Lisa Autry

Reporter/Producer

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum.  She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years.  Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville.  She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky.  Many of her stories have been heard on NPR. 

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Lisa Autry

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is reserving comment on Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s planned retirement from the bench.

NPR and other media outlets are reporting Breyer is expected to make a formal announcement Thursday. 

During a stop in Bowling Green on Wednesday, the GOP leader was asked if his party would attempt to block President Joe Biden’s nominee.

"We don’t even know who the nominee is yet, so that’s something the president has an opportunity to make and Justice Breyer will determine when and if there’s a vacancy," McConnell said.

Although Biden's pick wouldn’t change the overall balance of the court, the nominee could serve on the court for decades.

Owensboro Health

Some Kentucky hospitals stretched thin by the latest COVID-19 surge are turning to outside help to keep operations flowing. 

Eleven AmeriCorps volunteers arrived this week at Owensboro Health to assist with non-clinical work. Among them is Beth Lumia from Syracuse, New York, who’s used to helping build homes, bike trails, and community gardens.

“None of our team members have had experience working in a hospital," Lumia told WKU Public Radio. "A lot of us were nervous to leave where we were, but part of being an AmeriCorps member is adapting and jumping into any culture, or any experience, for that matter.”

Owensboro Health has been averaging 50 COVID-19 patients a day since the surge of the Omicron variant. The pandemic has also led to absences among staff members who contracted the virus. CEO Beth Steele says the AmeriCorps members are providing an important boost.

Lisa Autry

The pandemic has upended our lives in many ways, and perhaps no one knows that better than parents of school age children.

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus is bearing down hard on Kentucky, pushing the state past one million cases of COVID-19. With the most contagious variant yet and a record number of new cases, schools are stressed by high absenteeism among both students and staff.

Many schools have returned to in-person learning this week, but parents fear it will be short-lived.

"I don't know a parent in Warren County right now that's not got somebody sick," said Jenny Lopez during an interview with WKU Public Radio Public.

You might say Lopez has been praying a mother’s prayer.

“Help these kids stay in school, get the learning done, and get this year over," sighed Lopez, while sitting at the kitchen table of her home in southern Warren County.

Timothy Caboni FB

As the spring semester begins at Western Kentucky University, President Timothy Caboni will be on the sidelines. 

In a social media post Tuesday, Caboni announced he has tested positive for COVID-19. He said he developed mild symptoms over the weekend, but is feeling good overall.

In line with campus protocols and CDC guidelines, President Caboni said he will be isolating and working from home for the next five days or until he no longer has symptoms.

In a welcome back message to spring semester students, Caboni reiterated the best defense against COVID-19 is vaccination, and urged the campus community to stay up to date on booster shots.

"I am thankful I took these steps," wrote Caboni.

COVID-19 and the winter weather are taking a major toll on the nation’s blood supply and that shortage is being felt close to home.

Tennessee-based Blood Assurance, which supplies TriStar Greenview Regional Hospital in Bowling Green, had more than 50 blood drive cancellations last week. That resulted in more than 800 units of blood not reaching patients in hospitals.

Blood Assurance's Public Relations Specialist Max Winitz says O-type blood donors are especially needed.

“If you have O-negative blood, you’re a universal donor and your blood can go to anybody. If you’re O-positive, your blood can go to any type of positive blood," explained Winitz. "But right now, we have less than a two-day supply of just about every type of blood across the board.”

Lisa Autry

Many western and southern Kentucky tornado victims will not be home for the holidays. In fact, Christmas will be very different this year. 

This month’s storms left many in Bowling Green, Dawson Springs, Mayfield and other affected areas homeless. Many who lost their homes will spend the holiday at state parks after Governor Andy Beshear turned some of them into free emergency housing for tornado victims. 

As the sun was setting over the hills of Dawson Springs on Tuesday, the lodge at Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park was filling up for dinner.  A place for rest and recreation is now in survival mode.

“Everything’s been a little chaotic, but it’s been a good chaotic," said Park Manager Melissa Voges.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Lisa Autry

FEMA inspectors are in Bowling Green making plans to open a “one-stop shop” claims center for residents impacted by the recent storms and deadly tornado, according to Bowling Green Mayor Todd Alcott.

President Biden covered storm-damaged parts of Kentucky with an emergency disaster declaration last weekend, saying the federal government will do everything it can to assist the state after the tornado outbreak. Alcott said Wednesday he’s hoping FEMA will have the center open at the old Sears store at the Bowling Green Mall by the end of next week.

