U of L HR department sends self-care resources to faculty Wednesday, Sep 16 2020 

By Forest Clevenger — 

An update from the University of Louisville’s Human Resources Department was sent out to faculty and staff on Sept. 9 providing resources to help cope with tension and stress. 

These resources include a virtual session that will be hosted by the Employee Assistance Program. The session will serve to support university employees following announcements from government officials about the death of Breonna Taylor. This session’s date and time is still to be determined. 

In addition, the email mentioned the free, 24/7 Employee Assistance Program counseling services and HR Learning Cafes, online sessions focused on continuing personal and professional growth.

The department included information about Yoga at Your Desk, U of L Telehealth Services, Anthem Health resources and links to the CDC’s self-care tips. 

Colleagues were also encouraged to check in on each other and supervisors were encouraged to create safe spaces where faculty and staff are able to speak freely. 

The university also reminded faculty and staff, they are still required to wear masks, physically distance and test for coronavirus to keep the campus community safe.

“I hope you will take advantage of these services if necessary. And I hope you will join me in looking out for one another as we continue to address the issues affecting us all in 2020,” Mary Elizabeth Miles, U of L’s Vice President for Human Resources, said in the email. 

Graphic by Joseph Garcia // The Louisville Cardinal

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Mental health tips to stay healthy during COVID-19 Tuesday, Aug 25 2020 

By Catherine Brown–

It is often easier to worry about the physical precautions that we should take during the pandemic. Washing your hands, wearing a mask and social distancing in public are clear ways to care for yourself and others. But when it comes to mental health, it might not be as easy to spot the concerns.

As college students, many of us already probably struggle to get out of bed in the morning. Adding on a global pandemic certainly doesn’t make it any better.

Here are some tips for taking care of yourself during a stressful global pandemic:

 

Watch for signs of mental distress.

The CDC suggests ways in which you can identify signs of distress. Some of these signs can include fear or worry about your financial situation, or your or someone else’s health, changes in sleeping patterns and difficulty concentrating. 

Seek professional help if you or a loved one are experiencing any of these signs and they persist for several days leaving you unable to perform your normal responsibilities. The University of Louisville’s Counseling Center is available by phone at 502-852-6585 on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 

Refrain from reading the news too much.

Syndicated news channels spin the news in their favor. Stories about tragedies related to the virus can incite panic and negative emotions. The CDC recommends taking healthy breaks from social media and television reports about the pandemic. 

When you do use social media, be sure to verify your news sources.

Local governments will usually have the most up-to-date information. Don’t read too heavily into the information you see posted on social media. Anyone can post false information on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, etc. Don’t fall into the traps of clickbait news. By carefully choosing your sources of news, you can prevent stumbling upon false information that could cause worry.

 

Take time to enjoy activities while socially distancing.

Practice hobbies that can keep you socially distanced, but can still be done with friends. Some hobbies can include reading, writing, drawing or even coding.

U of L Counseling Center Director Aesha Uqdah gave students tips for coping with the pandemic, such as being creative at this time. 

“Engaging in creative activities can reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Creating some sort of art or writing can help you process your emotions in a productive way. It can also produce calming effects on your brain and in the body,” Uqdah said.

The Counseling Center is hosting virtual group art therapy sessions on Fridays from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. starting Sept. 18. 

On Aug. 25, U of L is hosting a virtual RSO Fair for students to become involved in their Louisville community. This is an opportunity for students to look for activities that can let them separate from classwork.

 

Keep in touch with friends and family.

Take time to text, call or video chat your friends and family. Touch base with the people you care most about and let them know that you are alright. This could relieve worries for those of us who become preoccupied with the wellbeing of loved ones.

Take care of yourself physically too.

If you aren’t taking care of yourself physically, chances are your mental health will be affected. Eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, and keep up a regular sleep schedule. 

U of L’s Belknap campus has plenty of walking trails. With approximately 274 acres of land, the downtown campus is perfect for students looking to get some exercise into their day. Even walking from campus housing and between buildings can improve physical health. Improving physical health will improve mental health.

Make sure you put your health first. It might seem more worthy of your energy to worry about others. However, if you aren’t taking care of yourself, you can’t put in your full effort to take care of those around you.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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Masking Questions: How Pandemic Health Measures Became Politicized Monday, Jul 6 2020 

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Health officials and researchers say the science is clear: face masks can help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Yet in the Ohio Valley, not all elected officials are in agreement on whether to mandate measures such as the use of face masks in public places. 

