coronavirus

Jess Clark/WFPL

School districts across Kentucky are in high gear as they prepare for a return to in-person classes.

But on top of recovering from the COVID-19 upheaval of changing schedules and virtual instruction, there’s another wrinkle in the preparation.

A state education leader said there’s an unusually large number of vacant positions.  

The Kentucky Education Association represents 44,000 teachers and other school employees, including cafeteria workers and custodians. 


Updated July 27, 2021 at 3:09 PM ET

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its guidance on wearing masks Tuesday. In a reversal of its earlier position, the agency is now recommending that some fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors if they live in areas with significant or high spread.

Corrine Boyer

With weeks to go before the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, state officials say the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19 has led to a quintupling of new cases since the beginning of July, mostly among unvaccinated people.

Monday afternoon, Gov. Andy Beshear took to the podium with state education leaders to urge school districts to adopt mask requirements, but didn’t mandate they do so.

“Our priority is not to play politics, our priority isn’t to do some red or blue thing, or get involved in some ridiculous so-called culture war. Our priority: It’s our kids, and it is having them in class every day,” Beshear said.

Beshear said he was issuing three “clear recommendations” or “expectations,” which are in line with the July 15 guidance from the Kentucky Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Breya Jones

The front lawn of the Capitol building in Frankfort served as the backdrop for the “Worldwide Freedom Rally” on Saturday, where attendees railed against the unlikely possibility of mandated vaccines and the governor’s COVID-19 response.

The rally was held by America’s Frontline Doctors, a right-wing medical professionals organization. According to the organization, today’s rally was supposed to take place at several state capitols across the nation.  

The event’s speakers addressed critical race theory, concerns about communism in the US and the Kentucky government’s response to COVID-19. 

There was general fear about government-sponsored vaccine mandates, particularly requiring a COVID-19 vaccine for students attending public school, despite there being no discussion about that currently.

Lisa Autry

It’s campaign season in Kentucky and the rest of the country, but not in the political sense. 

A vaccination campaign is underway against highly contagious coronavirus variants that are particularly a threat to unvaccinated individuals.  As Kentucky marks three consecutive weeks of increasing COVID-19 cases, the key to beating the virus remains winning the undecideds. 

The Bluegrass State confirmed more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the highest single-day increase the commonwealth has seen since March 11.  On top of that, the Delta variant has become the dominant and most aggressive strain in the state.  Given that it's more fatal than other variants,  Myrna Denny decided it was time to get vaccinated. 

“Relax, deep breath. Relax those shoulders," instructed a healthcare worker at Denny's appointment.

Denny was at a mass vaccination clinic run by the Medical Center in Bowling Green.  She’d been hesitant to get the shot after having an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine several years.

Owensboro Public Schools

As schools across Kentucky plan to welcome students back for in-person learning during the new academic year, many districts are scrambling to hire teachers and other staff.

One western Kentucky district has the added challenge of hiring for new positions created to address the impacts of COVID-19.

The human resources staff at Owensboro Public Schools is in high gear as they try to fill 20 vacant teacher positions, and 15 for instructional assistants as the Aug. 11 opening day rapidly approaches.

School district spokesperson Jared Revlett said hiring is in-progress for a variety of jobs across the district.


The American Academy of Pediatrics released updated guidance for schools Monday, recommending that all students over 2 years old, along with staff, wear masks, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Delta Variant Fueling Rise In Kentucky COVID-19 Cases

Jul 20, 2021
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Cases of COVID-19 are again on the rise in Kentucky prompting Gov. Andy Beshear to issue a new round of recommendations to combat the spread of the Delta variant.  

New cases have nearly tripled in Kentucky since late June with 2,992 cases reported last week. The positivity rate, which in recent months dipped below 1%, is now at 5.48%. State health experts estimate more than half of all new cases are attributable to the Delta variant, which is more transmissible than the original virus. 

