Rhonda Miller

Reporter

Rhonda Miller joined WKU Public Radio in 2015.  She has worked as Gulf Coast reporter for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where she won Associated Press, Edward R. Murrow and Green Eyeshade awards for stories on dead sea turtles, health and legal issues arising from the 2010 BP oil spill and homeless veterans.

She has worked at Rhode Island Public Radio,  as an intern at WVTF Public Radio in Roanoke, Virginia, and at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Rhonda’s freelance work called Writing Into Sound includes stories for Voice of America, WSHU Public Radio in Fairfield, Conn., NPR and AARP Prime Time Radio.

She has a master’s degree in media studies from Rhode Island College and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University.

Rhonda enjoys quiet water kayaking, riding her bicycle and folk music. She was a volunteer DJ for Root-N-Branch at WUMD community radio in Dartmouth, Mass. 

flickr/Emory Maiden

Schools in Kentucky and across the nation are in limbo as COVID-19 makes it impossible, so far, for educators to determine whether there will be in-personclasses in the fall.

However, one thing is certain: Kentucky is looking for a new commissioner of education to guide the state’s 172 school districts through these uncertain times. 

The Kentucky Department of Education has the job description for its commissioner posted on its website. In this time of a pandemic, the description is perhaps understated. It offers “an exciting and challenging leadership opportunity to make a differencefor more than 648,000 public school students in the state.”


Aging is Cool

An exercise program for older adults, developed around bingo, is adapting to the social distancing of COVID-19. 

Bingocize was created by Western Kentucky University Associate Professor of Exercise Science Jason Crandall. It's based on the game of bingo, with frequent intermissions for simple exercises to improve balance and range of motion, such as reaching upward, or rotaitng wrists or ankles. Health education is also built into the game.

Socialization is also an important aspect of Bingocize, since it's recognized as a factor in warding off depression.

Becca Schimmel

A survey of businesses in the Somerset region found that more than 90 percent of them are being impacted, in some way, by COVID-19. 

The Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce surveyed 158 people in the business community to gather perspective on restarting the local economy.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bobby Clue said the goal was to quantify perspective from a wide representation of businesses.

“It was a very well-rounded collection," said Clue. "We had everybody from retail and entertainment to restaurants and hotels, health care, agriculture, manufacturing and industry, real estate, banking education, nonprofits, technical services, all those were represented.”

The survey found that about one-quarter of those who responded reported a 50 percent decline in revenue.


Kentucky Department of Corrections

The number of COVID-19 cases in Muhlenberg County has spiked suddenly, following the recent mass testing at a state prison in Central City.

The Muhlenberg County Health Department reports 467 cases of COVID-19.

The total includes confirmed cases in the community, and at the Green Rive Correctional Complex, a state prison in Central City that can house close to 1,000 men. 

Alma Fink is nursing supervisor for the Muhlenberg County Health Department.

“The spike was reported suddenly because as the tests were done over the period of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of that week, they were sent to Gravity labs to be finalized, and those results started flowing in a couple of days after the tests were run," said Fink.


Arts for All Kentucky

A nonprofit group that sends artists into Kentucky classrooms is adapting to the reality of schools being closed because of COVID-19.

The arts inclusion program has transitioned to 'virtual learning' and is available to anyone who wants to expand their creative skills.

Arts for All Kentucky works with about a dozen artists who bring music, drawing, painting, quilting and other creative experiences into classrooms.

The activities are developed with the priority of engaging those with disabilities, but the classroom experience includes all students.

facebook/Perdue Farms

Public health officials in Kentucky are working with meat processing plants aross the state to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services reports the number of COVID-19 cases at Perdue Farms in Ohio County jumped from 186 to 281 last week.

Kentucky Commissioner for Public Health Dr. Steven Stack said the increase is the result of expanded testing of Perdue workers. 

“I’m very grateful for the open communication I’ve had with the leadership at Perdue. They did, just a few days ago, test the entire workforce and they had a positivity rate of about 7.8 percent or so, which is not as bad as we thought it could be," Dr. Stack said during a May 9 press conference with Gov. Andy Beshear.

facebook

The 2020 Census has been overshadowed by information overload and concern about COVID-19. But a community census group in Daviess County has kept up its efforts to get residents to participate.

The Daviess County Complete Count Committee has about 35 members combining their skills to get residents to fill out their household information.

Committee chair Keith Sanders said with strategies like electronic message boards, yard signs and social media, results are good, so far. He said about 70 percent of Daviess County residents have filled out their census information by mail, phone or online.

“We’re likely to get to 85 percent. We certainly hope so, because that just simply reduces the number that have to be accounted for by going door-to-door," said Sanders. "And as we all well know, this is going to be more challenging than it would have been, because of the pandemic.”


paringaresouces.com

The Australian company that owns a western Kentucky coal mine will auction off the project next month.  The mine is operating under bankruptcy protection with a reduced workforce and COVID-19 safety precautions. 

