A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Most Kyians with Alzheimer’s are at least 65, have chronic illness, putting them at high risk of COVID-19

People with Alzheimer’s disease are considered at high risk for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, not only because they have Alzheimer’s but also because most of the 272,000 Kentuckians with the disease are over 65 and most of them have at least one other chronic illness, Hillary Smith reports in a University of Kentucky news release. The increased risk of COVID-19 for...

Officials urge quick hospital, government action to limit deaths from COVID-19 in rural areas

A public-health professor and a surgeon at the University of Kentucky are sounding the alarm that the COVID-19 disease caused by the new coronavirus could devastate rural Kentucky, and they say rural citizens and hospitals need to be more careful. Ty Borders, the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky Endowed Chair in Rural Health Policy, and Sam C. Tyagi, an assistant professor of surgery, wrote a letter...

Health officials focus on measures to ‘flatten the curve’ to fight the coronavirus; what that means

Kentucky Health News When health officials talk about strong measures to ‘flatten the curve’ to fight the coronavirus, this is what they’re talking about. Measures that are being called “drastic” and “extreme” are necessary to keep the coronavirus and its COVID-19 disease from overwhelming the U.S. health-care system, according to health experts and public...

New influenza cases in Kentucky dropped slightly in last week of February; vaccine remains best defense

In the last week of February, Kentucky reported fewer new cases of influenza and fewer deaths from it than it did the week before. The latest weekly report from the state Department for Public Health shows that in the week ending Feb. 29, Kentucky counted 1,591 new cases, down from 1,943 new cases the previous week. Five flu deaths were reported in the state, down from 14 the previous week and 16...

Clinicians suspected Kentucky’s first case of coronavirus, but patient didn’t qualify for testing

Crystal Miller, head of the health department serving Harrison County, at a press conference Saturday. Others, L to R: Gov. Andy Beshear; Health Commissioner Steven Stack; Harrison County Judge-Executive Alex Barnett; Cynthiana Mayor James Smith; and Mark Newman, head of UK HealthCare. (Photo from KHN) By Melissa Patrick and Al Cross Kentucky Health News Kentucky found its first case of the new coronavirus,...

Beshear urges all employers to allow paid sick leave in effort to prevent spread of coronavirus

Gov. Andy Beshear wants Kentucky employers who don’t allow paid sick leave to change that policy, to prevent spread of the coronavirus. “We have got to make sure that people stay home when they’re feeling sick until we move past this,” Beshear told journalists, adding that it is only a matter of time before Kentucky sees a case of Covid-19. Governor Andy Beshear “I would encourage all...

Risk of Americans getting new coronavirus remains low, but top expert cautions this is evolving situation

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Kentucky health officials have been monitoring more than 100 people for the novel coronavirus, all of whom agreed to voluntary isolation after recent travel to mainland China, but as of Sunday there had been no confirmed cases in Kentucky. The state has tested one person for the virus, and that test came back negative, Gov. Andy Beshear said at a Feb. 27 press...

Bill to help people with addictions get medication-assisted treatments moves on to full House

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News A bill to help people with opioid and alcohol addictions to get prescription drugs to treat their substance-use disorders — the recognized standard of drug treatment — passed unanimously out of committee Thursday and now heads to the full House. House Bill 389, sponsored by Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill, would ban the requirement of “prior authorization”...

Senate Bill 90 would let health professionals refuse treatment that violates their conscience

A bill to allow health-care professionals to refuse to provide treatment that violates their conscience is nearing a floor vote in the state Senate. Senate Bill 90, sponsored by Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, would also exempt providers from liability for exercising their rights and allow individuals to sue if they have been injured through disciplinary action, such as being fired or demoted...

Number of new flu cases in Kentucky drops slightly; 66 adults have died from flu complications this year

The number of new cases of influenza dropped slightly in Kentucky during the second week of February, but 16 more adults in the state were reported to have died from the flu. So far, 66 Kentuckians have died from it this season, four under the age of 18, according to the state Department for Public Health. The latest weekly report shows that in the week ending Feb. 15, Kentucky counted 1,854 new cases,...

