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. 

Kentucky Corn Growers Association

Many segments of the economy have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is positive news for Kentucky agriculture.

Corn and soybean crops are having a very good year.

Kentucky farmers are forecast to harvest 259 million bushels of corn this year, an increase of six percent over 2019. 

David Knopf is regional director of the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service based in Louisville. He said the temperature and rainfall have been good for corn, and harvesting is expected to continue for a few more weeks.

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

The KyCOVID-19 website now includes a “K-12 Public Health Report” that lists schools across the state and the number of cases of the virus reported among students and staff. 

The"K-12 Public Health Report" is divided into two sections. The first is the number of cases in each of 99 school districts. 

The latest numbers show that Barren County Schools have had a total of 12 students and 2 staff with confirmed cases of COVID-19. 

Bowling Green Independent Schools have had 11 cases among students and 2 among staff. 

Brescia University

Students at two Owensboro schools are sponsoring a ‘March for Justice’ on Saturday, in an effort to encourage unity after the deaths of several Black Americans by police.

The Sept. 12 march is a collaborative project of the Black Student Unions at Brescia University and Kentucky Wesleyan College

Brescia University Assistant Dean for Student Activities and Leadership Development, Patricia Lovett, said there’s been planning with administrators from both colleges and the police to make sure it’s a safe event. 

flickr

Counties across Kentucky are making plans for early in-person voting that begins Oct. 13. 

Election officials are required  to follow federal guidelines for social distancing and other safety precautions to keep voters safe during the pandemic.

Preparations for early voting are moving forward in Pulaski County, where Election Coordinator Mark Vaught said one location has already been determined. 


Somerset Independent Schools

The Somerset Independent School District is moving forward with plans to begin in-person classes for K-12 students on Sept. 8. 

Somerset schools will operate on a “purple-gold model”, with students showing up on a rotating schedule for the in-person classes.

The Commonwealth Journal reports the “purple” group will include students whose family name begins with the letters A-J.  Students in that group will attend Tuesdays and Thursdays. They will be the first ones to start the in-person classes next Tuesday, because there are no classes on Monday, Sept. 7, which is Labor Day.

The “gold” group consists of students whose family name starts with K-Z. They will be in class on Mondays and Wednesdays.


Lisa Autry

As colleges across Kentucky and the nation are back underway with in-person classes, students, parents and employees have multiple ways to get updates on COVID-19 cases on campus.

Technology has encouraged transparency in the time of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health online dashboard lists COVID-19 cases at colleges and universities across the state. The cases listed as of Aug. 27 include 550 students and 42 staff. 

Western Kentucky University reported 86 new cases in its weekly update posted Aug. 28 on its online dashboard. The total number of cases at the university since July 1 is 299, including students, faculty, staff and on-campus contractors.


Rhonda J. Miller

Small museums across Kentucky are a vital part of the state's tourism industry. Like so many other institutions, these specialized museums are facing the challenges of remaining open and serving the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Small museums across the commonwealth spotlight a numbers of Kentucky’s favorite activities, such as motorsports, basketball, and music. 

On a recent morning at the Muhlenberg Music Museum in Central City, Freddie Mayes played some of the most popular songs of Everly Brothers on the jukebox, including Wake Up Little Susie and Dream.

"This is a 1953 model jukebox that’s been restored," said Mayes. "It’s loaded with the 45s of the Everly Brothers music, all of their gold records are there." 

Amanda Balltrip

An opera singer who lives in Somerset, Kentucky is offering six months of voice lessons for two young people who would not be able to afford the vocal training. The deadline to apply to Lift Every Voice is Aug. 22.

Singer Amanda Balltrip, who is from Harlan and lives in Somerset, said the program is open to any student in grades 6-12.

“They do not have to be interested in classical music. They can be interested in any genre. It can be pop, it can be rock, it can be country," said Balltrip. "Whatever speaks to their heart, that’s what we want to pursue.”


