COVID-19

Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital

Hospitals across Kentucky, and the nation, continue to struggle to fill vacant positions as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on.  

WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with Robert Parker, CEO of Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital in Somerset, about the vaccination status of COVID patients and employees, and the shortage of medical professionals and support staff.    

Parker: The staffing situation here at Lake Cumberland is indeed still a significant challenge. Not only in nursing, but in all of our areas. To discuss nursing first, we currently have 104 open positions for nursing at the moment. This is a phenomenon that’s going to be a challenge through the rest of the year, and into 2022 and perhaps even beyond. You know, we have seen a lot of nurses make career changes. It also is endemic at other areas of the hospital, as well, in different areas, from respiratory therapy to radiology services to food services to dietary, basically all of them. Coming out of the pandemic there are some areas all hospitals are going to have to focus on, not just Lake Cumberland.


Amana

Kentucky will erect a new monument on the State Capitol grounds to honor the more than 10,000 Kentuckians who have died from COVID-19. 

The permanent public art piece, called “United We Stand. Divided We Fall,” was designed by Lexington-based sculptor Amanda Matthews. It will consist of sculpted figures surrounding a reflective sphere. It will also incorporate audio and tactile elements into the work. 

Matthews told WFPL the design came from, “the desire to honor our state motto: ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’”

“And to take a deeper look at what that means, the historical context of how that motto came to be, how it has existed throughout many, many generations and across many different faiths and belief systems,” she said. “And how it represents that there is strength in empathy, and strength in love and strength in unity.”

Gov. Beshear's YouTube channel

On Monday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear reported that the state had surpassed 10,000 COVID-19 deaths. He said it was the third leading cause of death last year and so far this year. 

A COVID-19 memorial will be held at 1pm on Sunday, Nov. 14 outside at the State Capitol.

Beshear also reported Monday that state’s increase of positivity may signal that cases are plateauing. 

“Because if we plateau here, we really are higher than we should be,” he said. 

Kentucky’s positivity rate is 5.44%. Beshear added that deaths, that could be avoided, could continue if cases plateau instead of declining.

Kate Howard

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has joined attorneys general in Ohio and Tennessee in seeking to block a new federal COVID-19 vaccine and testing mandate for large workplaces released Thursday.

The new rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would require workplaces with 100 or more employees to have workers fully vaccinated by January 4 or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing, something expected to affect 84 million people across the country.

Cameron and others allege in their lawsuit the loss of employees for federal contractors in Kentucky from having to comply with the vaccine mandate would harm the state’s economy and worsen supply chain issues.

Governor Andy Beshear FB

Governor Andy Beshear says a growing number of vaccinated Kentuckians are contracting COVID-19, highlighting the importance of getting a booster dose.

During a briefing from the state Capitol on Thursday, the governor and First Lady Britainy Beshear led by example and received their booster shots.  Beshear said boosters not only shield people from the virus as immunity lessens over time, but also protect against the next variant.

“If we had another rise in COVID, there would be fewer people getting infected and spreading the infection," explained Beshear. "It will also lessen the person who has gotten the booster’s likelihood of being hospitalized, further decreasing the death toll.”

Lisa Autry

Even as the surge of COVID-19 cases recedes, the pandemic is still presenting challenges to hospitals, and opportunities. 

Nursing students from Western Kentucky University are on the front lines with seasoned health care workers as the pandemic forces all hands on deck. 

Katie Myers from Louisville is a third-semester nursing student who will graduate in May.  She’s been doing clinicals in the intensive care unit at the Medical Center in Bowling Green. She spoke to WKU Public Radio about her experience, which she said has opened her eyes to the stress health care workers face.

“There’s simply sometimes not enough beds for these really sick patients and it’s really hard to see health care workers having to make tough calls on which patient is going to get this bed for this higher level of care that needs it," stated Myers. "That’s been the hardest part about this, I think.”

Despite working under the most challenging circumstances, Myers says it hasn’t made her re-evaluate her career choice. In fact, it’s made her want to work even more in critical care nursing.

Salvation Army Owensboro

As Kentucky continues to recover from the job losses and the unpredictability caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, one of America’s iconic social service organizations is finding many families in the Owensboro region struggling to make ends meet.  

WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with Lt. Judah Irvin, commanding officer of the Salvation Army in Owensboro, which serves Daviess, Hancock, McLean and Ohio counties. 

Lt. Irvin said the organization is seeing an increasing need among adults and children for that most basic of necessities: food. 


When state senators in South Carolina held two hearings in September about COVID treatments, they got an earful on the benefits of ivermectin — which many of the lawmakers lauded along the way, sharing experiences of their own loved ones.

