Multiple U of L athletes test positive after weekend party Tuesday, Aug 11 2020 

By Cole Emery —

The University of Louisville decided to temporarily suspend workouts for the men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey and volleyball teams due to multiple positive COVID-19 tests. U of L discovered through contact tracing the source of the rise in cases to be from an off-campus party that occurred on Aug. 1.

“It goes without saying that I’m incredibly disappointed and frustrated today with what’s occurred,” Director of Athletics Vince Tyra said. “We’ve noted from the very beginning that we have a strong commitment from our medical and administrative staff in the athletic department that we expect to be met with the same commitment from our student athletes and unfortunately we’ve had a failure in the recent week to do so.”

Tyra reported that there were eight positive COVID-19 tests among the four sports teams on Aug. 3. By Aug. 5, that number rose to 29. While in many of the cases, the athlete remained asymptomatic, some reported having headaches and fevers.

Since all student athletes tested for COVID-19 daily, the student athletes who tested negative and not identified through contact tracing will be allowed to return to on-campus workouts on Monday, Aug. 10. 

When asked if the school would consider punishing players in the future for disobeying COVID-19 safety protocols, Tyra said, “I think the answer is yes.”

Football workouts and activities have not been suspended since no football players have been identified to be at the party through contract tracing.

Graphic by Shayla Kerr// The Louisville Cardinal

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Top basketball prospect decommits from Louisville Tuesday, Aug 11 2020 

By John McCarthy — 

Top 100 basketball prospect Bryce Hopkins has decommitted from the University of Louisville.

Hopkins originally committed to U of L back in November of 2019. He is the first future-Cardinal to decommit from the university since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Hopkins is a multi-skilled forward standing 6-foot-6, who attended Fenwick High School in Illinois before committing to Louisville. Hopkins visited California, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kansas and Northwestern before landing with the Cardinals. He was going to be the headlining prospect for U of L basketball’s 2021 recruiting class.

“Every time I have gone [to U of L] the coaches have been genuine and they had a great vision for me that I loved,” Hopkins said. “I felt completely comfortable with the coaching staff.”

Although the withdraw of Hopkins is a blow to the Cardinals 2021 recruiting class, plenty of talented prospects will be flowing into the university. Point guard Bobby Pettiford, an exceptional junior college guard El Ellis, and four-star forward Eric Van Der Heijden are all set to join the Cardinals in 2021.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L bookstore changes how students get textbooks for the semester Monday, Aug 10 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

Any University of Louisville student looking to purchase their textbooks for the fall semester from the Campus Bookstore, will need to do so online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students will now be required to order textbooks online from the bookstore’s website and can choose to have their order shipped directly to their place of residence or to come into the bookstore for in-store pick-up.

The bookstore will be open from 9:00 am to 5:00 p.m. Customers will be able to shop in person for all items except for textbooks.

Andrea Herrera, the store’s manager, said the store will have several practices in place to help ensure the safety of customers and staff.

“There will be sanitation every two hours for common touch points,” Herrera said. “We will also quarantine returned items for 24 hours before putting them back in the store.” Bookstore staff must also have their temperature checked and answer a series of questions daily prior to starting their shift.

Masks will be required for store staff and customers and there will be a maximum of 68 customers allowed in the store at any given time. There will also be designated entry and exit points in order to promote social distancing in the store. 

Students can purchase textbooks online from the campus bookstore’s website by clicking the “Find your textbooks” tab. Any questions can be directed the campus bookstore at 502-852-6679 or books@louisville.edu.

File Photo//The Louisville Cardinal

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New year, new look: Ville Grill to receive major renovations by end of 2020 Wednesday, Jul 29 2020 

By Madelin Shelton and Joseph Garcia

One of campus’ dining staples, the Ville Grill, will look much different this fall. As part of a long-term partnership with Aramark, the Ville Grill is getting a major update–its first since opening in 2009. The first phase of the $2 million renovation is set to complete this summer.

The project will be entirely funded by Aramark using the remaining funds from a $32 million commitment Aramark made in 2016 to add and renovate existing venues.

The overhauled Ville Grill will come with new food options for students, an updated aesthetic and a second floor with additional seating. The renovation will be divided into two phases.

“Phase one will be an upgrade to the first floor, which includes expanded offerings, such as an allergen-free Worry Free Zone, a smoker that will feature different meats daily, and an updated look and feel within the space,” Mark Watkins, chief operating officer at U of L said. This phase is set to complete August 15.

