coronavirus

Blake Farmer | WPLN

COVID hospitalizations are beginning to ease up in parts of Tennessee. But intensive care units remain dangerously full, creating a backup in hospitals across the state.

The critical access hospital in Bolivar usually only has two or three patients at any one time. Right now, the rural West Tennessee facility has a dozen patients, and half of them are sick with COVID, according to CEO Ruby Kirby.

“In normal times, we would be able to get those patients out to a higher level of care,” she says.

Some are on ventilators being cared for in the small emergency department and need to be transferred to an ICU in Jackson, Memphis or Nashville. But there are no openings, Kirby says.

“We’re managing them, but it is putting a strain on the system, trying to hold these patients in these hospitals until we can get them moved,” she says.

TJ Samson Community Hospital

Kentucky hospitals and nursing homes have been struggling with staffing shortages as COVID-19 continues to surge through the state.

Health care leaders hoped state lawmakers would set aside funds to attract and retain workers during last week’s special legislative session dealing with the pandemic, but legislators said the initiative didn’t fit within Gov. Andy Beshear’s agenda for the session.

Instead, lawmakers passed a measure allowing paramedics to work in hospitals and setting aside $69.2 million in federal relief money for testing supplies, vaccination campaigns and monoclonal antibody treatment.

Jim Musser, vice president for policy and government relations with the Kentucky Hospital Association, said the special session produced some helpful policies, but they didn’t go far enough.

Alexandra Kanik

Kentucky’s COVID-19 situation continues to worsen and that’s putting a strain on hospitals and medical resources. 

On Monday, Kentucky’s top health official, Dr. Steven Stack, said new cases are higher than ever and that’s leading to a serious problem for hospitals.

“And though you may not be in a hospital right now, our hospitals are at the brink of collapse in many communities,” Stack said.  “It’s causing consequences to people not just with COVID, but also to people without COVID who can’t get some of their procedures, or hospitalizations, taken care of, or have a heart attack or a stroke addressed in a timely manner, because there simply are no places for these patients to get their care.”

Stephanie Wolf

When Gov. Andy Beshear called a special legislative session on COVID-19, he clearly outlined goals to fight the pandemic in Kentucky. 

Some of those items passed, including an extension of the state of emergency. But as predicted, masking was a point of contention — and in the end, the Republican-led legislature passed a bill reversing the Kentucky Department of Education’s mask mandate.

“The legislature owns this pandemic moving forward,” Beshear said at a Friday press conference, during which he relayed his frustration with state lawmakers.

Senate Bill 1 places the onus on individual school districts and their superintendents to decide whether masks are required in classrooms.

J. Tyler Franklin

The Republican-led legislature wrapped up the special session called by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear on Thursday night.

Shortly before midnight, lawmakers overrode two line-item vetoes Beshear issued of SB 1, which nullifies the school statewide mask mandate, and SB 2, which blocks the governor from creating other statewide mask requirements.

Beshear also signed two measures–SB 3 setting aside $69.2 million in federal coronavirus relief money to fight the pandemic and SB 5, which takes $410 million out of the rainy day fund to incentivize major companies to invest in the state.

Beshear called the special session after the legislature passed several laws limiting the governor’s emergency powers earlier this year. The state Supreme Court ordered those laws into effect after they were initially blocked.

J. Tyler Franklin

The Kentucky National Guard will offer additional support to the state’s hospitals as the delta variant continues to strain medical resources.

More than 100 National Guard members are currently deployed at four of the state’s hardest-hit hospitals, including Med Center Health in Bowling Green. On Thursday, Gov. Andy Beshear announced that he is authorizing the deployment of 310 additional National Guard members to assist 21 more hospitals.

Beshear said the Guard will provide logistical and administrative support so health care professions can focus on treating patients.

“This shows that every hospital is bursting at the seams, that they desperately need help and that we are a state full of more seriously sick people than we have ever seen,” he said.

J. Tyler Franklin

State lawmakers working in a special session on a pandemic relief bill for public schools are struggling to build consensus on how much flexibility districts should have in moving to remote learning. 

Republican leaders in both chambers have moved bills through committees that give districts 20 remote learning days, in addition to the 10 non-traditional instruction days they already have. The bills would also end the statewide mask mandate for schools and childcare centers, create a “test-to-stay” strategy and make it easier to hire substitute teachers.

Under the provision, districts could use 20 days to send a school, a group of students or a class into remote instruction—but not the entire district. 

Democrats, and some Republicans, worry 20 days won’t be enough.

