Ohio Valley ReSource

Higher Ground

George Floyd was murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, a cold and faraway place from the vantage point of Harlan County, Kentucky. But the energy of that long, hot summer reached a group of Harlan high schoolers, and soon enough, this small, rural town was in the midst of a national movement. 

The events stirred the community. Some saw it as a call to action on long-unaddressed racism in rural eastern Kentucky, and others saw it as a threat, including members of the local Ku Klux Klan. For the rest of the year, the memories of that summer still sat high in the community’s memory, alongside the deep divisions sown by COVID-19 and the election.  

Some tried to forget, hoping for some newfound peace of mind. But Higher Ground, a Harlan-based theater ensemble, decided to take the year and make a play about it.

Katie Myers

Jimmy McRoberts knew the North Fork Mobile Home Park was teeming with animals. Some residents, like local grandmother Penny Gozzard, had two or three beloved cats they kept a close eye on; others let their pets roam around and mingle with the neighborhood kids who played around their families’ trailers. So when McRoberts’ entire trailer park was served an eviction notice on March 7, he realized a lot of pets were about to be left behind.

It was a gentle, breezy May evening in the small eastern Kentucky college town of Morehead, Kentucky, when McRoberts told his story outside one of the last trailers in North Fork. By this time, the park was mostly vacated, the high grasses covering left-behind odds and ends, toys and jackets and cigarette packs. Roughly 80 of McRoberts’ neighbors, served with the same eviction notice and a move-out date of April 30, were gone.

 

  

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday that more coronavirus deaths were found in the commonwealth’s audit of fatalities during the pandemic.

Beshear said an additional 260 people died due to COVID-19 between March and October of 2020 than earlier records indicated. 

“That’s 220 days. So it’s going back in the midst of this pandemic and finding about 1.8 Kentuckians in each of those days that we lost, that hadn’t been included, hadn’t been recognized,” Beshear said. 

Of those deaths, 96 occurred in Jefferson County.

Liam Niemeyer

Many people might think of Blake Munger as a cattle farmer as he walks through his pasture land in western Kentucky, but he sees things a little differently nowadays. 

“I don’t know which is more valuable, my cattle or the pasture at this point. I used to say cattle, but this plays a bigger role than the cattle,” Munger said, referring to the fields of fescue grass his black and red Angus cattle are grazing in. 

He walks through the fields, pointing out how what’s growing in the pasture changes — from the flowering buttercup weeds to the more established fescue grass — indicating how “hard” the soil has been impacted by his cattle and other factors. When his cows have mowed down a field for a few days, he moves them to a new field to let the grass recover. 


Kayrros

Appalachian coal mines emit more than a million tons of methane a year, and overall the region is the largest U.S. source of the potent greenhouse gas, according to new research.

The region was the source of 3 million tons of methane in 2019, 1.1 million tons of it from coal mining, according to European satellite data analyzed by Kayrros, a company focused on climate risk

In 2020, the region’s methane emissions declined to 2.4 million tons as the coronavirus pandemic lowered energy demand, but coal’s share of total emissions held to 1 million tons.

  

Corinne Boyer

 When Angela Lautner was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2000, she remembers the list price of insulin being approximately $25 per vial. As an airline employee, Lautner has been laid off frequently over the years.

That loss of employment has disrupted her health insurance coverage, which means Lautner has struggled to pay for a hormone she can’t live without. 

“And there’s times that I’m instantly in a pay-or-die situation,” Lautner said. “I’m laid off with very little notice. Sometimes no notice, actually. And then there goes my insurance.”

 

ARC

Gayle Manchin is the first West Virginian to serve as federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission in its 56-year history.

That’s not all. Manchin comes to the agency at a time when West Virginia is in the spotlight. She has an important role, but she’s not alone. 

Her husband, Sen. Joe Manchin, is chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Manchin is a key vote for President Joe Biden in an evenly divided Senate. Biden can’t advance his priorities without the centrist Democrat’s support.

  

Jeff Young

Kentucky coal production and employment fell by the smallest amount in nearly two years, according to new data.

The state’s coal mines produced 6.5 million tons in the first three months of 2021, according to the Energy and Environment Cabinet, a decline of 9.6% from 2020.Total employment fell by 14.6% to 3,983 workers.

Western Kentucky continued to outpace Eastern Kentucky in production, with 4.3 million tons mined in the west and 2.3 million tons mined in the east.

One western Kentucky county, Union, produced more coal than the entire eastern coalfield.

Total employment remained higher in the east, with 2,366 workers. Western Kentucky mines employed 1,617 workers.

Kentucky COVID Cases Continue To Drop

May 18, 2021
Mika Baumeister via Unsplash

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear says COVID-19 cases have declined for three weeks in a row. In his Monday briefing on coronavirus, Beshear said the state is on track to do away with its mask mandate by June 11, but there will be exceptions.

Masks will still be required in health care settings and some businesses may also still require masks.   

“Some businesses in some areas are going to decide to keep masking requirements in place. You ought to respect them,” Beshear said. “That is their choice and if they are trying to provide that extra level of safety, you need to respect that. Carry your mask on you. Use it when you need to.” 

Ricki Draper

In December, Kathy Fletcher, a lifelong Martin County, Kentucky, resident and mother, found her water was shut off.

When it came back on, something was wrong with it. Fletcher remembers that after she showered, her skin and nails felt completely dried out. The water smelled acrid, like chemicals.

For years, Fletcher has been frustrated by events like this — frequent main breaks and shutoffs, low pressure, smelly and discolored water — and to top it off, repeated rate increases from the Martin County Water District. 

The district raised rates just a little more than two years ago, and now, the district has proposed yet another rate increase, this time an emergency increase of 12%. 


John Boyle

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel has recommended the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for use in children as young as 12. The decision follows the Food and Drug Administration’s extension of the vaccine’s emergency use authorization for children 12 to 15 years old on May 10. 

The Ohio Valley ReSource asked Vince Venditto, an expert in vaccine design, about the Pfizer study data collected in participants ages 12 to 15. Venditto previously responded to listener questions about the safety and efficacy of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. 

  

J. Tyler Franklin

The Food and Drug Administration announced Monday that the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 may be given to children ages 12 to 15. Kentucky is preparing to make the vaccine available for children. 

Shortly before the FDA announced expanded use of the vaccine, Kentucky’s top public health official, Dr. Steven Stack, said studies showed that the vaccine was safe for children. 

“You could have some aches or a little fatigue, but kids bounce back very quickly, and it’s been very well tolerated,” Stack said. “Additionally, they have found that it has been, at least in the initial studies, 100% protective from serious illness.” 

Corinne Boyer

Roughly a million students attend college around the Ohio Valley, and the student-age population has an especially high rate of coronavirus infection. That’s why some public health advocates say schools should require that students be vaccinated. 

However, a review by the Ohio Valley ReSource found that of 400 colleges and universities in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia, only three have indicated that they will mandate COVID-19 vaccinations this fall.

The age group with the highest share of COVID-19 infections is under 30. About a fifth of all U.S. cases have occurred in people ages 18 to 29. In late April the American College Health Association, an organization that works to improve the health of college students and college campuses, recommended that schools make COVID-19 immunization mandatory for students. 


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.

 

  

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