COVID-19

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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.”

As millions of children head back to classrooms, parents are trying to track mask mandates and other COVID-19 school safety protocols. Most U.S. parents support mask mandates in schools, but are against vaccine requirements for eligible students, a Kaiser Family Foundation survey finds.

Opinions on masks and vaccines

Stephen Jerkins | WPLN (file)

Hospitalizations just keep climbing in Tennessee. The state is nearing 2,500 patients with COVID. And administrators know the worst is likely yet to come with new infections still surging and nearly 5,500 new cases confirmed on Wednesday alone.

Hospitals in Tennessee are already — in effect — full. Nurse Jerusha Robinson works at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where the stream of patients is constant.

“Especially with our COVID patients, we know when we have someone who moves from our ICU to our stepdown unit, very shortly after, we’re going to get another ICU patient who is just as sick as that patient or even more sick,” she said Wednesday after her overnight shift.

The limiting factor keeping hospitals from being able to handle more patients, at the moment, is not the number of beds — it’s the number of nurses. And COVID patients often require more attention. For example, those near death on an ECMO machine that oxygenates their blood have to have their own dedicated nurse.

LRC Public Information

A Republican state lawmaker has filed a bill that would ban businesses from requiring employees to get vaccinated or asking about employees’ vaccination status.

The proposal comes as some Kentucky businesses are doing just that—at least 11 major hospitals and health care providers in the state are requiring workers to get the vaccine as the coronavirus continues to surge.

The bill, filed by Marion Republican Rep. Lynn Bechler, would expand Kentucky’s civil rights code, forbidding employers from requiring proof of vaccination in order to work or apply for a job.

It also bans businesses from limiting or classifying employees based on their vaccination status.

Lawmakers will consider the bill when they return for the next legislative session in January.

warrencountyschools.org

The head of Warren County Public Schools is telling employees to be prepared for the possibility of a return to virtual learning.

There’s a large number of students in quarantine and many vacant staff positions across the system. 

Warren County School District spokeswoman Lauren Thurmond said the district currently has 1,649 students in quarantine. That's nine-percent of the student population.


Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

During the height of the previous COVID-19 surge in January 2021, Norton Children’s Hospital saw up to three COVID-positive pediatric patients in total. One of those cases was serious enough to send to the ICU. 

Now, those numbers look different. 

“This morning, we had 11 in-patients and four ICU patients,” said Dr. Mark McDonald, medical director of Norton Children’s Hospital. “In general, each day we get three new admissions of COVID patients.” 

None of the children currently being treated for COVID-19 at Norton Children’s have been vaccinated against it, according to McDonald. He says that half of the hospitalized children are 12-years-old or younger and half are older than 12.

Mika Baumeister via Unsplash

A joint legislative committee labeled the state’s mask mandates for K-12 schools and childcare centers as “deficient” Tuesday, signaling intent from lawmakers to undo the requirements when they return to Frankfort in January.

The administrative regulation review subcommittee voted 5-2 along party lines to mark each mandate as deficient. The vote is largely symbolic, and the mandates will remain in place for now. 

Before the vote on the K-12 mask mandate, the committee gave Kentucky Board of Education chair Lu Young and Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass the opportunity to withdraw or defer the regulation. Both declined.

The votes followed hours of public testimony.

Updated August 18, 2021 at 3:27 PM ET

COVID-19 booster shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are set to become available for all U.S. adults beginning next month, the country's top health officials announced Wednesday.

Lisa Autry

At a time when the Delta variant has led to a spike in COVID-19 cases across the country, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is urging those in his home state to “overcome skepticism” about the vaccine.

The Republican leader promoted vaccinations during a stop in Butler County on Tuesday.

As a polio survivor, McConnell said he's perplexed why more Americans aren’t rolling up their sleeves. 

Speaking in Morgantown, the GOP lawmaker noted it took 70 years to find two vaccines for polio compared to the mere months it took to get three vaccines effective against COVID-19.  

He stressed the solution to ending the pandemic is right in our hands. 

"We have the vaccine now," stated McConnell. "We have the solution.”


Ryland Barton

A Republican lawmaker has filed a bill to ban mask mandates at Kentucky public schools and universities as the coronavirus continues to surge across the state and nation.

The proposal, filed Monday, comes days after the Kentucky Board of Education passed an emergency regulation requiring students, staff and visitors to wear masks in K-12 schools. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear issued his own executive order mandating masks in schools last week.

All of Kentucky’s public colleges and universities are requiring students and staff to wear masks indoors and urging people to get vaccinated.

Rep. Lynn Bechler, a Republican from Marion and sponsor of the bill, didn’t return requests for comment on Tuesday.

TN Photo Services (File)

Gov. Bill Lee is requiring schools to allow exemptions to mask mandates. He signed a new executive order Monday authorizing parents to opt out, without needing to give a reason.

Departing from federal health guidance, Lee said masks should be optional.

“They’re protective and if parents want their child to be protected in that way, then they should do so. And if a parent believes that that’s not best for their kid because of other reasons, then they should have the ability to make that decision for the health of their children,” Lee said.

The governor’s order is meant to be a compromise with House Speaker Cameron Sexton, who requested a special session meant to restrict local COVID rules.

T.J. Regional Health

The national and statewide trend of increasing COVID-19 cases is also being seen at hospitals in Glasgow and Owensboro. 

T.J. Regional Health spokesperson Stacey Biggs said there are currently 20 COVID patients at T.J. Samson Community Hospital in Barren County. Some of those are in the ICU and some on ventilators.

"We are not at a point where we would say we can’t take any more patients. We are not at that point,” said Biggs. “At the same time, our ICU is full, our emergency  department is pretty full, as usual, and our COVID unit is pretty full, too.”

Biggs said only one of the 20 COVID patients is fully vaccinated. 

One month ago, the hospital had only three patients with COVID.

There’s a similar increase of COVID patients being treated by Owensboro Health.


Clinton Lewis

Following a year-and-a-half of disruptions brought on by COVID-19, Western Kentucky University hit the reset button on Monday by looking ahead to the new academic year. 

President Timothy Caboni delivered the annual opening convocation to faculty and staff.  Although a much sparser crowd than in typical years filed into Van Meter Hall for the speech, it was a return to something closer to normal.  The annual address was delivered virtually last year.  This year, those wanting to hear the speech could do so either in person or online.

Despite the challenges of the past 18 months, President Caboni applauded the campus for still delivering classes, conducting research, and providing what he described as the WKU experience.

“You responded to the pandemic challenges by innovating and evolving your instruction to meet the moment," Caboni said. "Those changes enabled our students to succeed.”

The Medical Center at Bowling Green

Hospitals in southern Kentucky are among the increasing number of health care facilities being inundated with COVID patients.

Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday during a news conference that more and more hospitals across the state are at—or quickly reaching—capacity. Evidence of that is being seen in south-central Kentucky, with the head of emergency medicine at Med Center Health in Bowling Green telling media outlets Friday that his hospital has a full ICU, as well as a constantly full waiting area outside the emergency room.

Dr. William Moss said at least 90% of the COVID patients in his emergency room are unvaccinated, and that the number of people on ventilators was up to 11 as of Friday morning.

Updated August 13, 2021 at 6:03 PM ET

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is officially recommending that people with weakened immune systems get a third shot of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.

It comes hours after a unanimous vote by a panel of advisers Friday to recommend the guidance and less than 24 hours after the Food and Drug Administration authorized such use.

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