coronavirus

Ryland Barton

Kentucky’s state and local governments will get about $4 billion from the federal coronavirus relief bill making its way through Congress, according to Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration. That’s in addition to the $5 billion individuals in Kentucky stand to get from stimulus checks, an extension of unemployment benefits and other programs.

The figures come as lawmakers are trying to put the finishing touches on a one-year state budget after a year of economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

John Hicks, Kentucky’s state budget director, said the administration is still waiting for the relief package to pass and for formal instructions from the federal government.

Benny Becker

The newest version of the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, dubbed the American Rescue Plan, is nearing final approval by the House before going to President Joe Biden. During his regular COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said the state would receive $2.6 billion which would allow for a “once in a generation investment in infrastructure.” 

Beshear pointed to potential investments in broadband, water and sewer infrastructure and repairs and upgrades in areas that have been hit by flooding.

“When you look at those areas that experienced significant flooding, a lot of them have water and sewer projects that need to be done. The capacity was exceeded in a number of these towns,” Beshear said. “And we’d have a chance if we spend this right to help those areas be more resilient to these types of flash floods or other disasters in the future.”

Lisa Autry

Following eight weeks of declining cases of COVID-19 and increasing vaccinations, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack echoed new federal guidelines saying vaccinated Kentuckians can begin gathering again in small numbers.

Stack issued the advice on the heels of recommendations for vaccinated adults from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In general, adults who have been fully vaccinated can feel at ease gathering in small group settings in private households without masking or social distancing, Stack said.

Kentuckians should still be wary about mixing vaccinated and unvaccinated people and should keep the same protocols — a maximum of two households of eight people wearing masks and distancing —  if the whole group isn’t vaccinated, he said. The new recommendations apply only to adults, since children 16 and under are not eligible for vaccinations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued new guidance for vaccinated people, giving the green light to resume some pre-pandemic activities and relax precautions that have been in place.

Updated at 12:56 p.m. ET

The Senate approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan Saturday, securing additional aid for American families, workers and businesses — and a legislative victory for the Biden administration.

After more than 24 hours of debate, the evenly divided Senate voted 50-49 to approve the measure. Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska was absent because he was in Alaska for a family funeral.

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky has underreported the true toll of the pandemic by at least 1,389 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A review of Kentucky death certificates has found at least 6,121 Kentuckians have died of COVID-19 as of March 4, according to the CDC. At the same time, Kentucky has reported only 4,732 deaths.  

Gov. Andy Beshear has touted the state’s low death toll often amid pandemic restrictions, but the state’s count of COVID-19 deaths remains incomplete. The Cabinet For Health and Family Services did not respond to a request for comment on the number of COVID-19 deaths tallied by the CDC. But Beshear acknowledged earlier this week the state has likely undercounted deaths because at least one staffer stopped monitoring death certificates in November.

Jess Clark | WFPL

A Kentucky House bill requiring school districts to offer at least two days a week of in-person learning by March 29 has cleared the state Senate. 

The bill is mostly aimed at Jefferson County Public Schools, which has been fully virtual since last March, when buildings closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Anticipating passage of the bill by both chambers, the Jefferson County Board of Education voted 4-3 last week to begin a phased reopening with a hybrid learning schedule, starting March 17. 

The bill passed 28-8 and now heads back to the House for consideration of a few changes made by the Senate.

Blake Cleary

Kentucky now has more than 400 COVID-19 vaccination sites, but many elderly, disabled, or low-income residents don’t have transportation to get the vaccine.

A Bowling Green man taking a gap year between college and law school noticed the problem and created a free service to help fill the transportation void. The first ride provided by COVID Vaccine Transport  is scheduled for Thursday, March 4.

The idea for the free transportation service grew from Blake Cleary’s job as a runner for a Bowling Green law firm, bringing legal papers to clients who couldn’t get to the office. He realized those same homebound people would likely face similar challenges getting to COVID-19 vaccination sites.        


Ryland Barton

A judge has temporarily blocked parts of three bills that would limit Gov. Andy Beshear’s powers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled Wednesday that the legislation would “undermine, or even cripple, the effectiveness of public health measures” during the pandemic, though the lawsuit against the measures will continue to play out.