Bills to help health departments with pensions pass House; some will require public-health tax hikes

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Two bills that were presented as part of a “three-phase approach” to create a sustainable solution to local health departments’ pension crisis passed the state House Feb. 13. The third part of the plan involves the state budget. The budget committee chair, Republican Rep. Steven Rudy of Paducah, cautioned House members that passage of the bills...

Flu cases creep up for third week in a row; nine more Kentuckians have died from it; get a flu shot

Amid all the headlines about the novel coronavirus, health experts warn that there is a much more prevalent and potentially deadly virus killing people in Kentucky: influenza. Through the week ended Feb. 8, Kentucky had reported 17,203 cases of flu this season, with 50 deaths from it, four of them people under 18, according to the state Department for Public Health. In an op-ed for the Lexington Herald-Leader,...

Poll finds Kentucky adults overwhelmingly favor legalizing medical marijuana; bill looms this week

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News As lawmakers move close to legalizing medical marijuana in Kentucky, a new poll shows that an overwhelming number of Kentucky adults would support such a measure, and that a solid majority would approve legalizing the drug under any circumstance. The latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll found that nine in 10 of adults in the state favor legalizing marijuana for...

Pension bill could force some Kentucky counties to raise taxes in order to receive state assistance

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Under a new pension funding proposal pending before the Kentucky General Assembly, some counties could be asked to increase their public-health taxes to help pay for their health departments’ pension liability. “Because we’ve been giving a free ride to some of these guys, they haven’t had to go to their communities and ask for a tax increase,”...

Senate president, long the key obstacle to medical marijuana in Kentucky, now sees ‘narrow path’ to it

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News The most important legislative opponent of legalizing medical marijuana in Kentucky said Friday that there is a “narrow path forward” for it. Senate President Robert Stivers said that the day after a medical-cannabis bill was filed in his chamber. Senate Bill 107 has bipartisan sponsorship from 11 of the Senate’s 38 members. It is a companion...

Flu cases dip in new year, but still much higher than last season; 21 deaths from flu confirmed in Ky.

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Influenza has killed 21 people in Kentucky this season, two under the age of 18, according to the state Department for Public Health. The latest weekly report shows that the flu activity in the state has dropped a bit in the first two weeks of the year, compared to the last two weeks of 2019, when the state was reporting more than 2,000 new cases each week. In...

Smoke-free advocates rally in Frankfort for measures to decrease soaring youth use of e-cigarettes

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Kentucky’s Coalition for a Smoke-free Tomorrow rallied in Frankfort this week to call on state lawmakers to pass several measures aimed at decreasing electronic-cigarette use among the state’s youth, a phenomenon that continues to surge. Between 2017 and 2019, e-cigarette use more than quadrupled among the state’s middle-school students and...

Transportation problems, lack of confidentiality among barriers to accessing rural syringe exchanges

By Heather Chapman Kentucky Health News Rural residents who inject drugs say they are less likely to access syringe exchange programs because of transportation problems, inability to get to the service at times it’s open, and concerns about stigma, lack of confidentiality and law enforcement. So says a newly published study examining barriers that can prevent people who inject drugs (PWIDs) from...

Flu cases among Kentuckians being reported at increasing rate; Six deaths already this season

Kentuckians are getting the flu at an increasing rate, and more are dying from it. In the week ended Dec. 14, there were two deaths, bringing the statewide total for the current flu season to six, according to the state Department for Public Health. During that week, 814 new cases of the flu were reported. Five of the deaths were people 18 or older and one was under 18. Twelve of the state’s...

Dollar General plans 1,000 new stores in 2020; some worry they contribute to poor nutrition in rural areas

Dollar General Corp., one of the fastest-growing retailers in the country, has announced it will open 1,000 new stores in 2020, just as it did last year. That’s on top of the more than 16,000 stores it already has (dozens of which are in Kentucky). “Dollar General’s growth is nearly unrivaled in the industry at a time in which many brick-and-mortar retailers are closing stores or...