But he added residents don’t have to wait for the center’s opening to apply for help.

“Claims can happen right now,” Alcott said. “Because the President signed the order, people can go ahead and start saying, ‘Hey, I lost this. Hey, I lost that.’ All that can be registered right now with FEMA online.”

The federal website where residents in disaster areas can ask for help is here.

Lisa Autry

A Tennesee-based blood bank is adding more drives in Bowling Green after a strong response following last weekend's tornado.

Blood Assurance is returning to TriStar Greenview Regional Hospital on Thursday, holding its fourth blood drive there this week.  Collections will take place from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

On Friday, the Bowling Green Hot Rods will host Blood Assurance inside the Bowling Green Ballpark from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Walk-ins will be accepted, but donors are encouraged to schedule an appointment online.

Donating blood is one of many ways that Bowling Green residents are stepping up to help their neighbors recover from Saturday’s EF-3 tornado that killed at least 15 Warren County residents. 

Lisa Autry

Some Warren County Public Schools bus drivers had tearful reunions with some of their students on Monday. It was their first time seeing each other since last weekend’s deadly tornado. 

The school system is delivering meals to students and their families, many of whom are struggling to just get by since the tragedy.

As a WCPS bus turned onto Moss Creek Court around midday, driver Rhonda Stamper barely had the words to describe what she saw.

"Just gutwrenching," she said.

Stamper is a regular in this neighborhood, picking up children every morning and bringing them home in the afternoons. Some of the homes she normally stops in front of are no longer standing.

"It's hard, it's emotional," Stamper said. "It's hard to believe the destruction."

Lisa Autry

A global pandemic has made the past year-and-a-half stressful to say the least, and even Mother Nature screams sometimes.

“This is the worst tornado event we’ve ever been through," Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said at a news conference in Bowling Green Saturday afternoon.

Beshear grew emotional while speaking at the Bowling Green Police Department, hours after an EF-3 tornado packing winds of 155 miles per hour, swept through the city in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

“It’s really hard and really painful," Beshear said, his voice cracking. "I spent eight hours wondering if one of my cousins was still alive.”

The Warren County coroner has confirmed 11 deaths, including children, and that number could rise as more victims are found under debris.

Lisa Autry

Republican U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green says he has tested positive for COVID-19 but doesn't feel very ill.

“Out of an abundance of caution, I took a COVID-19 test, and it came back positive today," Guthrie said in a news release issued Wednesday. "I am glad I decided to get fully vaccinated, and I am experiencing mild symptoms.

Guthrie, who was elected from Kentucky’s 2nd District in 2008, said his offices in the district and in Washington remain open.

Guthrie is the Republican leader of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee, which had oversight of the COVID-19 vaccines' development. He's a staunch advocate for their safety and efficacy, but has fought efforts to make the vaccines mandatory.

Lisa Autry

Kentuckians on financial assistance are being given access to the arts free of charge.

Arts of Southern Kentucky announced on Tuesday a new program called SKyPASS, which provides tickets to individuals on state assistance. 

Those receiving government benefits are eligible for SKyPASS membership cards, which are available through organizations that serve people in need.

The program offers cardholders up to four complimentary tickets for most shows at the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center, or SKyPAC in Bowling Green.

Jeffrey Reed is President and CEO of Arts of Southern Kentucky, which manages SKyPAC.

“Many times the arts are seen as something only the wealthy can take advantage of, and we wanted to take down those barriers so that people of all socioeconomic classes can come and enjoy the arts and be enriched by them," stated Reed.

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear says he may issue an executive order that would expand eligibility for COVID-19 booster shots. 

The federal government has recommended states limit booster shots to those at most risk of contracting and becoming seriously ill from COVID-19. However, Governor Andy Beshear said during a briefing on Monday, he believes the nation needs to open up booster shots to everyone.  

“I believe that’s the way we fight off the next wave and I believe the federal government will come back around to that decision at some point," Beshear stated.


Sgt. Matt Damon, Kentucky National Guard

The Kentucky National Guard is following a Department of Defense mandate that says all service members must be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Guard launched its vaccination initiative, Operation Fortified Guardian, on Oct. 15. As of last week, 91% of the force had received their first injection and 73 percent had received their second dose. Col. Timothy Starke, Commander of the 75th Troop Command, said having vaccinated service members is critical to the Guard’s mission.

“This is about force protection and ensuring that we have a healthy force that can train without restrictions, and so that we are prepared to fight our nation’s wars abroad and respond to emergencies here at home," explained Starke.

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