In April, Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine initially announced the mandatory use of face masks in retail settings, only to walk back the mandate during the next day’s press conference to say it was only a recommendation. West Virginia Republican Gov. Jim Justice recently said that mandatory use of face masks would be impossible to enforce and would “divide us.” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, ordered face mask use in public, but people who don’t wear one won’t be fined, though businesses that require masks can turn away customers who aren’t wearing one.

As of July 1 daily coronavirus case numbers were approaching a high point in KY.


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Questions And Anxiety Mount Over COVID-19 Workplace Safety As More Businesses Reopen Friday, May 29 2020 

Gail Fleck is a school cafeteria worker in the greater Cincinnati area and lives with her 90-year-old father. She loves her job because she gets to work with kids. But she is worried she won’t be able to keep her dad safe if her work exposes her to the coronavirus and she unknowingly brings it home. 

“I’m scared, I’m worried. I feel like, we’re talking about life and death here and this is my father,” she said. 

Fleck, who didn’t want to name her workplace, said she hasn’t been back to work since before the schools went on spring break. When she ran out of sick days, she stopped receiving a paycheck. 

“I’ve just worked very hard at keeping myself and my father at home and not going out,” she said. 

Workers like Fleck across the Ohio Valley face difficult choices now that states are gradually reopening workplaces. Many don’t feel safe going back to work, and adding to the anxiety is the uncertainty about the enforcement of safety standards for businesses that are reopening. During pointed questioning at a Congressional hearing Thursday a top official with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was not able to say how many workplaces are seeing cases of COVID-19.  

Who Keeps Workers Safe?

OSHA is the main federal agency responsible for enforcing workplace safety standards. Ohio and West Virginia are among roughly half the states where OSHA has direct oversight of most work safety regulations. Kentucky is among the states with a federally approved work safety program administered by the state. The Kentucky Labor Cabinet said it is working with businesses to ensure they are complying with Kentucky’s minimum requirements.

“Notes of Deficiency, and if necessary, orders to cease operations will be issued to businesses that demonstrate they are not making substantive efforts to comply with the reopening requirements,” Kentucky Labor Cabinet Chief of Staff Marjorie Arnold said in an email.

Some work safety advocates have criticized the federal OSHA’s lack of involvement in workplaces during the coronavirus pandemic.

Safety and Health Program Director at the left-leaning nonprofit National Employment Law Project, Deborah Berkowitz, said OSHA should be taking more action to help keep workers safe. 

“The sad reality is that OSHA is failing here,” Berkowitz said. “They’ve actually just walked away from this whole pandemic and decided that though they could, they’re not going to do any enforcement. They’re not going to issue any mandates that are requirements, and instead, they’ll issue a poster or publication.”

Berkowitz was previously chief of staff and senior policy adviser for OSHA under the Obama administration. She advises if employers are not following the Centers for Disease Control guidance, the employee should file a complaint with OSHA. 

“Even though they’re not going to go out and do an inspection, I think they will call the employer and say a complaint has been filed,” Berkowitz said.  

She also said local health departments should be notified, in order for community spread to be prevented. Ultimately, Berkowitz said localities need to be smart about reopening and not sacrifice the safety of workers for the health of the economy. 

“But if you cut corners, and say that employers can do whatever they want at work, then most likely, you will see what’s happening in meatpacking plants and poultry plants right now around the country, and that is the spread of this disease will whip like wildfires around the workplace and back into the community,” she said. 

Heated Hearing

In an Education and Labor Committee House hearing Thursday witnesses with OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health were questioned about their role in keeping workers safe in the era of COVID-19. 

Principal Deputy Secretary of OSHA Loren Sweatt defended her agency’s decision against a new regulatory standard on coronavirus safety.

In questions from Democrats on the panel Sweatt was not able to say how many workplaces have reported cases of coronavirus. She also told the committee that a lawsuit against the agency, filed by the AFL-CIO, prevented her from answering some questions about OSHA’s actions. 

Sweatt said there have been at least 1,374 whistleblower COVID-19 complaints as of May 26. However, none of those businesses have been sanctioned for retaliation against employees. She said there’s no statute of limitations on investigations of those complaints. 

“While investigations are ongoing I can tell you in certain circumstances, we have seen resolution almost immediately when the whistleblower calls to initiate the investigation,” Sweatt said. 