Paringa Resources, based in Perth, Australia, will offer the Poplar Grove coal mine in McLean County for sale "on or about June 17," according to the company's first quarter 2020 report.

The sale will also include the nearby undeveloped Cypress Mine and other business assets. The timeline for the sale "remains subject to change" with the approval of the federal bankruptcy court for the Western District of Kentucky. 

The Kentucky mining project, located about 30 miles south of Owensboro, is operated by Paringa’s wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary, Hartshorne Mining Group, which declared bankruptcy in February.


Ileana Gaynor

Schools across Kentucky are shut down for the remainder of the academic year because of COVID-19, and most students are adapting to virtual learning.

But students who were already struggling, or have English as a second or third language, are at-risk for falling behind. 

Educators in Owensboro Public Schools, like teachers across the nation, are increasing communication to keep at-risk students engaged.

Estes Elementary in Owensboro, which has students in preschool through 5th grade, has about 100 "English Learners." Those students are dealing with the combined challenges of language and the loss of in-person instruction in the classroom.


Feeding America Kentucky's Heartland

Hunger in Kentucky is increasing as COVID-19 precautions have shut down most businesses, while senior citizens and others with underlying medical conditions are staying home.

Emergency distributions are helping to keep food on the table during this difficult time.

Feeding America Kentucky’s Heartland has been assessing the 42 counties it serves. Executive Director Jamie Sizemore said the impact of the coronavirus pandemic means families just do not have enough money to pay for housing, utilities and food.

“Our partner agencies are reporting everywhere from a 30-60 percent increase in food assistance," said Sizemore. "And one of the things, obviously, we’re seeing is a lot of people that are first-time users of food banks or food assistance programs.”


Daniel Brown

In a school year when almost everything is different due to the impact of the coronavirus, Kentucky students who take Advanced Placement courses to earn college credit have one more new experience facing them. 

The College Board is allowing students to take AP exams this year from home, on a computer, a tablet or a mobile phone.

Students will log in for a specific AP subject exam, on the same day, at the same time nationwide. 

Owensboro High School English teacher Daniel Brown has about 130 students in several courses, with about 60 of those in his AP Literature and Composition classes.

With no in-person classes in Kentucky for the remainder of the academic year, Brown said he and his AP students are making the most of technology to prepare for the AP Literature exam on May 13.


Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital

Hospitals across Kentucky are experiencing a dramatic decline in revenues as elective procedures are cancelled in order to focus on treating COVID-19 patients.

Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital is one of the health care organizations temporarily trimming its staff to deal with the financial challenge.

The hospital in Somerset is putting 17 percent of its staff on temporary leave, with 25 percent salary and continuing benefits for those employees.


Newton Parrish Elementary

With all schools in Kentucky shut down during the pandemic, one elementary school in Owensboro is a good example of how educators are developingnew procedures to get lessons to students. 

All of the 560 students at Newton Parrish Elementary get 10 days of printed lessons at a time. That’s to make sure even students who don’t have internet at home can keep up with their schoolwork.

Principal Steve Bratcher said after teachers prepare their lessons, instructional assistants copy them and place them in each classroom.

“And at that point, the teachers come back to school and put the first and last name on baggies, we bought Ziplock baggies, two-gallon baggies, and the teachers place those in the conference room, once they have everything bagged up, ready to go,” said Bratcher.

TriStar Greenview Regional Hospital

Medical professionals are asking people to avoid the emergency room so they don’t overwhelm hospitals, or contract or spread COVID-19. But one Bowling Green cardiologist is finding that some patients are waiting too long.

Dr. Jerry Roy, an interventional cardiologist who is Chest Pain Medical Director at TriStar Greenview Regional Hospital, said he's had several patients who have been afraid to come to the hospital because of fear of contracting COVID-19.

He said those suffering symptoms of stroke or heart attack can’t afford to put off getting help, and delaying treatment for more than a couple of hours can cause permanent damage. For example, if a patient has chest pain and their medicine is not effective at any time, they should immediately seek treatment.


Room In The Inn Bowling Green/Facebook

Government and health care leaders are advising Kentucky residents to "stay healthy at home" to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

One Bowling Green nonprofit is adjusting the way it's providing services to Kentuckians who don’t have a home during the pandemic.          

Room In The Inn Bowling Green is continuing to offer homeless individuals a variety of services, including computer access to apply for jobs, unemployment benefits, educational programs, and videoconferencing for health care.

"We've had several people that I've helped to apply for unemployment benefits online. And then we're also finding people who had education plans that they were just getting started on and everything, just kind of came to a screeching halt for them," said Program Coordinator Sharli Rogers. 


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