Jess Clark | WFPL

Several Kentucky school districts are doing away with mask mandates, citing a drop in coronavirus infections. But public health officials warn the decision could cause cases to spike again.

Warren County Public Schools, Campbellsville Independent Schools and Breckinridge County Schools are among a number of districts that plan to make masks optional in the next week or two. 

Daviess County Sheriff's Department

The long-time sheriff of Daviess County will hang up his holster before the end of this year.

Sheriff Keith Cain recently said he wouldn’t run for re-election in 2022, but announced on Thursday he will leave office on Dec. 1 before his current term ends. 

Cain said his motivation for retiring was family.

"If this pandemic has taught me anything, it's that life is precious and time with those you love is fleeting," Cain said during a news conference. "After much thought and prayer, I've decided to leave office before my term expires and take the opportunity to spend more time with those that I've neglected far too long."

The former Marine has served 48 years in law enforcement and the past 24 years as sheriff of Daviess County. 

Elected to six terms in office, Cain called leading the sheriff’s department an honor and privilege.

J. Tyler Franklin

Republican state lawmakers plan to file an omnibus anti-abortion bill during the upcoming legislative session, making it harder for minors to get the procedure, creating more restrictions for abortion medication and setting requirements for disposing fetal tissue.

The bill will also include provision that would allow medical providers to refuse to perform procedures that “violate their conscience.”

Rep. Nancy Tate, a Republican from Brandenburg and a sponsor of the bill, said it will not include exceptions for women seeking abortions because of rape or incest.

“If there’s a human baby that’s created from that tragedy then the life of that human baby needs to be treated with dignity and respect as well,” Tate said.

The bill hasn’t been filed yet. Tate outlined the provisions in a legislative meeting on Wednesday.

John Boyle

State attorneys arguing that police don’t need a search warrant to track a person’s location in real-time through their cell phone were met with skepticism from the Kentucky Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The state’s highest court heard arguments in a case that stems from a Woodford County robbery, in which police tracked a suspect’s location by “pinging” his cell phone without a search warrant.

The Kentucky Attorney General’s office argued that police don’t need a search warrant to track someone driving on a public road, even if that tracking is conducted through technology.

“This is not a case about police accessing data stored on cell phones. It is not about whether the police can use dragnet surveillance techniques to monitor an individual’s movement,” said Brett Nolan, a deputy solicitor general for the Office of the Kentucky Attorney General. “This is about using technology to do something that police have always been able to do, which they’ve always done: public surveillance on a public road.”

Maury Regional

The agency tasked with enforcing workplace safety rules in Tennessee has rejected a directive from state lawmakers to abandon federal COVID rules adopted in late August.

On Monday, the Joint Government Operations Committee voted for a “negative recommendation” toward the emergency rules, which govern masking, testing and distancing in hospitals and nursing homes. But at the hearing, officials with the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration warned that if the state refused to enforce the safety rules, federal authorities would likely intervene.

“The statutory language regarding rules does not authorize the withdrawal or the stay of a rule once the rule has become effective,” writes Tennessee Labor Commissioner Jeff McCord in a letter to Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, who chairs the Joint Government Operations Committee.

J. Tyler Franklin

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear unveiled a new energy strategy for the state Wednesday without mentioning climate change, its impacts or goals to curb carbon emissions.

The strategy focuses on promoting “all of Kentucky’s energy resources” in order to power and promote growth for a more resilient economy with an emphasis on production, manufacturing and transportation, according to the strategy document.

“The Commonwealth has and will remain an energy hub powering the nation while manufacturing goods for the global marketplace,” Beshear said during the virtual conference on energy and the environment.   

The plan, dubbed “E3” for energy, environment and economic development, used words that nod to the impacts of climate change, but never actually mentions the elephant in the room, or any serious plans to reduce the state’s reliance on fossil fuels.

J. Tyler Franklin

 Though Kentucky has no regular elections this year, voters in three legislative districts will participate in special elections in November, filling vacancies created by the deaths of two lawmakers and the resignation of another.

The elections will take place in House District 51 around Campbellsville, House District 89 around Berea and Senate District 22 around Nicholasville.

The outcome of the elections won’t determine who controls the statehouse, but all of the vacant districts have long been held by Republicans. So far, Democratic candidates have outraised their opponents with hopes of winning the seats this year.

Republicans have overwhelming control of both legislative chambers, with 29 out of 38 seats in the Senate and 73 out of 100 seats in the House (including vacancies).

SPEDA

The Somerset community is celebrating the official groundbreaking of a new distillery with strong ties to the U.S military.

Horse Soldier Bourbon was founded by retired members of the U.S Special Forces who were among the first soldiers to enter Afghanistan after the September 11th terrorist attacks. Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony took place on the 20th anniversary of the day those soldiers crossed into Afghanistan.

According to Horse Soldier Bourbon Chief Operating Officer Scott Neil, Somerset Mayor Alan Keck reached out to them two years ago about starting a distillery in Pulaski County.

Neil said when he and his fellow soldiers looked at a map to see where Somerset was located, they realized they already had a connection to the region.

“What made it especially interesting, it was on Lake Cumberland, and when 9/11 happened, we were on the Cumberland doing a training exercise,” Neil said. “So it kind of spoke to us as probably the right place for the rest of our lives, so we decided to pursue building in Somerset.”

Appalachian Hydro Associates

Most of the 14 locks and dams along the Kentucky River have been abandoned. But David Brown Kinloch has found a use for one of them. He’s president of Appalachian Hydro Associates and he’s built the state’s first small-scale hydro electric plant in 90 years.

“It’s the smaller sites like the one we just worked at that has the real potential to add a lot of new hydroelectric capacity to help with climate change in the future,” Brown Kinloch said. 

The 2.64 megawatt plant is located at near Ravenna in Estill County and began generating electricity for Berea College in May. The turbines provide enough electricity to power about 1,200 homes and will supply about half of the college’s energy needs on an annual basis. 

“The hydroelectric generating plant shows that local green initiatives like this one can be financially feasible and create reliable sources of income and acceptable rates of return on investment,” said Berea College President Lyle Roelofs in a statement.

Updated October 18, 2021 at 4:39 PM ET

Colin Powell, who served as secretary of state during the presidency of George W. Bush and led the first Gulf War as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has died at age 84 of complications from COVID-19, his family confirmed.

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