Mayor Fischer tells nation: Cities face cuts to critical services without aid from the federal government Monday, Apr 20 2020 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (April 19, 2020) – Mayor Greg Fischer spoke on MSNBC today about the need for the federal government to provide direct, flexible support to local and state governments on the frontlines of fighting the COVID-19 virus.
Although the federal government has earmarked funding to reimburse cities for costs incurred in the fight against the virus, that money cannot be used for general operating expenses, at a time when cities across the country, including Louisville, are seeing significant losses of revenue as a result of a steep downturn in the economy.

Local governments “are where the rubber meets the road” in fighting the virus, while also providing services to citizens in need, and they are hurting, the Mayor told MSNBC host Alex Witt.

A survey of cities released last week showed that because of this pandemic nearly every American city is seeing a precipitous drop in revenue. And without federal support, many will be forced to lay off employees and make cuts that will hurt public safety.

In Louisville, Mayor Fischer announced on Friday that 380 Metro Government employees are being furloughed due in part to the financial impact of COVID-19.

The Mayor, who becomes president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in June, stressed his message on social media today, stating, “At this time when critical services are most essential, I, along with my fellow @usmayors, are calling on Congress and the Administration to make federal support available to local and state governments.”

 Telethon totals

The One Louisville: COVID-19 Response Fund telethon, hosted Friday by WAVE-3 TV, raised a total of $40,080, including one $15,000 match.

The city and its partners set up the fund to aid Louisville residents and organizations that have been impacted by the economic fallout from the pandemic.

The telethon total represents 165 individual gifts, “which is a tremendous show of the compassionate spirit of our city,” Mayor Fischer said, adding that through the One Louisville: COVID-19 Response Fund, “we’ve been able to help nearly 100 nonprofit groups that are helping our city’s residents through this crisis, in addition to hundreds of individual families.”

Mayor Fischer again thanked WAVE-3 TV for partnering to host the event.

To donate to the One Louisville: COVID-19 Response Fund, go to www.GiveOneLouisville.com.

 Face coverings

The Mayor also noted that starting tomorrow, Walmart will begin requiring all employees to wear face coverings at work. This includes its stores, Sam’s Clubs, distribution centers, fulfillment centers and corporate offices. 

Walmart is also encouraging customers/members to wear face coverings as well when they shop at their stores. More info: https://corporate.walmart.com/newsroom/2020/04/17/our-next-step-to-protect-you-our-customers-and-our-members

 Daily COVID-19 data

As of Sunday, there have been 890 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Louisville, with 363 recoveries. There have been 2 additional deaths since Saturday, bringing the Louisville total to 66.

Gender/Age data for today’s deaths:

  • Male/64
  • Female/76

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Mayor Fischer sees signs of hope, but stresses patience, vigilance in battle against COVID-19 Thursday, Apr 16 2020 

FROM MAYOR FISCHER’S OFFICE

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (April 15, 2020) – Mayor Greg Fischer today discussed the impact that COVID-19 is having on Louisville including a ZIP code-by-ZIP code look at the spread of the virus, as well as its racial breakdown in the community. He also stressed patience and vigilance in the battle against COVID-19, while discussing a three-phase plan for resilient recovery from this crisis.   

“Right now, our overall COVID-19 case numbers and fatalities are relatively low compared to larger cities that have been hot spots for the disease, which means it’s difficult to make too many conclusions about the data we are seeing,” said the Mayor. “But we are mindful of the health equity issues that we face in Louisville and the nation even in normal times, and we must address those issues as we develop strategies to respond to COVID-19.”

The Mayor said we continue to see some positives signs, here and around the county. Still, he warned about lifting the restrictions too soon.

“I know some people are anxious to reopen our community,” Mayor Fischer said. “But, COVID-19 has not peaked in Louisville nor Kentucky. Right now, we must all continue to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19 and work with our health care professionals, first responders, and public health experts to tackle this immense challenge. When the data indicates it is time, we will begin to take steps to emerge from our homes, lift some of the emergency restrictions, and consider a return to some sense of normalcy.”

Moving out of our current situation will require greatly expanded testing for residents, as a plan to trace and contact anyone a person with a positive test has come into close contact with. And following that, the Mayor is focused on building and executing a resilient and equitable recovery that addresses the economy, infrastructure, health, safety, arts, sports, hospitality and other sectors.

“Lifting restrictions too soon could allow COVID-19 to come roaring back. We are going to use data and science, not anger and emotion, to guide us here,” said the Mayor. “Making some tough sacrifices now means we will emerge from this safer and stronger than before. We don’t set the timeline. The virus does.”