“The Court expects the Governor to continue to adjust the requirements set forth in Executive Orders and Emergency Regulations to relax those requirements as conditions warrant and the public health concerns abate,” Shepherd wrote.

“But the Court believes those decisions should be made based on medical and scientific evidence, not on arbitrary deadlines imposed by statutes irrespective of the spread of the virus.”

Sonja Byrd

Warren County Public Schools and Bowling Green Independent Schools are among many districts in Kentucky welcoming students back to more traditional in-person learning that begins this week.

But even with the extensive planning to keep students, teachers, and staff "Safe at School" for the increased in-person classes, Motber Nature has her own ideas and impacted schedules for some school districts.

Plans for this week’s in-person return to Warren County schools have been curtailed due to recent flooding. Professional development sessions were already scheduled for later this week. 

As school districts bring students back into the buildings, families continue to wrestle with concerns about COVID-19, as well as their children’s academic progress and social connections.  

Beshear: Kentucky Likely Undercounted COVID-19 Deaths

Mar 2, 2021
J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky likely underreported the true toll of the deadliest months of the pandemic, Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday.

When COVID-19 cases skyrocketed in November, at least one state official stopped auditing death certificates as part of the state’s review process, Beshear said. Instead, they relied on confirmation from local health departments, leaving some death records to fall through the cracks.   

Kentucky has reported a lower than average number of COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic in spring of 2020. Beshear has repeatedly cited the low number of deaths as evidence of the effectiveness of the state’s response.

But on Monday, Beshear acknowledged the state’s count is incomplete. Kentucky is now performing an audit similar to those done in other states that resulted in as many as 4,000 additional COVID-19 deaths in Ohio and more than 1,500 deaths in Indiana.

Ryan Van Velzer

More than 2.5 million people in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the Moderna or Pfzier COVID-19 vaccines. Little by little, states have received more vaccine doses, but the national supply remains low. 

However, more promise is on the horizon as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved emergency authorization use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That one-dose shot is the third coronavirus vaccine available in the country, and would decrease the number of appointments necessary to be inoculated while upping overall supply. 

As more people become eligible for the vaccine, more questions arise about efficacy and state distribution of the vaccine. The Ohio Valley ReSource created tools to track the progress of vaccinations in KentuckyOhio and West Virginia, and we are asking vaccine experts to address questions from our readers and listeners

  

ONA News Agency/Wikimedia Commons

Kentucky courthouses have been closed to in-person traffic for much of the pandemic, but the state Supreme Court has issued an order slowly easing coronavirus restrictions and allowing more face-to-face hearings.

Most court proceedings will continue to take place remotely until May 1, though grand juries will be allowed to meet starting April 1.

The reopening plan requires everyone entering the courthouse to wear masks.

In a statement, the Administrative Office of the Courts said the judicial branch was implementing the changes “as Kentucky begins to see its COVID-19 cases decline and its rate of vaccinations increase.”

Johns Hopkins/Bloomberg School of Public Health

The pace of COVID-19 vaccinations is ramping up quickly across Kentucky, with large regional centers and pharmacies providing more access.

But one of the challenges is how to vaccinate the homebound elderly.

Many Kentuckians who are homebound are in the current priority groups for vaccinations. That includes the 1B group for those over age 70, and the 1C group for those 60 and older.

The challenges for many of these older adults include a lack of computer skills, internet access or transportation.


Owensboro Public Schools FB

The Owensboro and Daviess County school boards will meet Thursday afternoon to consider the districts' plans to return to a five-day schedule of in-person classes.

Both school systems plan to welcome students back full-time on March 22. 

In a joint news conference on Wednesday, the districts said a decrease in COVID-19 cases and an increasing supply of the vaccine make reopening possible. 

Daviess County Superintendent Matt Robbins said it’s important for teachers and staff to see students in-person for the remaining nine weeks of the school year.

“We know they need us, and frankly, we need them, Robbins said. "There’s a lot of needs of our children from academic to mental health, social, emotional, anxiety issues. We need to see them so we can begin to diagnose those needs.”

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