Mika Baumeister via Unsplash

As COVID-19 continues its dangerous, often deadly, surge across the Bluegrass State, Gov. Andy Beshear and public health officials relentlessly ask Kentuckians to follow basic safety precautions: limit contacts, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Most businesses post signs at the door, telling customers that a 'mask mandate' is an effect, but this basic safety measure has erupted into a political battleground.

WKU Public Radio Reporter Rhonda Miller talked with Sean Crabtree, public health director of the 10-county Lake Cumberland District Health Department about the challenges of the pandemic.


Counties across Kentucky are making plans for early in-person voting that begins Oct. 13. 

Election officials are required  to follow federal guidelines for social distancing and other safety precautions to keep voters safe during the pandemic.

Preparations for early voting are moving forward in Pulaski County, where Election Coordinator Mark Vaught said one location has already been determined. 

Somerset Independent Schools

The Somerset Independent School District is moving forward with plans to begin in-person classes for K-12 students on Sept. 8. 

Somerset schools will operate on a “purple-gold model”, with students showing up on a rotating schedule for the in-person classes.

The Commonwealth Journal reports the “purple” group will include students whose family name begins with the letters A-J.  Students in that group will attend Tuesdays and Thursdays. They will be the first ones to start the in-person classes next Tuesday, because there are no classes on Monday, Sept. 7, which is Labor Day.

The “gold” group consists of students whose family name starts with K-Z. They will be in class on Mondays and Wednesdays.

PEW/Associated Press/Ted A. Warren

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Andy Beshear issued an executive order recommending that Kentucky voters use an absentee ballot for the June 23 primary election.

In Pulaski County, several thousand residents have already requested those absentee ballots so they can mail in their vote.

The phones have kept ringing as Pulaski County Election Coordinator Mark Vaught said requests for absentee ballots are coming in strong

“We’ve got 6,437 as of right now,” Vaught said around midday on June 8.

Josh Parker

Businesses across Kentucky are reopening with safety guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  

A music store in Somerset is one of the thousands of businesses across the Bluegrass State adapting to the new reality.

Josh Parker enjoys demonstrating one of the most popular guitars at the shop he owns in Somerset, Earl Brooke’s Piano and Music Center.  

“It's a Yamaha Transacoustic, just due to the fact that it’s an acoustic guitar, and it’s actually acoustic electric, so you can play acoustic or you can plug it into an amp," said Parker, who has owned the music store for about a year.

Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce

Businesses across Kentucky are reopening under state guidelines developed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Somerset - Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bobby Clue said many larger companies acquired masks earlier in preparation for reopening, but small businesses needed more assistance to keep their employees and customers safe.

"One of the concerns small businesses have is getting enough personal protective equipment (PPE) so they can open with the restrictions the state has placed on them," said Clue. 

Lake Cumberland District Health Department/Facebook

As businesses open back up across Kentucky this week, Lake Cumberland District Health Department Executive Director Shawn Crabtree is reminding residents of the Bluegrass State to to keep taking safety precautions related to COVID-19. 

“I have had several people ask me questions this week about issues of safety. Like is it safe to go out? Is it safe to go to a restaurant? Is it safe to go back to church? Nothing is absolutely safe," said Crabree in his weekly COVID-19 update on May 20. "It’s all a matter of reducing your risk.”

State and local health officials continue to encourage Kentuckians to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading the virus by social distancing, wearing a mask and avoiding large groups, even with the easing of restrictions. Individuals who are most vulnerable, including those over 60, or with underlying health conditions, are urged to continue to remain safe at home as much as possible.

Becca Schimmel

A survey of businesses in the Somerset region found that more than 90 percent of them are being impacted, in some way, by COVID-19. 

The Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce surveyed 158 people in the business community to gather perspective on restarting the local economy.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bobby Clue said the goal was to quantify perspective from a wide representation of businesses.

“It was a very well-rounded collection," said Clue. "We had everybody from retail and entertainment to restaurants and hotels, health care, agriculture, manufacturing and industry, real estate, banking education, nonprofits, technical services, all those were represented.”

The survey found that about one-quarter of those who responded reported a 50 percent decline in revenue.

Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital

Hospitals across Kentucky are experiencing a dramatic decline in revenues as elective procedures are cancelled in order to focus on treating COVID-19 patients.

Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital is one of the health care organizations temporarily trimming its staff to deal with the financial challenge.

The hospital in Somerset is putting 17 percent of its staff on temporary leave, with 25 percent salary and continuing benefits for those employees.


The Kentucky Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday over whether 18 to 21 year-olds should receive the death penalty. This was during a special hearing in Somerset intended to educate people about the court’s role in state government.

The arguments stemmed from two cases in Lexington, where a judge ruled that the death penalty could not be imposed, citing scientific evidence that people in the age group can’t yet fully control their impulses.

Matthew Krygiel, an assistant state attorney general, argued that Fayette Circuit Court Judge Ernesto Scorsone “abused his power” by ruling that the age group should be exempt from the death penalty.


Somerset Community College

Students living in southern Kentucky will soon be able to get four-year degrees at Somerset Community College. 

Four universities, including Western Kentucky University, plan to offer bachelor’s degrees through the two-year college in Pulaski County. 

The school announced the initiative in December, but released which schools are participating on Monday.  Three other schools taking part are the University of Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University, and Morehead State University.

Credit Somerset Pulaski County Development Foundation

Plans for a Texas-based company to locate a $75 million plant in Somerset appear to be in limbo over efforts to secure funding for the project.

Somerset officials announced a preliminary agreement with Houston-based Extiel in February 2017. Economic development leaders said the new state-of-the-art Somerset Energy Center was a main factor in attracting the 75-million-dollar project to Pulaski County.

Extiel would use its unique technology to convert natural gas into ultra-clean synthetic fuel products, waxes and industrial hydrogen.

Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial

A project to recognize slaves buried in unmarked graves in the Lake Cumberland region is taking another step forward as part of the activities surrounding Martin Luther King Day. The groundbreaking will be held Jan. 18 at Somerset Community College.

The idea for the Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial took shape after a young white man fatally shot nine African-Americans during a Bible study at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015.

Some Lake Cumberland area residents were at a sunrise service at Somerset City Cemetery and discovered that what looked like a vacant area was actually a site where slaves were buried. 

123RF Stock Photo

Somerset is the site of a forum this week that will address concerns related to children and families involved in Kentucky’s foster care system.

The forum is being hosted by local Citizen Foster Care Review Boards and is the second-to-last in a series of gatherings held across the state. Organizers say discussions will include overcoming barriers to getting children into permanent homes in a timely manner and ensuring their well-being and safety while in foster care and other out-of-home care.

Somerset Mayor's Office

Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler made his first court appearance on Friday stemming from a hit-and-run involving a juvenile last month. 

Girdler’s arraignment was postponed after the prosecutor recused himself.  Pulaski County Attorney Martin Hatfield filed a motion to step down from the case, citing a conflict of interest. 

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear will either appoint another county attorney or have an attorney from his Special Prosecutions Unit prosecute the case.