 Mayor announces $500,000 matching grant challenge issued to support Small Business Continuity Loan Program

The Mayor today announced a $500,000 matching grant challenge, including a virtual 5K walk/run event, in support of the Small Business Continuity Loan Fund Program. The fund is providing zero-interest loans, with no payments for 12 months, to Louisville’s smallest businesses impacted by COVID-19. Small businesses can receive up to $25,000 to meet short-term debt obligations and remain viable.

Since opening the application process on April 6, Louisville-based community development financial institution LHOME has approved $346,110 in loans for 16 small businesses, 15 of which are minority and/or woman-owned businesses. To date, LHOME has 455 open applications from local small businesses in need.

Donations toward the $500,000 match can be made at www.lhomeky.org.

In addition, the Small Business Continuity Loan Fund Program is partnering with Louisville Entrepreneurship Acceleration Partnership (LEAP) and startup Moolathon to host “The Grind,” a virtual 5K walk/run event to help raise funds and encourage people to get outdoors. The program partners are Louisville Metro Government, LHOME, Render Capital, Greater Louisville Inc., and Lenderfit.

“The same small businesses that add to Louisville’s unique character are, by nature, more vulnerable to the changing economic tides. Widespread support for these businesses is imperative to ensure that our small businesses emerge strong after the COVID-19 economic recession,” said the Mayor. “Participating in the 5K run/walk is a great way for all to get involved in supporting small businesses while remaining healthy at home.”

Getting outside and being active can help reduce stress and anxiety — two things people are experiencing while weathering the COVID-19 pandemic. When walking or running, you’re asked to follow social distancing guidelines. Participants have until May 15, 2020, to complete their goal. Sign up now at www.louisvilleleap.com/thegrind.

LHOME is administering loans through the Small Business Continuity Loan Fund Program, and local loan application software startup Lenderfit is managing the application process. For more details about eligibility and to apply for a small business continuity loan, visit www.lhomeky.org.

 Celebrating National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week

A week-long event is underway to recognize the efforts of our Public Safety Communicators, the men and women that serve the residents of Louisville Metro. Congress designated the second week of April as National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week to honor and celebrate public safety telecommunications personnel for dedicated service to their communities.

“It’s an honor to celebrate these exemplary individuals who demonstrate the highest levels of professional conduct and extraordinary performance,” said the Mayor. “Their dedication and hard work touch the lives of countless people daily. It is an honor to work with the many people who make sure that no call for help goes unanswered in Louisville.”

In Louisville Metro, the MetroSafe 911 Communications Center serves as the primary point for dispatching police, fire, and EMS responses. In addition, telecommunicators also provide medical pre-arrival instructions, activate weather alerts, assist with hospital communications, and handle the callouts for specialized response teams such as hazardous materials and search and rescue responses. Tonight, the Big Four Bridge and Lynn Family Stadium will be lit gold in their honor.

Daily COVID-19 data

As of Wednesday, there have been 687 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Louisville. There have been 7 additional deaths, bringing the Louisville total to 55.
Gender/Age data for today’s deaths
  • Male/65
  • Female/68
  • Female/81
  • Female/88
  • Female/89
  • Female/93
  • Female/93

Currently, 16 members of LMPD, Louisville Fire, Metro EMS, Metro Corrections and the Sheriff’s Office are off-duty due to COVID-19:

  • 5 are off with positive tests and in self-isolation.
  • 8 are off and quarantined due to exposure to someone with a positive test.
  • 3 are “screened off” with symptoms and have been tested but have not received test results.

Positive test numbers for first responders/public safety since the incident began:

  • 11 positive tests.
  • 6 have fully recovered and returned to duty.

Metro Corrections inmate data for April 14:

  • 42 inmates have been tested.
  • 0 positive tests.

Mayor reminds public of the importance of preventing domestic violence amid the COVID-19 crisis

Mayor Fischer reminded citizens that while the numbers of domestic violence calls continue to be down, that does not mean abuse is not happening. With thousands of Louisvillians staying home together to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the need to help victims of domestic violence is even greater.

 “Although we have not seen an increase in police calls, experts worry that with so many families staying at home 24/7 during this pandemic, there may be a silent rise in abuse and violence,” the Mayor said. “Obviously, you can always get our help by calling 911. However, it is important for us to remind everyone that the Center for Women and Families is always open and always ready to help.  If someone needs help or advice on this issue, they should call the Center’s 24/7 Hotline, which is 1-844-237-2331.”