Watkins said the second phase, which will include the additional seating, will be completed by the end of October. This will increase the maximum seating occupancy from 400 to 600. However to maintain safe social distancing, maximum capacity will be temporarily capped at 200.

Photo by Joseph Garcia // The Louisville Cardinal

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Child Abuse Reports In Kentucky Are Way Down — Why That’s Not Good News Monday, Jul 27 2020 

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Experts say the COVID pandemic is a “perfect storm” for child maltreatment. High unemployment, widespread social isolation, and rising rates of substance abuse are risk factors for child abuse and neglect. 

But reports of suspected child maltreatment in Kentucky have dropped dramatically since March. 

Child welfare advocates think that might be bad news. Due to social distancing policies prompted by the pandemic, children aren’t being seen by as many of the teachers, coaches, nurses, doctors and neighbors who typically notice and report signs of abuse. Some advocates are worried maltreatment could be increasing and the full extent of the problem might not be known for months or even years.


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Beshear Reports State’s Second-Highest Number Of Daily Coronavirus Cases Tuesday, Jul 21 2020 

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Tuesday marked Kentucky’s second-highest daily total of coronavirus cases since the pandemic started.

The state reported 674 new cases along with three deaths. Gov. Andy Beshear said during his Tuesday press briefing that over the past week Kentucky had five of its highest daily totals so far, including the single-day record of 979 new cases on Sunday.

Beshear outlined steps recently taken by the state to combat the escalation, such as asking Kentuckians to wear face coverings in public spaces, recommending residents avoid travel to states that are surging in cases and a limit on social gatherings to 10 or fewer people. If the situation worsens in Kentucky, he warned that the state may have to cut restaurant capacities to 25% and close bars.


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Surging Coronavirus Cases Threaten To Derail Reopening In Ohio Valley Monday, Jul 20 2020 

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At the Community Farmers Market in Bowling Green, Kentucky, vendors and shoppers are adjusting to the new normal during the coronavirus pandemic. That includes wearing face coverings, maintaining distance, and taking other precautions to avoid spreading the virus.

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Nearly 1,000 COVID-19 Cases Reported Sunday — The Highest Ever Sunday, Jul 19 2020 

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West Ky. TV Station Tells Employees They Need Permission To Get Coronavirus Tests Monday, Jul 13 2020 

A west Kentucky television station manager told his employees they need his permission before getting tested for coronavirus, after an employee at the station tested positive for infection by the virus. Some employees of the station’s parent company, Paxton Media Group, say that policy discourages them from getting a test. Health and legal experts say the station policy is problematic, putting employees of the station and the public at large at risk for spreading the virus.

Some employees of WPSD-TV in Paducah say their coverage promoting safety measures against the spread of COVID-19 is disconnected from how the company protects employees from the virus. The Ohio Valley ReSource spoke on background with three people associated with Paxton Media Group which owns WPSD, the Paducah Sun newspaper, and numerous other media outlets in west Kentucky. Those people, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid reprisal, say they fear their health and safety is not a priority at the company. They cited a memo from Bill Evans, the Vice President and General Manager of WPSD, implementing a new testing protocol at WPSD that legal and health experts say is problematic. 

“If you DID NOT have direct contact (within six feet, for more than 10 minutes) with the employee that tested positive, and you ARE NOT showing symptoms — there is no reason to get tested,” Evans wrote in the memo dated June 26, which was subsequently posted on social media. “Any further COVID-19 testing will be done with my approval only.”

Evans added that the station’s weekend morning newscast would be cancelled due to the need to isolate employees after being tested. He also stated that getting his permission for testing would let the station manage “staffing needs.” 

Liam Niemeyer | Ohio Valley ReSource

An excerpt from the WPSD management memo instructing employees to get permission before a COVID-19 test.

PMG sources said some WPSD employees potentially exposed to the person who tested positive had already received COVID-19 tests before the June 26 memo was issued. 

Evans, who is also publisher of the Paducah Sun, declined an on-the-record interview about the memo. In a July 8 statement to the ReSource, Evans acknowledged an employee tested positive and that afterwards employees who had close contact with that person were tested. The June 26 memo states some employees were tested at Baptist Health Paducah Hospital’s Urgent Care.

All employees were then required to wear masks in common areas of the workplace. Some asymptomatic employees who weren’t in close contact with the positive case also requested and received tests, he said, and the facilities offering the test required all employees tested to not return to work until getting a negative test result.