The Delta variant poses the greatest risk to unvaccinated Kentuckians, though higher case counts also encompass a higher number of “breakthrough cases,” where vaccinated people come down with the virus.

Public Health Commission Dr. Steven Stack said the more unvaccinated people in a population, the greater the risk is for everyone, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, to contract the virus. But the inverse is also true. As the number of vaccinations increased from March through June, the overall number of infections decreased.

Rhonda J. Miller

For thousands of people in Kentucky, the highly effective COVID-19 vaccines have allowed life to return to mostly normal. 

But for “long haulers” like Army Staff Sgt. Noah Cole, who contracted COVID before vaccines were widely available, the devastating impact on his health threatens to destroy his dream of a military career. 

A native of Williamsburg in southeastern Kentucky, Cole, 28, joined the Army a year after graduating from high school. 

WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with Staff Sgt. Cole at Fort Campbell, the Army post on the Kentucky-Tennessee border. 


Stu Johnson | WEKU

Kentucky is seeing an increase in coronavirus cases.  State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said Thursday the latest tally revealed about 100 new cases more than the week before.

Stack said the coronavirus positivity rate has gone up more than one percent over that time. “The positivity rate is going up and the cases are going up. Now the real question will be: will the vaccines help to keep those at lower levels, and will it keep the hospitals and the ICU’S from getting filled up, and will it keep people safe and protected serious permanent harm and or death?” 

While there are 26 confirmed Delta variant COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealth, state officials believe the true number of Delta cases is higher.

Rhonda J. Miller

The time we're living in now might be thought of as “pandemic recovery.”

After 15 months of shutdowns, stress and isolation, Kentucky is open for business and there's a welcome return to social activities. 

Schools will be fully in-person for the new academic year in the fall.

But the anxiety many children experienced during the pandemic is not likely to be washed away in the water parks and swimming pools of summer. 

WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with Tanner Steelman, a licensed clinical social worker who is mental health supervisor for Bowling Green City Schools


Kevin Willis

 

The federal government is rescinding thousands of payments promised to struggling restaurants. 

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund was meant to provide pandemic relief. Initially, the program offered a 21-day exclusivity period for women, military veterans and “socially and economically disadvantaged individuals” to apply first. But a series of lawsuits halted the program, accusing it of being unfair because it prioritizes businesses owned by women and people of color.

One of the lawsuits was filed in the Eastern District of Tennessee by Antonio Vitolo, the owner of Jake’s Bar and Grill in Harriman, Tenn., who said he was discriminated against because he is a white male. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit agreed.

In light of the court rulings, nearly 3,000 applicants had their grants revoked.

Community Action of Southern Kentucky

After more than a year of isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, older adults will soon be able to return for meals and socializing at senior centers in the 10-county Barren River region. 

All of the 13 senior centers in the Barren River Area Development District will re-open for meals and activities by July 6, with a few of the centers welcoming local residents back on July 1.

Kathy Fugate is senior center director for Community Action of Southern Kentucky. She said the 15 months the centers were closed during the pandemic was an especially difficult time for vulnerable elders.


Corrine Boyer

Kentuckians receiving unemployment benefits could be eligible for a $1,500 payment if they re-enter the workforce by the end of July.

Gov. Andy Beshear announced the new back-to-work incentive at a press conference Thursday afternoon. Kentucky officials estimate roughly 60,000 residents are receiving $300 in weekly pandemic unemployment assistance on top of state unemployment benefits. The state is setting aside $22.5 million in federal CARES Act funding for the new program, which would cover the incentive payments for 15,000 participants.

Some critics have called for the end of the additional unemployment benefits. Beshear says doing so would harm Kentucky families and the economy.

A new study estimates that life expectancy in the U.S. decreased by nearly two years between 2018 and 2020, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And the declines were most pronounced among minority groups, including Black and Hispanic people.

In 2018, average life expectancy in the U.S. was about 79 years (78.7). It declined to about 77 years (76.9) by the end of 2020, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal.

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