 Mayor Fischer proclaims April 15 as WE Day in Louisville

Each spring, students from across the Commonwealth of Kentucky come together for WE Day to celebrate service and compassion. From collecting personal goods to be donated to those in need, empowering youth to become social entrepreneurs and lifting up our community with the annual WE Walk, WE Day Kentucky brings the next generation together and gives them the tools to change the world. This year, the in-person event was cancelled due to COVID-19.

“Usually on WE Day we would see our downtown streets filled with youth and teachers carrying messages of hope and empowerment during the annual WE Walk parade,” said Mayor Fischer. “That’s not happening today, but I’m happy that hundreds of students and their family members were able to experience a Virtual WE Day today. They’re keeping the spirit of WE alive and well.”

For more information, go to www.WEDayKY.org.

 The arts take center stage on Thursday’s online town hall

Join Mayor Fischer for an Arts Town Hall on Thursday morning with special guests Christen Boone from the Fund for the Arts and Aldy Miliken from KMAC Museum. They will be joined by Dave Christopher of AMPED, Dave Howard of the Louisville Folk School, and Kristen Miller of Sarabande Books doing a poetry reading.

“With so many theaters, museums, and galleries shut down, our artists are hurting just like the rest of us, but they are also doing a lot to keep our spirits lifted,” said Mayor Fischer.

Go to www.Facebook.com/MayorGregFischer at 10 a.m. on Thursday to participate.

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Mayor Fischer, UofL announce innovative new tool for the conservation and reuse of vital N95 masks Sunday, Apr 12 2020 

FROM THE OFFICE OF MAYOR GREG FISCHER:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (April 11, 2020) – Mayor Greg Fischer today highlighted a new program at the University of Louisville aimed at alleviating the N95 respirator shortage amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Mayor was joined on his daily briefing by Dr. Leslie C. Sherwood, Assistant Vice President for Research Services at the University of Louisville, who explained that through its N95 Decontamination Program, U of L will decontaminate and sterilize used respirators through a Centers for Disease Control-approved and Food and Drug Administration-authorized process using vaporized hydrogen peroxide (VHP).

Dr. Sherwood said U of L is providing this service at no cost to participating organizations for use by healthcare providers, first responders, and community organizations such as nursing homes.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, Mayor Fischer has asked Louisvillians to help healthcare workers and first responders by donating medical masks, gloves, face shields, gowns, and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and the community has continued to answer the call.

“The global COVID19 pandemic has put a spotlight on some real challenges in our nation, but time and again our city has shown its compassion, innovation, and resilience by stepping up to support our healthcare workers, first responders, and those who are putting their lives on the line in our hospitals and out on our streets,” the Mayor said. “This new effort by the University of Louisville will be a tremendous boost by enabling us to conserve and reuse vital N95 respirators. Thank you to Doctor Sherwood and the University of Louisville for providing a critical new tool in our fight against the spread of COVID-19.”

The VHP decontamination process used by UofL was originally developed after the 2014 Ebola crisis as a way to conserve PPE in the event of a pandemic-related shortage. This process is currently being used at other institutions, including Duke University in North Carolina, and each respirator can be decontaminated up to 20 times.

In Louisville, the effort will be performed on the UofL Health Sciences Center campus. UofL’s Research Resources Facilities and the Office of Research Services is providing the VHP generator, facilities, and equipment and will have capacity to decontaminate approximately 7,000 respirators per day.

For more information, interested organizations should contact Dr. Sherwood by email at leslie.sherwood@louisville.edu.

Mayor urges Louisville to keep the faith, but keep it close to home

 The Mayor again urged Louisvillians to continue staying home and avoid the temptation to gather together for Easter. Although Louisville has managed to avoid a massive surge of COVID-19 patients overwhelming local hospitals, he said, it is too soon to ease up on social distancing and resume gathering in public again.

“Tomorrow is Easter Sunday and for those who have grown up in the Christian tradition it is the holiest day of the year—a time when we normally gather to worship and celebrate,” said Mayor Fischer.  “But this year, I have reluctantly, but emphatically, asked people of faith to keep the faith – by staying home, worshipping at home and practicing social distancing so we can save lives. The more disciplined we are now, the more lives we save, and the sooner we can come out of our houses and safely gather to worship together again.”

Mayor Fischer thanked all the local faith leaders who have been working with officials to combat COVID-19 and pushing their services and other events online.

