Kentucky GOP legislators try to block abortion clinics from operating amid coronavirus pandemic Thursday, Apr 2 2020 

Kentucky AG Daniel Cameron is asking that abortions be considered elective procedures, which the governor called to stop during this state of emergency.

        

Our COVID-19 Tracker Gives You County-Level Data On The Coronavirus Thursday, Apr 2 2020 

Since Kentucky’s first COVID-19 patient was confirmed nearly a month ago, cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus have continued to increase in the state.

Along with that increase in cases comes an increase in questions:

How many cases are there around me?

How many people in my community have died?

How do other health issues increase the risk of serious illness due to coronavirus in my community?

These questions are hard to answer right now due to the speed at which data are being reported.

That’s why we, in collaboration with three other public media stations across the U.S., developed the Local COVID-19 Tracker Project. The Local COVID-19 Tracker Project brings you county-level coronavirus data that are both timely and easy to understand.

The tracker allows you to select your county and view the most recent COVID-19 related cases and deaths, as well as information about vulnerable populations in your county.

 


Each day, when information is released by state officials, we update our app so that you can see what is currently happening in your community.

As the pandemic develops and more information becomes available, we will include additional data points that help you understand the risk of coronavirus to you and your community.

It is important to remember that while the data we’re using is the most current available, they are still an underestimation of the spread of coronavirus. As testing around the country and within each state increases, we are likely to see increases in cases.

Additionally, there are often delays in reporting testing results to state health departments. So even if the COVID-19 Tracker does not show cases in your county, it is still possible that there are cases.

COVID-19 And Other Disease

The local COVID-19 Tracker Project also provides a county profile of some of the other health conditions that can make people more vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Health experts say that exposure to COVID-19 can be more dangerous to some groups, such as seniors, those with compromised immune systems, and people who suffer from chronic respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes.

People who suffer from chronic respiratory disease are more vulnerable to a serious COVID-19 case, because the novel coronavirus affects the lungs.

The novel coronavirus especially threatens people with cardiovascular disease. In patients whose heart is made more vulnerable by pre-existing conditions, COVID-19 can cause complications such as embolisms and irregular heartbeats, and that raises a patient’s risk of death.

COVID-19 threatens people with diabetes, whose blood sugar isn’t stable, because this pre-existing condition reduces their ability to fight off infections. Unchecked, the virus can cause complications leading to coma or death.


For more information about how to protect yourself and others from the coronavirus:

Kentucky Official Information Concerning COVID-19

Updated information on testing and confirmed cases of coronavirus in Kentucky, as well as actions to limit the spread of the virus, resources for services and economic support, and a hotline number for those who think they may have been exposed.

Ohio Official Coronavirus/COVID-19 Resource Site

Updated information on testing and confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ohio, as well as actions to limit the spread of the virus, resources for services and economic support, and a hotline number for those who think they may have been exposed.

West Virginia Official Information on Coronavirus/COVID-19   

Updated information on testing and confirmed cases of coronavirus in West Virginia, as well as actions to limit the spread of the virus, resources for services and economic support, and a hotline number for those who think they may have been exposed.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Information on Coronavirus  

The post Our COVID-19 Tracker Gives You County-Level Data On The Coronavirus appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

U of L Hospital Interpreters Still Working In-Person, Despite Health Concerns Thursday, Apr 2 2020 

A few weeks ago, a medical interpreter at the University of Louisville Hospital says she was interpreting for a Spanish-speaking patient. As she translated the healthcare professional’s questions and the patient’s answers, it dawned on her. 

“She had clear respiratory symptoms, she could hardly stop coughing, she had traveled outside the country,” said the interpreter. 

She realized she was standing in close quarters with a possible coronavirus patient. She said she was completely unprotected.

Several staff interpreters told KyCIR that this experience is not unique. They say the University of Louisville Hospital is endangering them, healthcare providers and patients by not implementing appropriate protections amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

Four staff interpreters spoke to KyCIR on the condition of anonymity, saying they fear retaliation for speaking out about their concerns. 