Sweatt clarified that a resolution means a worker getting their job back as well as back pay after allegedly being punished by their employer for making a complaint to OSHA. 

NIOSH Director John Howard said his organization has just started tracking coronavirus cases in the workplace, about two months after the virus was declared a pandemic. 

“We have been getting better at tracking occupation and industry for COVID-19 cases,” he said. “We have a new case report form that we are hoping that the states will start using.”

Howard said NIOSH is now beginning to track coronavirus cases in meatpacking plants. Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia have all seen large outbreaks in meat processing facilities as workers try to keep up with soaring demand from consumers. 

Back To Work

Ohio Valley workers are left to navigate a lot of uncertainty as many of them return to work amid health and safety concerns. And some state actions appear to limit an employees’ options. For example, in Ohio, the state’s Department of Job and Family Services now has a form online where employers can report employees who quit or refuse to work due to concerns about COVID-19. Officials in Ohio say the form has always been available online but has only changed focus so employers can report workers who use the fear of contracting the virus as a reason for not wanting to return to work. 

Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia have been working to reopen their economies a few sectors at a time. The first sector to reopen was healthcare. Now restaurants are opening to in-person dining, as well as recreational activities, fitness centers, and cosmetology services. Many of the facilities aren’t the same as they were pre-pandemic, with limited occupancy and increased personal protective equipment for customers and workers. 

Tom Tsai is an assistant professor in Health Policy and Management at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard Global Health Institute. 

“The overall message, though is more important than the thresholds for reopening, is that this is not an on-off switch, but really a dial,” he said. “The states need to really consider having very clear metrics on what success or failure looks like.”

Tsai said there is already some “social distancing fatigue” people are feeling and that’s why it’s important to get the policy correct now.

“Because in some ways, once the floodgates open, in terms of trying to return to normal, it’s going to be very hard to reinstitute social distancing measures,” he said.

College of Arts and Sciences creates emergency resource page for COVID-19 outbreak Tuesday, Mar 17 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

The University of Louisville’s College of Arts and Sciences has created an emergency resource section on their website to help make sure students, faculty and staff stay informed during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

 The resources include travel guidelines, information on working from home, resources for professors moving courses online, departmental emergency plans and tips to stay healthy.

The website also contains links to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 resources and the Campus Health Services site. 

The resources can also be accessed by clicking on the banner on the Arts and Sciences homepage. 

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

 

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President Neeli Bendapudi announces cancellation of U of L events and remote work plan for faculty and staff Monday, Mar 16 2020 

By Eli Hughes —

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi announced in an email March 14 that all campus events would be canceled or postponed until at least April 5 to help limit the spread of COVID-19. 

She went on to say the university will still be open, but eligible faculty and staff should work remotely.

Bendapudi introduced these measures as a way to keep the campus functioning while prioritizing the safety of the university community.

“In our Cardinal community of care, we cherish, support and are there for one another,” Bendapudi said. 

“Just as our campus community serves as a primary home for so many of our students, it also is an important source of income and the foundation of the livelihoods for so many of our staff and faculty. I take that reality and responsibility seriously. “

Bendapudi has been working with her leadership team to reduce the number of faculty and staff on campus without interfering with the operation of the university. 

Faculty and staff’s ability to work remotely will be decided based on the practicality of their job being done remotely and their access to the proper equipment. There will still be some staff present on campus to help keep the university operational.

These positions include custodians, campus housing staff, library staff, etc. The staff present on the Health Science Campus will be decided based on patient care.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends these social distancing efforts for areas where COVID-19 is spreading. The CDC suggests avoiding close contact with groups and people who feel sick. 

More information about COVID-19 and U of L’s response can be found at https://louisville.edu/campushealth/information/coronavirus

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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Gov. Andy Beshear confirms Louisville’s first case of coronavirus Tuesday, Mar 10 2020 

This story will be updated as more information is released. 

By Eli Hughes —

Governor Andy Beshear confirmed Louisville’s first coronavirus case in a live-streamed press conference March 8.

There are now eight confirmed cases as of March 10 according to WLKY. 

There is one paitent is in Jefferson County, five in Harrison County and two in Fayette County. 

Beshear started this announcement by reassuring Kentucky residents. “We will get through this,” Beshear said. 

“We’ll do it together. We’ll do it by caring about each other, by practicing good hygiene. Folks, we are going to make it through this.”

