COVID-19 vaccinations

screenshot from 2020 RNC

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has joined a multi-state lawsuit challenging the federal coronavirus vaccine mandate for health care workers, arguing that it is unlawful and will drive away employees who refuse to get vaccinated.

Under the rule, hospitals and health systems that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding have to require their employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Hospital and nursing home workers would not be allowed to test negative for the virus in order to avoid the vaccine.

In a statement, Cameron blamed vaccine mandates for worker shortages in the health care industry.

“Our health care workers have selflessly cared for their fellow Kentuckians during this pandemic, and now they are at risk of losing their jobs because of the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate,” Cameron said.

Rice's Pharmacy

A recent survey by the National Community Pharmacists Association found that the national shortage of workers across most sectors is impacting pharmacies.

However, a pharmacy with more than 50 years in a small Ohio County community is only experiencing a minor impact on staffing because of many long-time employees.

Rice’s Pharmacy in Beaver Dam usually has a staff of 50 storewide and currently has 45.

CEO David Figg said about 30 to 35 employees work directly in the pharmacy, where the demand for services has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think you’re also seeing that we’re sitting in an uptick time of the year, with COVID vaccinations, and now we’re offering the COVID boosters," said Figg.

The spike in COVID-19 cases that’s creating renewed stress on health care systems across the nation is causing dangerous staffing shortages in hospitals across Kentucky.

In his press briefing Thursday, Gov. Andy Beshear said there are at least 21 hospitals in Kentucky with a significant shortage of staff. 

One of the hospitals that took part in the briefing was Baptist Health Hardin in Elizabethtown.

“We are no different than any other facility in the state of Kentucky. We are facing staffing challenges amidst rising patient volumes," said Sharon Wright, Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at Baptist Health Hardin. "Many of our staff are quarantined from COVID exposure. Some have retired. Some have resigned and left health care entirely.”

Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital

Executives with 11 hospitals and health care systems across Kentucky on Thursday announced they will require all employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The health care leaders spoke at a news conference with Gov. Andy Beshear to present a unified front to get more Kentuckians vaccinated, as COVID-19 cases spike and the highly contagious delta variant accelerates the increase.

Gov. Beshear said private sectors leaders can encourage people who know them in their communties to get vaccinated.

Beshear also said Kentuckians who don't respond to government pleas to get vaccinated are likely to get the vaccine if it's required by their private sector employer. 

Muhlenberg County Health Department

The highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus is forcing communities across Kentucky, and the U.S., to step up safety precautions once again.

Muhlenburg County is offering COVID-19 testing and vaccination clinics this week and throughout the month. 

The brief sense of relief that crossed Kentucky with easy access to COVID-19 vaccinations and the dropping of mask requirements is over.

Tension and worry are back, as the Delta variant of the virus is causing a spike in cases, especially among the unvaccinated.

University of Evansville

Higher education leaders are grappling with how to keep students safe amid the changing nature of COVID-19, like the new Delta variant of the virus.  

A college in southern Indiana will require random testing for those who are not vaccinated. 

The University of Evansville has a coronavirus task force that has been meeting regularly to develop the school’s COVID-19 safety guidelines for the fall semester.

Spokesperson Julie Bryant said one major part of new policy applies to all unvaccinated full and part-time employees and students.

Kentucky Wesleyan College

A small private college in Owensboro set July 1 as the date for all faculty and staff to have received the COVID-19 vaccine.

Now, the school is easing its stance a bit for those who are not yet vaccinated. 

Kentucky Wesleyan College said it’s requiring the coronavirus vaccination so it can offer a safe, residential experience for students, keep faculty and staff safe, and serve as an example for Owensboro community. 

President Tom Mitzel said there’s been a good response to the required vaccination. 

“Right now, we have about 90% of the faculty and staff who are fully vaccinated," said Mitzel. "The rest of that percent are those who are requesting either a medical or religious exemption, or got their shots late and are not fully vaccinated.” Mitzel said the college will work with faculty and staff who need more time to complete the required doses.

International Center of Kentucky

The Warren County based International Center of Kentucky is expecting an influx of refugees in the next few months. 

Resettlement programs have struggled to help refugees enter the U.S. because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and cuts to admissions made by the Trump administration.

Executive Director of the International Center, Albert Mbanfu, said during a community meeting Wednesday that the center has resettled 111 refugees so far during this federal fiscal year, and is expecting more. 

"June has been a very busy month for the international center, and I think it’s a busy month for all resettlement agencies across the country," Mbanfu said.

Facebook/Kentucky Wesleyan College

Colleges across the Bluegrass State are developing a range of COVID-19 safety plans as students return to campus for in-person classes.

The deadline for required vaccinations is Thursday at one campus in Owensboro.

Kentucky Wesleyan College set a July 1 deadline for all faculty and staff who work on campus to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

School leaders said the mandated vaccination is now part of the private college’s employment policy. 

Saints Joseph and Paul Catholic Church

A church in Daviess County is part of the national effort to bring the COVID-19 vaccine to members of the Spanish-speaking community.

Sts. Joseph and Paul Catholic Church in Owensboro serves about 700 families, with about 200 of those attending the Spanish-language masses. 

Stewardship Minister Ashley Wilkerson said the church hosted two vaccination clinics recently, in collaboration with FEMA, to get the COVID-19 vaccines to underserved communities. 

“We had a fantastic turnout. They actually ran out of vaccines twice at the first clinic, and got more from some other places in town that had extra vaccinations," said Wilkerson. "We had about 65 to 70 vaccinated the first time. And then we had at the follow up we had about 45 to 50.”

Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital

Kentucky’s current statewide vaccination rate of 47 percent has quite a distance to go to help the nation reach President Joe Biden’s goal of getting 70 percent of the U.S. population vaccinated against COVID-19 by July 4.

The CDC reports that Christian County has one of Kentucky’s lowest vaccination rates ,at 19 percent. 

Other counties with low vaccination rates include Hart at 22 percent, and Union at 24 percent. 

Barren, Warren and Pulaski counties all have a vaccination rate of 30 percent.  

Kentucky's highest vaccination rate is in Woodford County at 52 percent, according to CDC data.