They say they have been sent between units without appropriate protective gear, interacting with both potential coronavirus patients and highly immuno-compromised patients during the same shift. They have been told they cannot work remotely, either from home or from a call center at the hospital, according to emails reviewed by KyCIR. 

The Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters, one of two certifying bodies in the field, has recommended that all healthcare providers switch to remote interpreting for most interactions, something other area hospitals have already done. 

Baptist Health Louisville has stopped using in-person interpreters, according to a spokesperson, but said they would make exceptions if it is deemed essential to the care of the patient. Norton is using remote interpretation whenever possible; if an in-person interpreter is necessary, they have to follow the hospital’s new visitor rules, including going only to the patient’s room and leaving the hospital immediately after. 

Family Health Centers, a non-profit community health provider, has moved its staff interpreters to a call center where they can provide interpretation over the phone, a spokesperson said. 

In an email Tuesday, a spokesperson said U of L Hospital is using it’s third-party video interpretation service as “the first option, before in-person interpretation” for confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases.  

For all other patients, “protocols have not changed.”

But interpreters are worried that they may be interacting with patients who are later determined to have coronavirus. 

After KyCIR’s inquiries to the hospital, the director of the language access program sent staff interpreters an email saying they could continue to work in-person, or they could take an unpaid leave of absence, and their work would be outsourced to a third-party vendor. 

Many of the staff are already taking unpaid leave as a preventative measure or self-quarantining due to concerns about coronavirus exposure, KyCIR was told. 

One of the interpreters told KyCIR they would work around the clock if they had proper protections.

“But it’s a matter of patient safety,” she said. “How do they not see that we could be endangering everyone?”

‘Super vectors’

U of L Hospital employs several Spanish interpreters and one Somali interpreter, according to interviews with staff members. They serve the whole hospital, often being called to more than 30 situations requiring interpretation in a shift. 

“I could be this minute in the emergency room, finish an interpretation and go to the ICU, fly over to labor and delivery, fly in to assist in the OR, then I’m going to the [neonatal intensive care unit], or the transplant unit,” the interpreter said. “We are the perfect carriers for the virus, and we’re going into rooms with people with compromised immune systems.” 

A U of L Hospital spokesperson declined an interview request, but said in a statement that interpreters, like all employees, “are expected to wear procedural/surgical face masks, at all times, while in these clinical care settings. While providing care to a confirmed or presumed COVID-19 patient, or other infectious disease, additional PPE (like N95 masks) may be required.”

The hospital told interpreters in an email Monday night that they will be provided with the same level of PPE that healthcare providers receive. 

The interpreters are concerned for their own health, but several said the greater concern is for the healthcare providers and the patients.

“If we meet with a patient who is positive, we could infect the whole hospital,” another interpreter told KyCIR. “More than the doctors and nurses who work in just [one unit], we could potentially be super vectors.”

They say they have asked to stop doing in-person interpretation in wards that house particularly immuno-compromised patients, like the transplant unit and the James Graham Brown Cancer Center, but U of L Hospital told them that is not an option at this time. 

Interpreters have proposed other options

The interpreters interviewed by KyCIR said they have pushed the hospital to allow them to work remotely, either from home or from a centralized call center at the hospital. 

“In an ideal situation, face-to-face is better, of course,” said one of the interpreters. “But in the very real situation we find ourselves in, this doesn’t make any sense. Whatever benefit we are creating by being face-to-face is completely washed out by the risk we are also creating.” 

Other local healthcare providers have found ways to accommodate these requests. At the call center set up by Family Health Centers for its 10 staff interpreters, the healthcare provider calls an extension and it rings to whichever interpreter is available at that time, allowing them to offer services without moving around the facility. 

“Our interpreters know our patients, they know how we do business, and many of our patients come to us because we do have those interpreters,” said communications director Melissa Mather. “They’re part of our care team in a big way, so it was about finding a safe way for them to continue their work.” 

U of L Hospital already uses phone and video interpretation if an interpreter is not available, or no one on staff speaks the needed language. That service is contracted through a third-party vendor, and uses a national bank of remote interpreters. 

All of the staff interpreters have department-issued phones and they say the technology is available if the hospital implemented it to allow them to work remotely. 