There is not much information currently available about Louisville’s case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The patient is said to be in isolation, and those who could have possibly come into contact with them would be alerted. 

Mayor Greg Fischer also spoke at a press conference March 8 to address concerns about Louisville’s first case. 

“Unfortunately, we knew it was just a matter of time before the virus came to our city, as it has to many cities around America,” Fischer said. “And what is most important is for our city and our residents to take appropriate steps to keep all of us safe.” 

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi sent an email March 10 that said senior leadership is meeting to monitor the situation and develop plans to keep the campus community safe.

“We have been reviewing operational needs that may arise in the case that we need to cancel classes, move classes online, or otherwise limit access to campus,” Bendapudi said.

Bendapudi said the step isn’t necessary at the moment, but is confident the step is possible.

U of L announced in an earlier email March 5 that two members of the university community are self-isolating and monitoring for the virus. 

 Dr. Phillip Bressoud, the Executive Director of Campus Health Services, informed the campus community of the situation in an email March 5. He assured students, faculty and staff that the individuals are not currently showing symptoms associated with the virus.

He also addressed concerns about the individuals being on campus before self-isolating.

 “These individuals were on campus prior to the CDC recommendation that they self-isolate but now are self-isolating for 14 days, as recommended by the CDC,” he said. “The university has notified individuals who are known to have been in close contact with them.”

 The two individuals in question returned from Italy before the Center for Disease Control and Prevention updated the country to a level 3 travel advisory. Countries with a level 3 advisory are classified by the CDC as countries that have widespread, sustained transmission.

Bressoud also reminded the U of L community that more information about COVID-19 can be found on U of L’s website at http://louisville.edu/campushealth/information/coronavirus-ncov2019-information.   

The state has also set up a hotline for those who have questions about the virus. That hotline is 1-800-722-5725. 

File Photo// The Louisville Cardinal

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Kentucky Officials Urge People To Quit Vaping As Number Of Disease Cases Rise Tuesday, Oct 8 2019 

Kentucky’s Department for Public Health announced Tuesday that it is now investigating 25 cases of a lung disease associated with vaping. One case has been confirmed. The state also recommended against using vaping products while a nationwide outbreak continues.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week said there are now more than 1,080 cases of these lung illnesses across 48 states. The federal agency says almost a quarter of sickened patients are between the ages 25 and 34. Another 39 percent are between ages 18 and 24. 

Department for Public Health Commissioner Angela Dearinger said in a press release that the state is working with the Food and Drug Administration, local health departments and the CDC.

“As the investigation into the cause of severe lung injury associated with vaping continues, we recommend you refrain from using e-cigarettes, or any vaping product,” Dearinger said.

Though the CDC hasn’t said if there’s a common product those sickened have used, the health agency said many have used counterfeit THC vapes. Others have reported using legally-purchased vapes that contain nicotine.

Patients with the lung illness experience symptoms like cough, shortness of breath, fever, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and chest pain.

The move from the state comes about a week after health officials in Louisville also told residents to stop vaping while cases grow.

Health experts have long warned that the FDA does not pre-approve or test vaping ingredients for safety. And researchers don’t yet know the long-term health effects of vaping on health.

For help quitting smoking or using e-cigarettes, visit www.QuitNowKentucky.com, or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free help.

Amid Outbreak Of Lung Illness, Louisville Officials Urge Residents To Quit Vaping Monday, Sep 30 2019 

Louisville officials are urging residents to stop vaping following an outbreak of a severe lung illnesses that’s been associated with e-cigarette use.

“As a public health professional, our message is simple: Vaping is not safe,” said Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness Director Sarah Moyer. “The industry is not regulated by the FDA. And right now there is no way to know if a product you buy in a store [is] safer than products you buy on the street.”

And indeed, federal health agencies don’t pre-approve or test vaping ingredients for safety. Some people buy vapes in retail stores; others use e-cigarettes containing THC — the ingredient in marijuana that makes a smoker “high” — that they’ve bought either legally in states where marijuana is legal or on the black market.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week said there are now more than 805 cases of these lung illnesses across 46 states. The federal agency says almost two-thirds of sickened patients are between ages 18 and 34. Another 16 percent are younger than age 18.  

Moyer spoke at a press conference Monday where Mayor Greg Fischer also announced he’s looking at ways Metro government might be able to curb youth vaping.