The National Quilt Museum

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically reduced the number of visitors to popular tourism destinations in Kentucky, and across the nation. Since the shutdown of most Kentucky businesses and cultural sites in mid-March, and the gradual reopening, museums are among those that have been hit the hardest.  

In the first of a two-part series, WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with Frank Bennett,  CEO of The National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky, about how museums are maintaining a presence during this time of limited tourism.

Bennett is also a consultant to other museums, and has a blog called worldclassmuseum.com

During the conversation, Bennett said the museum follows all the safety guidelines required during the pandemic. He added that Kentucky’s statewide mandate to wear masks has made it easier to keep visitors safe when they come to the National Quilt Museum.

Bowling Green City Schools

As parents struggle over whether to send their children back to in-person classes or keep them home for remote learning during the pandemic, the Bowling Green Board of Education Friday afternoon approved Superintendent Gary Fields’ recommendation to begin the school year on Aug. 24, with both options.

The reopening plan for the Bowling Green Independent School District offers a hybrid model, with half the students attending on alternating days for in-person classes, called the Purple/Gold Schedule. Those students will also have remote-learning, called Non-Traditional Instruction or NTI, on Fridays.

Parents have the option of choosing all remote learning called the Virtual Academy. 

Mackenzie Kristufek

As Kentucky busiesses and schools reopen, with strict health guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a recent graduate of Western Kentucky University said she knows from personal experience that young people are not immune to the coronavirus. 

MacKenzie Kristufek turned around on her way to her temporary job at the end of March because she didn’t feel well. The symptoms of COVID-19 worsened as the day went on with a sore throat, back pain, fever, a headache and difficulty breathing. 

She tested positive for COVID-19 and went into a two-week quarantine. Her boyfriend’s parents helped her get through it. 

Dr. Belinda Setters

The Robley Rex VA Medical Center in Louisville provides specialty geriatric care for military veterans 65 and older.

WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with Director of Inpatient Geriatrics, Dr. Belinda Setters, who says the VA hospital has increased efforts to keep patients active and connected and avoid the negative impacts of isolation, while most visiting is suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Setters:

So, we take care of the frailest, the oldest folks when they're hospitalized. We actually see patients on all different units, including in the ICU, including in the COVID unit, you know, working in different ways to try to keep the patients engaged and as active as we can, which has been problematic with COVID. 

Pulaski County Recycling Center

Recycling in the U.S. has become more difficult since China stopped accepting plastic in 2018.

Counties and cities across Kentucky are choosing differing ways to handle, or not handle, the recycling of plastic, cardboard, paper, glass, and aluminum and metal cans.

The scarcity of markets for recycled plastic and the cost of recycling overall add to the obstacles for communites, at the same time landfills continue to run out of space, and changes in packaging by manufacturers, which would reduce waste, move along at a slow pace.  The challenges to recycling have mulitpled with the COVID-19 pandemic.


Tom Morris

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread anxiety about what used to be common daily activities, like going to the grocery store and getting a haircut.

Now, Bowling Green area residents are using social media to share information about businesses that are using safety precautions, and others that are not following guidelines for masks or social distancing.

The public Facebook group is called 'Safe Places to Patronize in Bowling Green, KY.'

Retired engineer Tom Morris, who created the group,  said it’s grown to more than 2,500 members in two months.

“Actually, it kind of started on a whim," said Morris. "Somebody had posted something about, you know, it would be nice to know where we can go that’s safe. And I said, ‘Well somebody ought to start a Facebook group about safe places to patronize, you know.’ And I said, ‘Well, heck, I’ll start it'."


Dr. Laura Morton

Visiting at nursing homes across Kentucky began July 15, after in-person visits were suspended for several months to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Residents had been keeping in touch with family and friends through social media and by peering through windows. 

Now, visits to skilled nursing facilities have restarted, with many state required health precautions in place, including social distancing and the wearing of masks. 

Restrictions were eased on other types of long-term care facilities, including assisted living and personal care homes, on June 29.


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