health

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. 

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.

Wikimedia Commons

A pared-down medical marijuana bill will be introduced during Kentucky’s next legislative session with hopes of gaining support among conservative lawmakers who have blocked it in the past.

The state House passed a measure in 2020 that would have allowed doctors to prescribe cannabis for several medical conditions and created a regulatory system to grow and sell it, but it was never taken up in the Senate.

The new version doesn’t allow people to grow their own plants. And like the older version of the bill, it doesn’t allow people to smoke marijuana—only legalizing products like edibles and oils.

Rep. Jason Nemes, a Republican from Louisville and sponsor of the measure, said the bill isn’t for the recreational use of marijuana; it’s only for people with serious medical conditions.

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.

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

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.

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.

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.

For the past several weeks, Dr. Boghuma Titanji has been swamped with questions about COVID-19 vaccine boosters. Even the experts seem confused, she says.

"I'm even getting questions from my colleagues, who are doctors, asking me, 'What should I do?' " says the infectious disease specialist at Emory University.

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky has the fourth-highest rate in the nation of children hospitalized with COVID-19 for the month of September, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

So far this month, the state has recorded over 26,000 cases in kids 18 and under and an average of 59 children hospitalized each day, making it the most dangerous month for children since the pandemic began. Only Ohio, Montana and Alabama had higher hospitalization rates so far this month.

The federal data include confirmed and suspected cases, as well as newborns and patients in observation beds. These daily totals are consistently higher than those reported by the state.

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