to work. “I think we need to reopen just because I think there are worse things than COVID these days, and one is financial ruin,” said Gill, who has been a nurse for 42 years. She said keeping everything shut down is financially devastating to people “so we need to try and open up as quickly as possible and get things back to normal – as normal as we possibly can.” She described having close to 40 percent of working Kentuckians file for unemployment as “frightening.” Gill said there are safe ways to reopen, and that every business owner she knows has been very responsible by following recommended guidelines: social distancing, wearing masks and hand washing. Kroger and other big box stores stayed open, “and we’ve not seen big outbreaks there,” she added. Because of the limited testing capabilities early-on, the COVID-19 death rates were probably much lower than first thought, she said. Gill also pointed out that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released information that the coronavirus does not live long on surfaces, and instead is mostly transmitted person to person by droplets in the air from someone (with the virus) coughing, sneezing and talking. “Every day that goes by we learn more about this (virus), and we learn what works and what doesn’t work,” said Gill. “… For the vast majority of the public I believe it’s safe if they take those precautions,” recommended by the CDC. She said people who are at a higher risk should stay home. “Let people do what they feel comfortable with, that they’re safe with,” Gill said. In terms of protective masks or face coverings, she said there are many different sides on whether to wear them. “They will not protect you from COVID, but if you have it they protect other people from droplets that spread (the coronavirus) … not completely, but they will be contained in the mask,” Gill explained. “So I don’t think it’s a bad thing to wear a mask. But I also think when people wear masks they don’t wear them properly. They touch their face a lot more with their hands.” She said people need to be educated on how to wear a mask appropriately, including why they need to cover their nose. Gill said there’s a vaccine for influenza every year, but people still get sick with the flu. She’s told her children for years to not touch surfaces that lots of other people touch and stay away from sick people, “and that’s always worked for my family,” she said. Social distancing and washing hands has been recommended and a common preventive practice of healthcare workers for years, and people are now being reminded of those ways to prevent the spread of a virus, and “that’s a very good thing,” Gill said. As a healthcare worker, Gill said the fear generated by the coronavirus was very similar to what happened when AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) came to this country and so little was known about that disease. “That’s what this reminds me of, although this is far bigger than AIDS,” she said. “Each day that goes by,” she added, “we learn more about it (the coronavirus), and it’s going to be more manageable,” with more accurate information and better ways to treat it. She emphasized every state needs to deal with COVID-19 differently. Kentucky, for example, is very different from New York, which has more densely populated cities and at one time had an unmanageable number of cases, she said. “I don’t think there’s one way to address this or to fix this,” she explained. In terms of healthcare workers like her being heroes, Gill said, “I think the hero is somebody who’s shut his business down knowing that he could lose everything. That’s the hero. That’s the one who’s really sacrificing.”

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