Maury Regional

The agency tasked with enforcing workplace safety rules in Tennessee has rejected a directive from state lawmakers to abandon federal COVID rules adopted in late August.

On Monday, the Joint Government Operations Committee voted for a “negative recommendation” toward the emergency rules, which govern masking, testing and distancing in hospitals and nursing homes. But at the hearing, officials with the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration warned that if the state refused to enforce the safety rules, federal authorities would likely intervene.

“The statutory language regarding rules does not authorize the withdrawal or the stay of a rule once the rule has become effective,” writes Tennessee Labor Commissioner Jeff McCord in a letter to Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, who chairs the Joint Government Operations Committee.

Flickr/U.S. Navy

The relentless COVID-19 pandemic has intensified America's nursing shortage. Now, Kentucky nurses who work in schools, long-term care facilities, hospices, and hospitals are being lured away. 

Hospitals and other states are offering up to four times Kentucky's hourly wage for nurses. 

WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with the CEO of the Kentucky Nurses Association, Delanor Manson, about burnout from dealing with dying COVID patients, verbal attacks for asking people to wear a mask or get vaccinated, and possible solutions to the nursing shortage in the Bluegrass State. 

Manson: States like California, Texas and New York have an exponential nursing shortage. And they have retained travel nurse agencies to go out and find nurses to come to their states. Because Kentucky does not have the exponential nursing shortage that a lot of other states have, we are prime candidates for these travel nurse agencies. So, they are coming to Kentucky to poach our nurses to send them to other states. And they're poaching our nurses with high dollars for hourly pay, as well as large bonuses. 

Stephanie Wolf

Kentucky has surpassed 9,000 COVID-19 deaths.

“That’s more than we’ve lost in any modern war, in any two of them put together,” said Gov. Andy Beshear at a Thursday news conference.

The highest concentration of deaths from coronavirus has been, overwhelmingly, in unvaccinated people since the vaccine became widely available.

Beshear said that 72% of eligible Kentuckians have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, but that is not enough to stop the delta variant.

He also touched on the number of children currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

Updated October 7, 2021 at 9:27 AM ET

Pfizer and BioNTech are officially asking the Biden administration to authorize the use of their COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

Pfizer tweeted on Thursday that the companies had submitted their formal request for Emergency Use Authorization of the vaccine to the Food and Drug Administration.

J. Tyler Franklin

School counselors in Kentucky say students are struggling with an increase in depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts during the coronavirus pandemic.

During a legislative hearing on Tuesday, counselors told lawmakers that it’s not unusual for young people to struggle with mental illness, but the frequency and intensity of symptoms increased over the last year and a half.

Marsha Duncan, a counselor at Larue County High School, said students and staff struggled with the dangers of the pandemic.

“I’ve never seen so many students fearful to be in the school setting and it makes my heart hurt to see fear on students’ faces,” Duncan said.

Ryan Van Velzer |

Louisville EMS paramedic Don Scheer wasn’t halfway through his shift when he helped restart a man’s heart in an ambulance en route to University of Louisville Hospital. 

It was an overdose. 

“Today hasn’t been too bad of a day which means I probably just ruined that,” Scheer said after they arrived at the hospital and the patient was taken inside. “We just had a 35-year old cardiac arrest from a drug overdose. We see a lot of those calls.”

Scheer’s standing beside a pile of multicolored spine boards, the kind paramedics use to transport patients. Some of them are used to carry people overdosing on drugs, some are for victims of violent crime, and some are for people struggling to breathe.



Blake Farmer | WPLN

Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s deadline for complying with a vaccine mandate passed Thursday, following a surge of COVID shots being given to hundreds of employees in order to keep their jobs.

At this point, 97% of the health system’s workforce has now “complied” with the vaccine mandate, a figure that also includes those who received an exemption. That’s up from 95% early this week and up from 72% two months ago, when the mandate was announced. But even the big jump leaves roughly 900 who could lose their jobs.

Vanderbilt is now making sure employees didn’t receive a vaccination elsewhere and just not tell their employer.

Metro Nashville Public Schools

Governor Bill Lee has announced he will extend his executive order that allows kids to not follow mask mandates. The move comes after federal judges have made the governor’s order ineffective in three counties, citing the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Federal judges in Shelby, Knox and Williamson Counties have so far signaled that the governor’s order allowing parents to opt out of mask mandates is unconstitutional. The order was set to expire next week, but the governor announced he will extend it 30 more days.