“In-person interpretation cannot be done remotely,” a hospital spokesperson said. “In situations where a video remote call is recommended, we already have a provider for that service.”

In a March 21 email reviewed by KyCIR, when Jefferson County already had 25 confirmed cases, language services director Christopher Burchett told the staff the hospital “will NOT be offering any work from home options for language services. It will also NOT be an option to interpret over the phone.” 

Burchett said employees could choose between working face-to-face or taking vacation time, then unpaid leave. That was reiterated in the email sent Monday night. 

“We all have made a commitment by joining the healthcare field,” he wrote. “We will continue this mission and be there for our patients.” 

Another interpreter agreed their work is essential, but said their physical presence is not.  

“We may be doing the opposite of what we are supposed to do, which is to save lives.”

Potentially overloaded systems

If U of L Hospital begins to rely fully on its third-party remote interpretation system, the interpreters interviewed by KyCIR said they are concerned it may get overloaded as demand increases across the country. 

Several interpreters told KyCIR that they have raised this issue with hospital leadership and proposed different solutions, but have not seen any action. 

In an email to staff interpreters, the department director said that the hospital’s vendor has assured them they will be able to handle increased volume.  

A recent investigation from ProPublica found that hospitals in coronavirus hotspots across the U.S. are already struggling with long wait times for third-party interpretation services. 

The U of L interpreters say their concern is that a day may come when all the staff interpreters are quarantined due to coronavirus exposure, and overloaded phone and video interpretation services are rendered useless by delays. 

Usually, if there’s no better option available, the hospital relies on family members to translate, but coronavirus patients often have to be isolated to prevent the spread of disease. This will leave nurses and doctors with no options to communicate with these vulnerable populations. 

“Many of these people will be alone in the last moments of life,” one interpreter said, her voice rising. “Those patients will not be able to participate in decision making in their own medical care. They will be alone and unable to communicate for their final moments on earth.” 

Contact Eleanor Klibanoff at eklibanoff@kycir.org.

The post U of L Hospital Interpreters Still Working In-Person, Despite Health Concerns appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

‘I was fortunate’: 95-year-old WWII vet survives the coronavirus Thursday, Apr 2 2020 

Bill Kelly of McMinnville was diagnosed with COVID-19 last month and spent two weeks in isolation.

        

Here’s when COVID-19 could peak in Kentucky and Indiana Thursday, Apr 2 2020 

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects Kentucky's peak in mid-May, while Indiana could see it's peak in mid-April.

        

Kentucky doctor, Southern Indiana robotics designer team up to build ventilators Thursday, Apr 2 2020 

As the need for ventilators across the U.S. increases, an E.R. doctor and industrial automation are hoping to create ventilators that are easy to produce.

        

University of Louisville can now test 1,000 COVID-19 cases per day Wednesday, Apr 1 2020 

The university also said it is producing all coronavirus test results within 24 hours.

        

Kentucky Now Has 20 Coronavirus-Related Deaths Wednesday, Apr 1 2020 

Gov. Andy Beshear said two more people have died due to COVID-19: a 60-year-old man in Daviess County, and a 76-year-old woman in Hopkins County, bringing the state’s death toll to 20.

As of Wednesday evening, Kentucky has around 680 confirmed cases of the disease.

During his Wednesday press briefing, Beshear said he continues to be frustrated that Kentucky is struggling to compete with the federal government in buying up the country’s limited supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), like face-masks.

“I know that every day that we can’t get it [PPE] we are putting people’s safety on the line. Yes. It is a major problem,” he said.

Beshear said most of the available equipment is going directly to FEMA. The governor also noted that Kentucky has only received a small portion of what the state has requested from the federal government, as previously reported by The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

On the plus side, Beshear said the state has made progress in increasing the number of hospital beds and ventilators. He said he expects arrangements to temporarily convert two hotels into hospitals will add 8,000 beds to the existing 18,000. He also expects the state to get an additional 71 ventilators to add to the state’s 1,352 – much short of his goal to double the number of the critical devices.

While trying to prepare for an influx of patients, the state is also working to address a huge backlog of unemployment insurance claims. Beshear said he’s heard reports about long wait times and problems with the website.

