COVID-19

J. Tyler Franklin

The Kentucky Department of Education is offering public school employees $100 to get the COVID-19 vaccine before Dec. 1. Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass said the goal is to get more school staff vaccinated.

“Part of it is recognizing and rewarding those staff members who did the right thing early on, and it acts as an incentive for those folks to get vaccinated who have not,” he said in a press call with reporters Friday.

The department will use federal funds to reimburse districts that choose to participate in the program. Glass said KDE has set aside $8.8 million of state federal coronavirus relief funding, enough to give each of Kentucky’s 88,000 school staff $100.

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

Kentucky state lawmakers have passed a GOP bill that ends the statewide mask mandates for public schools and child care centers. 

Public health experts, including the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, say universal masking should be required in K-12 settings to curb the spread of COVID-19. But Republicans are siding with some conservatives who say mask mandates infringe on their First Amendment rights. Senate education committee chair Max Wise, a Republican from Campbellsville, said the bill gives decisions on masking to local school districts.

“They make that decision of what they think is best for their constituents and their communities,” Wise said.

A WFPL survey found nearly two-thirds of Kentucky school districts planned to keep masks optional before statewide mandates went into effect.

Democrats in both chambers balked at Republicans’ assertions they were protecting local control.

Wilson County Schools

Wilson County Schools will be enforcing a temporary mask mandate for students, staff and visitors starting Friday. The district will also begin to follow the state health department’s quarantine guidelines, specifically to send unvaccinated students home if they were exposed to COVID, even if they show no symptoms.

“I can’t sit and be quiet no longer,” superintendent Jeff Luttrell said at a school board meeting on Wednesday. “We got some problems and we need to take stronger measures in our schools.”

The new protocol comes after the district went under a weeklong closure due to a high number of cases. The school board voted unanimously in favor of both health measures despite disagreeing on these issues in weeks prior.

“I don’t love it, but I think we asked both sides for a compromise and I think that this is a compromise,” school board member Jamie Farough said.

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.


Lisa Autry

More than a dozen Kentucky Career Centers around the state are ready to help what they hope will be an influx of job seekers now that federal unemployment benefits have expired

More than 86,000 Kentuckians were still out of work in July, nearly a year-and-a-half since the start of the pandemic. 

The federal government suspended enhanced unemployment benefits on Sept. 6, and with people losing that extra $300 a week, that could send more looking for work. 

Jon Sowards, head of the South Central Workforce Development Board, said employers have made returning to the workforce more lucrative.

“Ask yourself, 'which side of the wave do you want to be on?'. Do you wanna be on the front side or the back side? If you’re on the front side, right now what we’re seeing is that wages are higher than ever, compensation and benefits packages are better than ever, there’s more bonuses than I’ve ever seen.”

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.

Blake Farmer | WPLN

It’s a struggle for Joe Gammon to talk right now.

Lying in his ICU bed at Ascension Saint Thomas West, he uses a suction tube to clear his own throat. Even dislodging some phlegm has become a struggle.

“If I would have known six months ago that this could be possible, this would have been a no-brainer,” the 45-year-old father of six says after weeks in critical condition. “But I honestly didn’t think I was at any risk. That is the naive portion on my end.”

Gammon is a truck driver from Lascassas who says he listens to a lot of conservative talk radio. And the daily diatribes downplaying the pandemic and promoting personal freedom were enough dissuade him from vaccination.


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:

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