Ohio Valley ReSource

Corinne Boyer

The numbers of new COVID-19 cases remain relatively low in Kentucky, but as vaccination rates slow Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said he is considering incentives to encourage people to get a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Beshear announced Monday 313 new cases of COVID-19 and 8 new deaths. The state’s positivity rate is 3.45%.

COVID-19 vaccination rates continue to slow. In April, the number of shots getting in arms decreased by several thousand every week. 

As the demand for vaccines declines, Beshear said the number of doses in a vial makes it difficult to offer shots in smaller settings. Typically a vial contains 10 doses and once opened all of those doses have to be used.

Power Switch: Solar Is Heating Up In The Ohio Valley

May 3, 2021
Bryce Baumann

St. Vincent’s Mission has been doing the work of feeding, clothing and sheltering the people of Floyd County, Kentucky, since 1968. 

“We believe that all persons have a God-ordained right to the basic needs of life in order to meet their full potential,” the mission states on its website.

Recently, the mission looked for a little help from above to reduce overhead costs and focus on community service in a county with a poverty rate of 27%, well above the state and national average. The mission installed an array of solar panels. 

Erin Bottomlee directs St. Vincent’s Mission. On a recent visit, she pointed out the 27 panels on the rooftop.

 

  

Glynis Board | WV Public Broadcasting

The Biden administration announced Monday the expansion of a nutrition program, born amid the start of the pandemic, that could provide more food to nearly 2 million children throughout Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia this summer. 

The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer, or P-EBT, program started last March to provide money to low-income families whose children were missing meals normally received at school, programs that were disrupted by the pandemic. Funds are loaded onto a card for individual families to purchase food for their children. The program is now being expanded through the summer, providing food dollars for families alongside the existing food distribution programs run by districts.

Courtesy of the office of Sen. Manchin

On Earth Day, President Joe Biden convened world leaders for a climate summit, where he laid out an ambitious goal for U.S. policy on climate change.

“The United States sets out to cut our global warming emissions in half by the end of the decade,” Biden said. “That’s where we’re heading as a nation.”

But Biden has 50 votes in an evenly divided Senate, and unless he can persuade a Republican to cross the aisle, he can’t get anything done without West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin.

As Biden attempts to cut carbon emissions and clean up the electric power sector, Manchin can shape energy legislation to help Appalachian coal communities that have lost jobs.

DOE

On Thursday — Earth Day — President Joe Biden announced an ambitious goal to fight the climate crisis: The country will cut by half its global warming emissions by 2030. Such action will require a massive reduction in the use of fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas, long a bedrock of the economy for Ohio Valley and Appalachian communities, and some regional politicians have already voiced opposition to the president’s plan.

But Biden’s Energy Secretary, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, said in an interview with the Ohio Valley ReSource that the region could gain jobs as a result of action against climate change.

“I don’t mean to be a Pollyanna, I understand this issue of transitioning is hard,” she said, “but I want to give people hope that this administration is really interested in helping to lure businesses, and diversify existing businesses that are there to be able to take advantage of what is going to be a massive market opportunity if we do this right.”

Jeff Young

United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts said he’s been hearing the term “just transition” tossed around for more than 20 years as part of the long-running, nearly Sisyphean discussion about climate change, clean energy, and coal country. 

Simply put: he’s not a fan.

“I ask anybody who has been uttering those two words over the last 30 years — point to one, one ‘just transition’ in this country,” Roberts challenged. “And you can’t.” 

The West Virginia native is the UMWA’s second-longest serving leader, behind only the legendary John L. Lewis. But unlike Lewis, who served during the coal industry and union’s height of power and influence, Roberts’ tenure coincides with an epic decline in coal production and employment in the U.S., and now, what could be the closing chapter for coal.

screenshot

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear urged people to use the more than 400,000 COVID-19 vaccination appointments available as the trend of new infections skewed toward younger people. Beshear reported a dramatic difference in vaccination rates among age groups. People between ages 20 to 49 make up the majority of new COVID-19 cases, but have much lower vaccination rates than those 50 and older. 

“We see 38% or less of individuals in that age group currently vaccinated,” Beshear said of the younger people. “So we need to pick it up for our younger Kentuckians, if we want to lessen the number of cases and ultimately defeat this virus.”

Beshear said the low number of vaccinations could lead to a fourth wave of infections.

Liam Niemayer

Phyllis Gibbs wasn’t sure until recently that she’d be here, just a few moments away from receiving a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Do you feel sick today?”

“Nope,” Gibbs said to the receptionist.

“And you give consent for Pfizer to give you a shot today, correct?”