J. Tyler Franklin

During a special legislative session called by Gov. Andy Beshear, Kentucky lawmakers have advanced a bill to use more than $69 million in federal coronavirus relief money to respond to the pandemic.

Republican-led committees in the state House and Senate passed identical bills that give Beshear’s administration the authority to spend the funds to help schools, hospitals and nursing homes weather COVID-19.

Rep. Jason Petrie, a Republican from Elkton, said the administration will have the ability to decide how much and what to spend the funds on.

“There is wide discretion given to the administration of being able to nimbly adapt the funds where the need is,” Petrie said.

Kevin Willis | WKYU

Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman says adults have talked a lot about how the pandemic has impacted the mental health of K-12 students.

What’s too often missing, she adds, is the voices of the students themselves.

As part of an effort to reverse that trend, Coleman was in Bowling Green Wednesday for the first in a series of in-person and virtual meetings with students across the state designed to give young people the opportunity to express how they’re struggling under the weight of the uncertainty, anxiety, and stress related to COVID-19.

“We’ve heard a lot of talk over the last couple of years about mental health and how it’s affecting students. But we haven’t heard from students. It’s been an adult’s interpretation, or assumption, of how students feel, and why they feel that way, and how to help them,” Coleman told WKU Public Radio.


Stephanie Wolf

Kentucky lawmakers extended the state of emergency related to the coronavirus and several other emergency orders issued by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear during the first day of a special legislative session to deal with the pandemic.

They also advanced bills that would ban lockdowns at nursing homes and get rid of the statewide school mask mandate.

Beshear called the special session after the Republican-led legislature passed several measures limiting his emergency powers earlier this year. The state Supreme Court recently ordered those laws into effect after they had initially been blocked.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said the legislature had taken control of the state’s emergency response.

“For 18 months, the governor said he and only he had the authority, either by constitution or statute, and I think he was proven to be very wrong,” Stivers said. “There’s only one group that makes the law.”

Ryland Barton

A Republican-led committee of state senators gave the greenlight Tuesday to a bill that would end statewide mask mandates for public schools and childcare centers. 

Supporters of the measure say it should be up to individual school districts and parents whether to send children to school in a mask. Opponents, including Democrats on the Senate Education Committee, point to guidance from health experts that universal masking is needed to curb the rapid spread of the delta variant of COVID-19.

The proposal is part of a larger education-related bill lawmakers are considering during a special legislative session to respond to the pandemic. Gov. Andy Beshear called the session after a state supreme court decision stripped many emergency powers from the Democratic governor and put them in the hands of the Republican-led legislature. 

The proposed legislation, known as Senate Bill 1, would end the Kentucky Department of Public Health’s mask requirement for childcare centers, as well as the Kentucky Department of Education’s mask mandate for K-12 public schools. School districts would have five days from the bill’s effective date to craft their own mask mandates, if they wish.

Louisville Passes 100,000 Total COVID-19 Cases

Sep 7, 2021
Fusion Medical Animation

Louisville passed 100,000 total COVID-19 cases over the weekend. That means that nearly one in seven residents has contracted the virus at some point in the pandemic, according to health officials who spoke at a Tuesday press briefing.

This comes as the city continues to experience high numbers of coronavirus fueled by the delta variant. 

Current numbers for the city, including cases, hospitalizations, people in the ICU and on ventilators, are close to the rates recorded during the peak of the last surge.

Although this week’s daily incidence rate is slightly lower than last week’s, the city remains in the red level, and health officials are unsure if this dip in numbers will last.

Hospital discharge day for Phoua Yang was more like a pep rally.

On her way rolling out of Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, she teared up as streamers and confetti rained down on her. Nurses chanted her name as they wheeled her out of the hospital for the first time since she arrived in February with COVID-19, barely able to breathe.

Stephanie Wolf

Governor Andy Beshear has called the Kentucky General Assembly to a special legislative session focused on COVID-19 measures.

Beshear announced the session late Saturday afternoon and said it will begin Tuesday, Sept. 7 at 10 a.m.

Earlier in the pandemic, Beshear used his executive powers to mandate masks and limit business capacity, but now much of that power has been stripped due to a recent decision by the Kentucky Supreme Court.

“This session will be about COVID, about the general assembly under the Supreme Court’s decision, making a determination on this fight moving forward,” said Beshear.

Beshear said he has been in talks with lawmakers about the special session since the Supreme Court’s decision last month. On Saturday, Beshear shared some of the COVID-19 measures to be considered:

The share of adults saying "no" to getting the COVID-19 vaccine dropped 5 percentage points in a month, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll conducted after the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer's vaccine.

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