“I’ve been incredibly disappointed by the rulings from federal judges who’ve chosen to legislate from the bench,” Lee said Thursday. “I’ve been in full support of the attorney general as we defend the law in this state.”

The lawsuits are from families who have children with disabilities. They argue the opt-out provision puts their kids at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentuckians can now go online and find the nearest medical facility that has monoclonal anti-bodies to help treat COVID-19.

The treatments can be very effective for those with mild symptoms and no underlying health conditions. The lab-created anti-bodies boost the immune system and can keep some patients from being hospitalized. 

With the surge of the Delta variant, monoclonal antibodies grew in demand, resulting in a nationwide shortage. 

Now, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is limiting how many treatments states receive each week. 

During a news conference on Thursday, Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said each state’s allotment depends on certain criteria.

Jess Clark | WFPL

The majority of Kentucky students say their teachers were there for them during remote learning, according to survey results the state released Wednesday along with its standardized test scores—the first since the pandemic began. But the survey data also shows older students didn’t always feel good about their learning.

When Kentucky students took their standardized tests last spring, many also took a survey about their experience in nontraditional instruction, or NTI. That’s what the state calls the remote learning setup schools moved to after the coronavirus pandemic forced school buildings to close.

State officials say responses show a majority of students felt supported by their schools during NTI.

“The results from the Opportunity to Learn survey show evidence that despite the unfortunate circumstances created by COVID-19, most students viewed their virtual learning as a positive experience,” a press release from the Kentucky Department of Education reads.

Sydney Boles

The pandemic has swamped health departments. Since August, Ohio Valley health departments  have been dealing with a massive surge in cases and that means more testing, contact tracing and phone calls. 

Although disease investigation is a core service of health departments, the pandemic has demanded a continual, robust response, placing strain on public health employees.

“It just has totally disrupted anything that we would consider normal or routine. Staff are tired —  we’re working 7 days a week,” Athens County Ohio Health Department Administrator Jack Pepper said. “Usually people are happy to see us and … as contentious as vaccines and masking has gotten, the toll it’s taking on my staff is tremendous. We’re really trying hard.” 



Pfizer and BioNTech are another step closer to seeking authorization for young children to receive the COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine, submitting data to the Food and Drug Administration that shows a "robust" antibody response and "favorable" safety outcomes in kids ages 5 to 11 who received the two-dose regimen in clinical trials.

Kentucky COVID-19 Cases See Slight Decline

Sep 28, 2021
Gov. Andy Beshear YouTube Channel

The latest COVID-19 surge in Kentucky has hit hospitals hard. Doctors from around the state have reported that capacity issues far exceed previous surges. 

But on Monday, Gov. Andy Beshear reported that cases have declined for three weeks. So have hospital rates. 

“Next one, we hope continues at this rate, that’s the inpatient census. That is the real decline we have to see with our hospitals hit as hard as they have been,” Beshear said. 

But he said the numbers are still too high and continue creating issues for hospitals. 

Beshear announced the federal government will send teams of nurses to administer monoclonal antibody treatments. A map of locations with the COVID treatment will be available later this week.

Adam Willmann was born in Goodall-Witcher hospital in Clifton, a small town in central Texas. Now he's its CEO, and he's worried his hospital may have to stop delivering babies.

That's because some of the experienced nurses in the Goodall-Witcher obstetrics department aren't vaccinated for COVID-19 and don't intend to be. But under a new federal mandate, hospitals will soon have to require their staff to be vaccinated.

Exponential COVID Case Growth Slows In Kentucky

Sep 24, 2021
J. Tyler Franklin

The exponential increase in new cases of COVID-19 in Kentucky has begun to slow and is showing signs the state may be headed for a plateau. 

Gov. Andy Beshear struck a tone of cautious optimism during his weekly Team Kentucky update Thursday, hopeful the state will see a decline in new cases, and concerned a plateau would continue to cause too much strain on hospitals and staff.

“It’s overall good news but we are still in a very dangerous situation is how I would describe it,” Beshear said. “You’ve got to stop growing before you can start shrinking but we really need to start shrinking a whole lot faster.”

The number of people in the hospital for COVID-19 has started to trend downward, though there are still a high number of COVID patients in intensive care units and on ventilators. At least 21 children are currently hospitalized with the virus.