“Absolutely.”

Gibbs then walked over to one of the nurses inside the Kentucky Dam Village Convention Center in rural western Kentucky — a place that once held a pre-pandemic political rally for statewide Democrats — that has now been transformed into a regional vaccination site designed to dole out hundreds of Pfizer vaccines a day. 

  

Brittany Patterson

In Central Appalachia an estimated 538,000 unplugged oil and gas wells and 853,393 acres of abandoned mine lands sit unreclaimed, often polluting the air and water, and presenting public safety threats.

But according to two new reports from the regional think tank Ohio River Valley Institute,  these sites that now pose serious health risks to residents could be providing thousands of jobs for the region. The group’s findings indicate that, should the federal government take the risk seriously and invest in mitigation, not only would environmental risk be reduced, but thousands of well-paying jobs could potentially be created.

Ryland Barton

Election reform efforts to expand ballot access made little headway around the Ohio Valley, as only one state in the region made voting easier, according to a voting rights expert. 

 

Several state governments around the nation are making major changes to voting laws following the 2020 presidential election.  

 

Kentucky is the only state in the Ohio Valley that passed significant voting changes. Lawmakers in the state passed a bipartisan election reform bill, House Bill 574, that made a few pandemic-era voting changes permanent, with some adjustments.

 

 


Cheryl Gerber

State leaders around the Ohio Valley will temporarily have fewer doses of COVID-19 vaccine to distribute following the Food and Drug Administration’s decision Tuesday to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Regional officials gave no indication that they will have shortages of vaccines as a result, but the pause on the Johnson & Johnson “one dose” vaccine could complicate efforts to inoculate hard-to-reach populations. 

FDA officials paused use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine out of “an abundance of caution” while they are investigating six cases of blood clots among the estimated 7 million people who have received the vaccine. According to NPR, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the blood clots under review are “extremely rare” and the CDC said it expects the review to last “a matter of days.”

Corinne Boyer | Ohio Valley ReSource

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced that the state’s positivity rate is the highest it’s been in approximately a month — 3.16%.

“We’ve got to be watching that. We should be wary,” Beshear said. “We should see what’s going on in other states. We should get everyone out to get vaccinated.”

Beshear said the state is likely seeing a plateau in new cases and hospitalizations. In the past, he said, the state has typically seen an increase in cases following a plateau. This time, however, Beshear hopes the COVID vaccine will make a difference.

On Monday, Beshear announced the state will lift most COVID restrictions on venues with capacities of less than 1,000 once 2.5 million Kentuckians are vaccinated. Already more than 1.5 million Kentuckians have received at least one shot of a COVID vaccine.

Katie Myers

Elaine Tanner lives with her life partner, Jimmy Hall, at the head of Mill Creek in Letcher County, Kentucky. Jimmy is a sixth-generation Letcher Countian, and the land is his family land. Together, they like to roll around on their property on their ATV. But lately, Tanner’s spent more time searching for signs of damage than having fun. That’s what she was doing on Thursday morning — investigating her mountain. 

“A few days ago,” she said, “the rains came and the mountain busted open.”

After the March 28 rainstorm, Tanner was dismayed to find the hillside looking even less stable than usual. Boulders had shifted downslope. Trees were leaning, she said, almost like they were drunk. Even though the head of the hollow is too high to flood, Tanner, like many who live on higher ground, found herself facing another problem: landslides.

 

  

For decades now, rhetoric around action on climate change has been about things like saving the planet, or saving polar bears. Just think: How many times have you seen an image of ice crashing into the sea from a melting glacier, or a sad-eyed seal atop a floe, as part of a climate change message?

But Gina McCarthy — the veteran environmental policy maker President Joe Biden has picked as his top climate advisor — is making a very different case for climate action.

“I want people to know that this isn’t about a planet. This is about our people. This is about our families,” McCarthy said in our recent interview. 

Forget about polar bears and seals. McCarthy wants to talk about plumbers and steelworkers and the other blue-collar Americans who could play a part in greening the country’s infrastructure and economy.

Steven Rotsch

Monday marks 11 years since the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster in Raleigh County, West Virginia, where 29 miners were killed on April 5, 2010.

Federal mine safety investigators determined that a buildup of methane gas and coal dust led to the explosion at the Massey Energy-owned mine. It was the worst mine disaster in 40 years.

Massey CEO Don Blankenship was convicted in December 2015 of conspiracy to violate mine safety and health standards.

He served one year in prison and paid a $250,000 fine. Other Massey executives and mine officials were convicted and sentenced to prison for their roles in the disaster.

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