“We haven’t been able to move fast enough. It’s an unprecedented time. It’s an amount of claims that we’ve never seen before,” he said. “But you know what, it’s our job to fix it.”

Josh Benton, Deputy Secretary of Kentucky’s Education and Workforce Cabinet, said they’ve updated the website and are trying to hire more people to work the phones.

Benton said those seeking unemployment insurance should use the online application to file and check claims if possible, and save the phone lines for people who have a disability or who are having technical issues with the website.

He said 150 state workers processed 70,000 unemployment insurance claims in the past three days.

Fountains of Wayne co-founder, Adam Schlesinger, dies of coronavirus at 52 Wednesday, Apr 1 2020 

Adam Schlesinger was also an EGOT contender and a songwriter for the TV show "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend."

        

The Rent Is Due. What If You Can’t Pay? Wednesday, Apr 1 2020 

William DeShazer / Louisville Magazine

(Archive photo) A resident tries to find help with his belongings as crews move belongings out of the residence near Churchill Downs.

It’s the first new month since the coronavirus swept into Kentucky, and for thousands of families, that means the rent is due.

Many, though, may struggle to pay that bill this month. The spreading COVID-19 pandemic has led to the shuttering of scores of business, sparking layoffs and furloughs.

Renters make up about 33 percent of Kentucky’s 1.7 million households, according to data from the Metropolitan Housing Coalition. The rate is slightly higher in Jefferson County, where renters account for about 38 percent of households. The median rent in Jefferson County was $800 in 2018.

Government response to the coronavirus is providing some protections for people who may be at risk of missing a rent payment. The Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice issued an order last month delaying all eviction cases. Gov. Andy Beshear ordered last week suspending all evictions in Kentucky. And last week federal lawmakers passed the CARES Act, which prohibits landlords that participate in certain federally backed housing programs from filing an eviction.

On Wednesday, a new Supreme Court order went a step further and said courts will not accept new eviction filings at all until at least mid-May.

None of these actions relieve a renter from their responsibility to pay their rent when it is due. In fact, the governor’s order makes clear that rent must still be paid.

“If you can pay rent, pay rent,” said Ben Carter, the senior litigation and advocacy counsel for the Kentucky Equal Justice Center.

But Carter suspects many will not be able to pay their rent.

The pandemic has led government officials to force many businesses to close and it has dealt a troubling blow to the nation’s economy. For those that cannot pay, Carter said they should be transparent with their landlord and try to work out a payment plan.

“We expect many landlords will treat tenants fairly and with compassion in these truly extraordinary times,” Carter said.

Some, though, will not.

Carter said he has received reports of landlords attempting to illegally remove tenants during the pandemic.

An illegal eviction includes any attempt from a landlord to remove a tenant or their belongings from a property without a proper court order — this includes shutting off utilities, Carter said.

People who are subjected to an illegal eviction may be entitled a reward of up to three months rent and other fees, Carter said. He said anyone dealing with such an issue should attempt to document any interaction with their landlord and contact an attorney.

Despite Beshear’s moratorium on evictions, landlords could still file for eviction in court until Wednesday’s revision. In Jefferson County, nearly 400 evictions were filed since the Supreme Court delayed eviction case hearings, according to data provided by the Jefferson Circuit Court Clerk.

Any new filing will take months to be processed through court. Tenants who receive notice that their landlord is beginning eviction proceedings should not let fear cause them to move out, said Stewart Pope, advocacy director for the Legal Aid Society of Louisville.

Pope stressed that all eviction orders are currently suspended due to the governor’s order.

“Tenants should immediately call the police if someone arrives to set them out,” he said.

Carter believes that any landlord threatening eviction during the pandemic is just trying to intimidate a tenant into moving out.

“That’s just not what we need to be doing right now,” he said.

Instead, he encouraged any landlord feeling financial pressure to seek out forgivable loan programs and other government assistance.

“The important message I want renters to hear is if you cannot pay rent, don’t leave your house,” Carter said. “It’s just not safe for most people to be leaving their houses.”

The post The Rent Is Due. What If You Can’t Pay? appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

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