“I’m so proud that 99.9 percent of Louisville religious leaders are on board,” said Fischer. “They know in order to protect their congregants and the people and family around them, they have to do it. That’s what leadership looks like: Doing the right thing even when it’s hard.”

Health update from Dr. Moyer

Mayor Fischer also was joined today by Dr. Sarah Moyer, the city’s Chief Health Strategist, to discuss the importance of safe storage of firearms, especially during this time when children are at home and not school.

Dr. Moyer touted the Be SMART for Kids non-partisan campaign that seeks to prevent child firearm deaths through an emphasis on responsible storage of guns. SMART is an acronym for:

  • SECURE guns in homes and vehicles
  • MODEL responsible behavior
  • ASK about the presence of guns in other homes
  • RECOGNIZE the role of firearms in suicides
  • TELL your peers to Be SMART

“With tomorrow being Easter, many of you will be hiding Easter eggs and baskets around your home and encouraging your kids to look for them. The last thing anyone wants a child to find tomorrow is a loaded gun,” said Dr. Moyer. “PLEASE, secure your firearms because I think we can all agree that the worst our kids should suffer tomorrow is a bellyache from too much candy.”

Every year, nearly 300 children gain access to a firearm and unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else, and most find that gun in their home. For more information on BeSMARTforKids, visit BeSMARTforKids.org.

Daily COVID-19 data

As of Saturday, there have been 536 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Louisville, an increase of 16 since Friday. There has been one new death (a 55-year-old male), bringing the Louisville total to 40. This number reflects a correction, as four previously reported deaths were discovered not to have been in Jefferson County.

Currently, 28 members of LMPD, Louisville Fire, Metro EMS, Metro Corrections and the Sheriff’s Office are off-duty due to COVID-19:

  • 5 are off with positive tests and in self-isolation.
  • 9 are off and quarantined due to exposure to someone with a positive test.
  • 8 are “screened off” with symptoms and tests pending.

Positive test numbers for first responders/public safety since the incident began: 10 positive tests, and 5 have fully recovered and returned to duty.

Metro Corrections inmate data for April 10: 38 inmates have been tested, with no positive tests.

Mayor reminds everyone of resources available to help during the crisis

Households in need of financial assistance to cover basic needs like food, transportation, access to education, and more are encouraged to apply to the One Louisville COVID-19 Response Fund. Simply go to Louisvilleky.gov and click on the link at the top.

To apply for unemployment benefits, individuals can call 502-875-0442 or go online at kentuckycareercenter.com.

For small businesses, Louisville Forward is available to help access resources. Go to the Louisville Forward homepage at https://louisvilleky.gov/government/louisville-forward.

For individuals in need of mental health services, please contact:

“Thanks to everyone who’s working hard to help us get through this crisis,” said Mayor Fischer. “I’m incredibly proud of the work you’re doing and the response of our compassionate city.”

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Louisville Officials Won’t Release Spending Records Amid Pandemic Tuesday, Apr 7 2020 

Louisville Metro Government officials are refusing to disclose documentation that would show how public money is being spent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting on March 31 requested all contracts, purchase orders and invoices recorded since March 6. In a response on Monday, city officials denied the request for documents that would shed light on government spending since Kentucky’s first coronavirus case, and Gov. Andy Beshear’s declaration of a state of emergency.

City officials said fulfilling the request for about three weeks of spending records would create an “unreasonable burden” on the government agency.

“The staff necessary to respond to this request are also devoted to assisting in the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic; thus, it would be a burden not only to them, but also to the residents of Louisville Metro relying on Metro’s work if they were to respond to this request at this time,” the response stated.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer last week said city officials had spent about $3 million in response to the pandemic, which includes costs for personnel and personal protective equipment and an expanded meals program for seniors. Specific details about those costs, and other governmental spending during the pandemic however, remain unknown.

Michael Abate, a Louisville attorney who specializes in First Amendment issues, said the public has the right to know how funds are spent even during the pandemic.

“Times like this require more transparency, not less, in order for people to have confidence in government,” he said. “It’s completely inappropriate for the city to just deny an Open Records Request because of the pandemic.”

Under state law, government agencies are required to make public records available for inspection upon request. The law does provide some exemptions for records that include personal information or those that could expose the government to terrorism, among others.

Normally, agencies have three business days to respond to records requests. That doesn’t mean the agency is expected to produce the records in three days — just that the agency needs to say whether it will fulfill the request and, if it’s granted, estimate how long it will take.