The demands for access to the drug were loud and insistent, despite the fact that federal regulators had just issued a strong warning against using the drug to treat COVID-19.

Katie Myers | Ohio Valley ReSource

Some residents in Ohio Valley communities are still struggling to keep their heads above water over a year into the pandemic. A main cause of concern: housing.

The federal eviction moratorium ended in late August after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Biden administration efforts  to extend the moratorium into October. While it lasted, the moratorium preventing eviction for non-payment of rent was the last saving grace for many families. With that protection no longer available, the housing crisis in the region has only gotten more severe. 

Alana Watson of WKU Public Radio sat down with Ohio Valley ReSource reporters Katie Myers and Liam Niemeyer to break down their most recent report on the issue.

Screenshot from YouTube

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear reported on Monday that more than 20% of all COVID-19 cases in October were among people who were fully vaccinated. Those cases have been on the rise since June — when the Delta variant began rapidly spreading in the U.S. 

Beshear said waning immunity was likely to blame and urged people who are eligible to get a booster shot.  

“When you look at this growth, the only natural explanation is that the immunity does lessen a little bit over time, that delta variant is part of it. But this means you need to get your booster,” Beshear said. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made boosters available to people 65 years old and over. That recommendation also includes anyone 18 and older who works in public-facing industries, has underlying health conditions, and those who live in congregate housing settings.

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky’s vaccination totals are lower than originally thought due to a reporting error in a federal database.  During a news conference on Thursday, Gov. Andy Beshear said a pharmacy chain is behind the misinformation.

The CDC has confirmed some of the vaccination data for Kentucky was counted twice. Beshear said data from Kroger was reported to the federal database both through the Kentucky Immunization Registry and directly to the CDC.

“They were submitting it in two ways and expecting there would be a de-duplication algorithm in the federal database to catch it," explained Beshear. "This was not intentional by anyone.”

J. Tyler Franklin

Last week, Gov. Andy Beshear said some vaccinations in Kentucky have likely been  overcounted due to reporting that counted numbers twice. 

On Monday, Beshear said the state will have an updated count on Thursday.

“One of the major chains was entering data in two different ways resulting in duplications that wasn’t caught in the federal system,” Beshear said. “What we think that could mean is up to a couple hundred thousand first doses being duplications in our numbers —  potentially, up to 5% of our overall numbers, maybe even close to 6% — being duplications.” 

The state continues to see a decline in hospitalizations and cases. Over the last seven days, the number of people hospitalized for the virus has decreased by 20%. But deaths have yet to slow.

Ryland Barton

Republican leaders of the legislature have rejected Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s request to collaborate on a plan to provide bonuses to essential workers during the pandemic.

Earlier this month, Beshear asked GOP and Democratic caucuses in the General Assembly to join a work group to figure out how to use $400 million in federal relief money for a bonus pay initiative.

Democratic lawmakers sent names for the group, but Republicans rejected Beshear’s request in a letter last Friday.

In the joint letter sent to the governor, House Speaker David Osborne and Republican Senate President Robert Stivers said they would take up the issue independently.

“Our existing interim joint committees of jurisdiction are well equipped to evaluate the policy proposals your administration would like to present. We respect the legislative committees’ expertise and public’s input in these matters, and do not see any purpose at this time in circumventing their usual jurisdiction with an additional working group,” Stivers and Osborne wrote.

Katie Myers

In room 226 of the Relax Inn in Richmond, Kentucky, Melanie and Cody Poore do their best to make themselves at home. Melanie has draped some of her old comforters over the motel’s thin bed covers, and Cody keeps the minifridge stocked with energy drinks he likes.

Beyond the walls, traffic rushes by on I-75; both inside and outside the robin’s egg-blue building, there’s a feeling that this could be any interstate exit in the country, any roadside motel for weary travelers to sojourn on their way from someplace to someplace else.  

 

But for Melanie and Cody, the Relax Inn was not a one-night stop.  They had been in limbo for over a week, since they were served an eviction by their landlord.

 


 

  

Jess Clark | WFPL

Several Kentucky school districts are doing away with mask mandates, citing a drop in coronavirus infections. But public health officials warn the decision could cause cases to spike again.

Warren County Public Schools, Campbellsville Independent Schools and Breckinridge County Schools are among a number of districts that plan to make masks optional in the next week or two. 

“Our numbers in our community have dropped drastically — we’re actually now in the orange,” Campbellsville Independent Schools superintendent Kirby Smith told WFPL News. “We felt now was a time to give this a try and give folks the option to mask or not.”

The orange zone signifies substantial spread, according to the state, with a weekly average of 10 to 25 new daily cases per 100,000 people. The red zone signifies “high” spread, with more than 25 new daily cases per 100,000 people.

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