Mayor Fischer thanks Louisville faith community for its support during COVID-19 outbreak
Although there has been widespread support for canceling religious services in Louisville, some churches in Kentucky have continued to hold traditional services and “drive-thru” services in which congregants stay in their vehicles. Neither practice is considered safe social distancing in a dense urban setting, which health experts say is the best way to slow the spread of the virus.
“I am reluctantly, but emphatically, asking our faith leaders not to hold in-person or drive-thru services this weekend,” Mayor Fischer said. “I’m imploring people of faith to keep the faith in the work we’ve done these last few weeks – the faith in the value of staying home, practicing social distancing and worshipping at home so we can save lives. So that as soon as possible we can come out of our houses and safely gather to worship together again. That day is coming. And the more disciplined we are now, the sooner it will get here.”
Mayor Fischer said he has discussed the issue with Governor Beshear, who supports the city’s position.
“In an urban environment like Louisville, it is not really possible, practical or safe to accommodate even a drive-up service while following our social distancing guidance – which starts with ‘stay home’,” Mayor Fischer said. “Our population density is about 17-times greater than Kentucky as a whole. This is not the time to put large numbers of people in the same space. It’s a tinderbox for the virus and creates too many opportunities for more people to contract the disease.”
Rev. Vincent E. James Sr., Louisville Metro Chief of Community Building, said city officials are making this request “with a very heavy heart.”
“We are discouraging people from going out for any reason except for essential work, going to the grocery store, to the doctor, or to get medicine,” said James, who also serves as Pastor at Elim Baptist Church in Louisville. “Our whole objective is to keep people safe and from going out. Governor Beshear was clear that he supported the efforts in Hopkinsville and Louisville to prohibit the drive-thrus. In our case, it is because of the density of our city. We could literally have hundreds of thousands of people moving about the city on Sunday morning. The virus would love that.”
Mayor Fischer said he understands the pain and sacrifice that staying home will require on Easter Sunday.
“People who have celebrated Easter together as a tradition for generations, but the coronavirus doesn’t care about traditions. It doesn’t care about faith. It doesn’t care why people are getting together. It just wants to infect as many people as possible,” the Mayor said. “And gatherings – whether it’s a Saturday night house party or Easter Sunday worship service – give the virus more opportunities to spread. And that means more lives will be lost, as we’re tragically seeing happen every day in our community.”
James had a personal appeal to his fellow religious leaders:
“We are so sorry that we are in this position, but we must all work together to reduce suffering and save lives,” James said. “Your leadership in this mission is critical and much appreciated. Thank you for your commitment and the service you provide to our community during this most Holy Week.”
Thousands of restaurant workers have been sidelined across the country during this unprecedented economic shutdown, but Mayor Fischer today said a Louisville dining institution has stepped up to help in a big way.
The Mayor lauded Chef Edward Lee, owner of 610 Magnolia, and Lindsey Ofcacek, 610 Magnolia’s general manager, for quickly putting into motion a program to help feed out-of-work culinary workers in Louisville and several other cities.
“This crisis has really challenged us as a community, but it’s also really revealed the compassionate heart of our city in so many ways,” the Mayor said. “As we all know, the restaurant industry has been hit especially hard by COVID-19, with restaurants either shut down or limited to carry out and delivery. That’s created hardships for thousands and thousands of restaurant workers. And right away, Lindsey and Ed got together with help from Maker’s Mark and launched the Restaurant Workers Relief Program. Through the Lee Initiative, they’ve provided meals and other supplies to help displaced restaurant workers.”
Ofcacek, who co-founded the Lee Initiative with Chef Lee, said the initial plan was to help workers in Louisville, but it quickly grew.
“We started in Louisville the day after restaurants closed with the support of Maker’s Mark. We realized this wasn’t just a Kentucky problem. The founding mission of The Lee Initiative has always been to come up with fast and forward-thinking solutions to address problems in our industry,” Ofcacek said. “Thanks to our partnership with Maker’s Mark we are now operating in 15 cities across the U.S. – Louisville; Lexington; Cincinnati; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; Oakland; New York City; Atlanta; Chicago; New Orleans; Houston; Denver; Seattle; and Boston. Cleveland is next. The most pressing need right now is to take care of our hospitality industry family. We want them to know that they are not alone, we are here for them. We will all get through this by coming together and supporting one another. Imagine how united we will be on the other side.”
The Lee Initiative hopes to keep all the relief kitchens open until at least mid-May. Regardless of when the shutdown is lifted, Ofcacek said many workers will likely still be out of work due to the fact that many restaurants may go permanently out of business.
For more information, how to donate and hours of operation, go to www.leeinitiative.org.
Mayor Fischer today also thanked local businesses and organizations that have provided free billboard space to promote social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak. The ads reinforce the “Better Together by Staying Apart” messaging campaign, which was launched last week by Louisville Metro Government, Passport Health Plan, the University of Louisville and U of L Health.
To spread the word, OutFront Media has offered electronic billboard space in places like the Kentucky International Convention Center and along I-65. LouCity FC, the Kentucky Center for the Arts, the Kentucky Exposition Center and the University of Louisville are also running the graphics and the list of supporters is growing.
“You’ll also start to see additional graphics in TARC shelters/buses and other places. And, of course, social media. The campaign is using the hashtag #BetterTogetherByStayingApart,” the Mayor said. “The goal is just to be sure everyone hears – and keeps hearing and living by - the key messages we’ve shared about social distancing. We ask our friends in the media to help us share this message and save lives.”
Key messages of Better Together by Staying Apart include:
- To protect yourself and others, limit your outings to essential needs only.
- Avoid close contact with others in social settings.
- Wash your hands and avoid touching your face as much as possible.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces frequently.
Posters and social media graphics are available for downloading at www.louisvilleky.gov/news/what-you-need-know-about-coronavirus#resources
As of Tuesday, April 7, there are 40 members of LMPD, Louisville Fire, Metro EMS, Metro Corrections, and the Sheriff’s Office who are off-duty due to COVID-19:
- 6 are off with positive tests and in self-isolation.
- 23 are off and quarantined due to exposure to someone with a positive test.
- 11 are “screened off” with symptoms and have been tested (or due to be tested) but have not received test results.
Metro Corrections inmate data for April 7:
- 31 inmates have been tested.
- 0 positive tests.
- 5 tests are pending.
- 4 inmates are in isolation due to possible COVID-19 exposure.
The total number of positive tests for first responders since the start of the incident is seven.
Metro has three first responders who once tested positive but have recovered and returned to work.
Online town hall on Wednesday
Mayor Fischer will discuss the impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on the Louisville religious community during an online town hall on Wednesday morning.
The guests will be:
- Muhammad Babar, Muslim Americans for Compassion
- Pastor Timothy Findley Jr., Kingdom Fellowship Christian Life Center
- Vincent E. James Sr., Louisville Metro Chief of Community Building
- Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville
- Pastor Matt Reagan, Southeast Christian Church
- Rabbi Robert Slosberg, Congregation Adath Jeshurun
Go to Facebook.com/MayorGregFischer at 10 a.m. on Wednesday to participate.