A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Experts discuss the importance of touch as more get vaccinated and opportunities to reconnect increase

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News After a year of pandemic-forced isolation, when the simple act of touching became dangerous almost overnight, the arrival of highly effective vaccines means it’s OK for fully vaccinated people to touch again — and experts say it’s important we do. That’s because touching is how we show each other compassion and love, and because it is necessary...

Bill requiring Kentucky drivers to pass vision test at each license renewal nears final approval

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Kentucky is close to becoming the 43rd state to require drivers to have a vision screening every time they renew their license. The rule is in a House bill that has passed the Senate is back in the House for consideration of changes made to it in the Senate. “House Bill 439 is a commonsense piece of legislation that will save lives by ensuring drivers on Kentucky...

New CDC guidance paves way for visitors to slowly return to Kentucky’s long-term care facilities

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News After nearly a year of keeping visitors out of long-term-care facilities, Kentucky has allowed visitation at some, but has been waiting on federal guidance for nursing homes regulated by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This week, that guidance finally dropped. CMS said it was relaxing its indoor visitation rules in response to “significant...

Bills dealing with insulin cost, substance-use disorder and long-term-care staffing advance

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Health-related bills are on the move in the General Assembly, with several of them passing out of their respective chambers this week. House bills sent to the Senate include one that would help some Kentuckians with diabetes pay for their life-saving medication, another aimed at decreasing the stigma around getting syringes and needles in drug stores, and one...

A quarter of Ky’s community health center visits are via telehealth; bill would codify temporary rules

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News A bill to codify telehealth provisions that were put into place during the pandemic to temporarily relax some of the regulations has passed out of committee and awaits a hearing in the full House. Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill, who is the co-sponsor of House Bill 140, told Kentucky Health News that it is very important for this telehealth bill to pass. “I...

CDC study suggests rural K-12 schools could safely open for in-person learning with proper precautions

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News A new study shows that rural schools holding in-person classes with heavy masking, social distancing and limited group sizes had few transmissions of the novel coronavirus. But a separate analysis shows that such precautions are not always being taken. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 13-week study involved 4,876 students and 654 staff from...

Kentucky hospitals to follow higher quality standards to get more money from Medicaid

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News With up to 28 rural Kentucky hospitals vulnerable to closure if their financial situation does not improve, the announcement of a new payment model to increase the amount Kentucky’s hospitals are paid for Medicaid patients is cause for their celebration. “Improved reimbursement for Kentucky’s hospitals is vital for their survival. Medicaid…...

Ky. shows little progress in latest health rankings; we’re getting less exercise, diabetes has increased

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Kentucky again ranks near the bottom in two big health measures: 48th for health behaviors and 46th for health outcomes, according to the America’s Health Rankings report from the United Health Foundation. Most of the reasons are familiar, such as a high percentage of Kentuckians with more than one chronic condition — such as diabetes, which has become...

Only 145 cases of flu confirmed in Kentucky, but experts say it’s too early to call the season mild

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Kentucky has confirmed one-sixth as many flu cases this season as at this time last season, but the state’s top doctor says it’s too soon to read much into that. “It is too early to celebrate a mild influenza season in Kentucky,” Health Commissioner Steven Stack in an e-mail. “The onset of peak influenza season varies from year to year, and...

Economists say random testing required to know true cornavirus impact; examples indicate lower mortality

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News The best way to determine the true impact of the novel coronavirus in Kentucky would be to do random testing of the population, instead of the current approach that only gathers test information from people who choose to get tested, according to a paper commissioned by the Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise at the University of Kentucky. “To accurately...

Kentucky in White House task force’s worst zone for coronavirus as cases continue rising in past week

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Again, Kentucky is in the worst danger zone for its coronavirus case numbers, with the 18th-highest rate in the country, according to this week’s White House Coronavirus Task Force report. Being in the White House red zone for cases means the state has 101 or more new cases per 100,000 residents. Kentucky’s cases have been increasing for weeks. The...

Experts say COVID-19 vaccine will come with challenges and cautions after distribution

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Even after a vaccine is approved for the novel coronavirus and is widely distributed, it will still be important to follow public-health recommendations to thwart the spread of the virus, including basic hand hygiene, social distancing and wearing a mask. That’s partly because the vaccine only has to be 50 percent effective at preventing COVID-19, and the...

Panel says colorectal cancer screenings should begin at 45, following cancer society guidelines

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News A federal task force now recommends that adults with a normal risk for colorectal cancer get their first screening at age 45, instead of 50, as the American Cancer Society has recommended since 2018. Kentucky already requires health insurance plans to start screening for colorectal cancer at 45, and pay for it without any patient cost sharing, under legislation...

Nurse task force says every Kentucky school needs full-time nurse, requests $3 million from lawmakers

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News “Every school needs a nurse every day, all day.” So says the Kentucky Nurses Association School Nurse Task Force, which has worked for this goal for more than five years. It says only 43 percent of Kentucky schools meet the National Association of School Nurses recommendation for a minimum of one nurse for every 750 students. On Oct. 20, the task...

White House reports 70 percent of Kentucky counties at moderate or high level of virus spread

By Melissa Patrick
 Kentucky Health News The latest report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force again has Kentucky in the task force’s worst danger zone for number of cases, with 12 more counties being put in that zone than the previous week. “Kentucky is in the red zone for cases, indicating 101 or more new cases per 100,000 population last week, with the 21st highest rate...

State issues plan for distributing COVID-19 vaccine; Anderson County residents hesitant

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News The Kentucky Department for Public Health has issued its draft plan for distributing a COVID-19 vaccine, when it becomes available, that addresses everything from who can get it first to how it must be stored. It also recognizes that “a portion of the U.S. population may hesitate to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.” To address this hesitancy, the plan...

Study: Nutrition education for low-income people in eight Southeast states results in healthier diets

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News A little education goes a long way when it comes to helping people with limited budgets eat healthier and not run out of food before the end of the month. So says a study by the Public Health Institute’s Center for Wellness and Nutrition, published in the Journal of Nutritional Science. It found that residents with low incomes in eight Southeastern states,...

Beshear asks coaches to put student health first, urges schools in ‘red zones’ to follow guidance

By Lisa Gillespie and Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News With at least five Kentucky high school football games canceled due to the novel coronavirus only 11 days after the start of a delayed season, Gov. Andy Beshear said coaches are almost in a sacred position to protect the health of their student-athletes. “If I was running a high-school program, I would want my team to be getting tested on...

UK professor says Kentucky efforts at farmer suicide prevention, awareness a national model

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Kentucky farmers, like those across the nation, work tirelessly to stay afloat amid plummeting farm incomes, market instabilities, extreme weather conditions, few safety nets and now, a global pandemic. And sometimes those stressors add up, leading some to consider suicide, and others to die by it. To bring awareness to this issue, the General Assembly passed...

Kentucky lobbyist says feds send nursing homes quick-test kits, but with rules that deter their use

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Testing is one of the few tools nursing homes have to keep the novel coronavirus out of their facilities, and the Trump administration has tried to help by sending them equipment to conduct tests that give quick results. But while they were sent with good intention and are appreciated, the head of the state nursing-home association told Kentucky Health News that...