State legislators last month passed a measure to extend the timeframe an agency has to respond to a request amid the pandemic to 10 days.

Abate, who has represented KyCIR and other media outlets on public record issues, said the extension is a reasonable amendment to the state’s Open Records Act, given the spreading pandemic. But, he stressed, the law still stands and public agencies must comply.

“They can’t ignore their duties under the law, and tell people they can govern in secret,” Abate said.

A spokesperson for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Fischer has long touted the city’s commitment to transparency and garnered national acclaim in 2013 when he ordered “public information to be open by default.” But an online database of spending records is outdated, the most recent records listed available are from the 2018 fiscal year.

And as the pandemic continues, city officials have demanded questions about the response come in the form of a formal records request.

But in the response to KyCIR’s request for spending records, city officials said the Louisville Metro Government processes thousands of invoices each month and the staff needed to fulfill the request are working remotely.

“Thus making it even more difficult to comply with such a broad request,” the officials said.

But the city’s claim that fulfilling the request would create an unreasonable burden on the agency is “pretty flimsy,” said Amye Bensenhaver, the director of the Kentucky Open Government Coalition.

Bensenhaver, a former attorney with the Attorney General’s open records division, pointed to a 2017 case in which the requester asked a university for any public records that referenced her by name as an example of one that posed an unreasonable burden.

Bensenhaver said courts have upheld that a request for public records cannot be considered an unreasonable burden simply because it requires added time or work to fulfill.

“They have to show the burden by clear and convincing evidence,” she said. “There’s nothing specific why this particular request poses a challenge.”

Spending records are oftentimes simple requests to fulfill because they are kept electronically and require little redaction, Bensenhaver said.

Some delays in fulfilling requests and provided records are expected and government agencies do deserve a bit of leniency as they work amid the spreading pandemic, she said.

But she said the leniency ends when an agency “erects an impenetrable barrier” by not honoring a request.

Contact Jacob Ryan at jryan@kycir.org.

Louisville Files Federal Lawsuit Against JUUL Wednesday, Jan 15 2020 

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell announcing lawsuit against JUULLouisville has filed a lawsuit against Juul Labs, Inc., the largest manufacturer of e-cigarette and vaping products.

Mayor Greg Fischer said the suit was filed Wednesday in California and joins more than 200 other cases. Fischer said Juul contributed to a surge of nicotine use and addiction, and the city’s lawsuit aims to prevent further harm.

“I’m proud of what we have done, but it’s clear we have to do more to protect the health of our children and the health of our community,” Fischer said. “We will fight to ensure that those who fuel this epidemic are part of ending it, and that they do everything possible to reverse the harm they’ve caused.”

Mayor Greg Fischer announce suit against JUULKyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

Mayor Greg Fischer announce suit against JUUL

The use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, has become a growing health concern in Kentucky. City officials urged residents last September to stop vaping amid an outbreak of lung illnesses associated with vape use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey that an increasing number of youth in Kentucky high schools reported using vaping products. Kentucky has partnered with a national texting service to help youth who want to quit vaping, but experts have said that more is needed to combat the problem. 

So far there have been seven confirmed cases of vaping-related illnesses in Kentucky. And the state announced its first probable vaping-related death last week.

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell said Juul made a “surgical strike” in marketing its products to youth, using attractive flavors to appeal to teens.

“Juul misled customers to believe its products were not as harmful as traditional cigarettes, and Juul concealed the unparalleled potency of its e-cigarette,” O’Connell said. “Folks, Juul lied to us. And we’re going to go after them to get a refund for the wreckage of those lives that this has cost.”

A spokesperson for Juul responded to Louisville’s lawsuit and the others Wednesday afternoon via email:

“We remain focused on resetting the vapor category in the U.S. and earning the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and convert adult smokers from combustible cigarettes. As part of that process, we recently stopped accepting orders for our Mint JUULpods in the U.S., suspended all broadcast, print, and digital product advertising in the U.S., are investing in scientific research to ensure the quality of our FDA Premarket Tobacco Product Application (PMTA) application and expanding our commitment to develop new technology to reduce youth use. Our customer base is the world’s 1 billion adult smokers and we do not intend to attract underage users. To the extent these cases allege otherwise, they are without merit.”

Fischer said litigation might cost millions, but will be paid for by law firms Hendy Johnson Vaughn Emery and Wagstaff & Cartmell LLP who were hired as outside counsel for the city. 

This story has been updated.