“I’m directing my staff to immediately explore steps we can take within local Metro government or working with Metro Council, or the state general assembly to reduce the use of e-cigarettes in our community, particularly amongst our young people to prevent this crisis from getting worse,” Fischer said.

Those steps could include a ban on flavored vape sales in Jefferson County, but Fischer said he’s not sure if Louisville Metro government can take that action. Flavored vapes have been cited as a reason teens and young adults vape.

Meanwhile, Kentucky officials said Friday they’ve confirmed that one Kentuckian has the severe lung illness. The confirmed case is of a white man who reported using a modified vape with only nicotine and no THC, according to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. At least one of 20 cases the state is investigating is a Louisville resident and the state has deemed three of the 20 cases are “probable” instances of the nationwide outbreak.

The CDC says a little more than two-thirds of patients nationwide reported some use of THC-containing vapes. Some states, like Wisconsin, are reporting that many patients used counterfeit vapes.

Earlier this month WFPL reported that one Louisville resident had been hospitalized following vape use. Rashelle Bernal said she’d used vapes bought in a legal store in California, where she’d recently moved from. She said some contained THC, while others just contained nicotine.

Bernal said since that story published, the Food and Drug Administration has contacted her to conduct an investigation. She said the FDA is the only health agency that’s been in touch with her.

Pushback

E-cigarette industry leaders have called actions like Moyers’ call to stop vaping “irresponsible,” because some adults have used vaping to quit smoking cigarettes. Greg Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, said there is evidence that shows vaping is effective in helping people quit smoking.

“In a in a state that has such a high adult smoking rate, it is utterly irresponsible for health authorities to be telling these adult smokers, that they’re better off continuing to smoke than vape,” Conley said. “And that is the message that they are sending by just telling people don’t vape.”

But Moyer with the Department for Public Health and Wellness said that’s not what she’s doing. Instead, she urged people to use FDA-approved smoking cessation methods, which are free through the health department.

“If you’re using e-cigarettes to quit cigarette smoking, don’t return to regular cigarettes,” Moyer said. “The Department of Public Health and Wellness offers free smoking and vaping sensation classes with FDA-approved nicotine replacement products, such as patches and gum.”

She added that the CDC says 16 percent of patients with the recent lung illness have reported only using nicotine-containing products, rather than those which may have contained THC.

“Right now, we can’t say that there are any vaping products, including those bought in stores, that do not cause this deadly lung condition,” Moyer said. 

 

Flu Season Starts Sunday; Kentucky Officials Urge Vaccines Friday, Sep 27 2019 

Health officials are urging Kentuckians to get a flu vaccine as the start of the 2019-2020 season kicks off on Sunday.

The flu season usually lasts until mid-May, and last year’s season was the longest recorded at 21 weeks. Department for Public Health Clinical Affairs Senior Deputy Commissioner Connie White said the flu vaccine usually takes two weeks until it’s fully effective.

“Get that in your system because it does take a while before that will actually start developing the kind of protection that you need from the flu,” White said.

White said there have already been 154 laboratory-confirmed flu cases since August in the commonwealth. Nationally during the last flu season, there were 647,000 flu-related hospitalizations and 61,000 deaths from the flu. In Kentucky 194 people died, including two children.  

Kristina Bryant, a pediatric infectious disease doctor at the University of Louisville Hospital, said some people die from the flu virus itself. But many people get a secondary bacterial infection because their immune system is weakened.

“Every year, people get sick, some flu need to be hospitalized, and some die,” Bryant said. “And so there’s no reason to think that this year is going to be any different.”

The state’s first flu report will come out on Oct. 11, and is based on laboratory-confirmed cases. White said these reports don’t include all the flu cases because health providers are not required to notify the state when they diagnose the virus. But the reports do provide information for the public and for the state on which to base public health outreach efforts.

“So we are getting just a tip of the iceberg,” White said. “But what we get, we know is absolute and true flu.”

The state also gathers voluntary-submitted data from hospitals and doctor’s offices for influenza-like illnesses that haven’t been lab-verified.

“Your nurse practitioner examines you and says, ‘I think you have the flu go home,’ – if there’s no testing done, then we don’t have a way to capture that data,” White said, so the state reports that as a secondary number.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are a few different groups of people who are most at-risk for suffering more severe complications. Those include children between six months and five years old, pregnant women, people over age 50, residents of nursing homes and people in contact with those groups.

Symptoms of flu include cough, fever, headache, sore throat, sneezing and body aches.

 

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