“As a result, we were required to cancel our weekend morning newscasts.  I directed that any other employee that wished to be tested should clear such testing with me so that I could make staffing arrangements in anticipation of the state mandated quarantine following such testing,” Evans said in the statement. “No other employee indicated that they wished to be tested. The following week every employee who had been tested reported receiving a negative test result.”

Susan Dunlap, Executive Director of the Office of Public Affairs in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said in a statement state health officials only recommend —  not mandate —  that Kentuckians quarantine after receiving a test in all cases to prevent the spread of the virus.

Sources associated with PMG said the June 26 memo discouraged employees from getting COVID-19 tests on their own out of fear of reprisal from management. Sources also said the protocol in the memo was still in force, publicly posted in WPSD’s office as of July 7.

Leading experts in public health, employment law, and media commentary say the station memo’s demand for permission to get coronavirus testing could expose PMG to legal liability, potentially violate state COVID-19 guidance for employers, and could put the health of employees and the public at large at risk.

‘Insanely Reckless’

PMG sources detailed how in the months leading up to when the positive case was discovered among station employees, they felt that measures to protect employees at WPSD and The Paducah Sun were rudimentary, or an afterthought. One source said that social distancing behind the camera in the WPSD workplace wasn’t taken seriously until after the positive case was discovered. 

Two sources expressed that while alternatives were offered for doing interviews and reporting remotely, there was an expectation among management of The Paducah Sun and WPSD that reporting in public was preferred, even if some in-person reporting wasn’t necessary in light of risks due to the pandemic. 

In regards to the specific June 26 memo sent to WPSD employees, one source stated the memo was viewed in a negative light by staff, and the source worried that news of the memo would hurt the station’s credibility, considering the station’s extensive coverage of the pandemic and various safety measures. 

WPSD reporters covered some of the first meetings of McCracken County leaders as the specter of the pandemic materialized, making trips to local hospitals, into businesses, and talking with residents out in public. WPSD also provides a link to an information guide on their website’s landing page on coronavirus-related resources, including how to sew face masks, a list of local food pantries, and a list of regional testing sites.

The same source also expressed dismay over what they saw as inaction by local government and health leaders on addressing the memo. The memo had been posted on social media, receiving discussion on Facebook as early as June 27.

”We’re in a life or death situation, and you’re telling us that we have to seek approval to get tested for this? I mean, it’s only killed over 120,000 people in the country so far,” a source said. “It’s just insanely reckless.”

This source said even though they were asymptomatic and weren’t around the positive case for an extended period of time, they hadn’t received a test in part out of fear of reprisal from management from having to potentially miss work days until receiving a test result. 

“It’s kind of like we’re playing Red Rover with the coronavirus, and this isn’t a type of game you play for fun. Coronavirus is a life or death situation, and we should have been taking this way more seriously from the jump,” the same source said.

Kentucky Department for Public Health Commissioner Steven Stack said in a statement that his department has consistently encouraged everyone, employers and employees, to isolate and receive testing if sick. 

“If an employer issued a memo, internal or otherwise, that discouraged employees from getting tested, they have endangered their employees, the public at large, and have violated the Healthy at Work guidance that has been published since early/mid-May,” Stack said in his statement.

Stack referenced Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order from May 11, establishing “Healthy at Work” guidance for employers. The guidance states employers should have all employees experiencing COVID-19 symptoms receive a test within 36 hours, with employees trained on how to isolate certain cases, and make accommodations for employees at higher risk from the virus, among other requirements.

Stack also referenced recent guidance from June 29 that requires employers to have a testing plan in place to prevent further spread of COVID-19 in a workplace. The guidance for a testing plan recommends employers to have a protocol in place to identify and test symptomatic employees and isolate close contacts, remaining in quarantine for 14 days to see if COVID-19 symptoms develop.

The Kentucky Labor Cabinet enforces non-compliance of the “Healthy at Work” guidance. Cabinet Chief of Staff Marjorie Arnold said in a statement that cabinet employees can serve “Orders to Cease Operations to companies for failing to follow requirements and Notices of Deficiency for companies that have had minor deficiencies identified.”

Arnold said an Order to Cease Operations mandates a company to stop operating until the company comes into compliance, while a Notice of Deficiency lets a company continue to operate while submitting evidence of actions taken to correct “identified deficiencies.” She added employers who fail to follow Healthy at Work guidance could face monetary penalties.

Legal Liability 

One Louisville-based attorney specializing in employment law and representing employees facing wrongful termination and dangerous work conditions said he believes the memo could expose Paxton Media Group to legal liability.

“This company’s memo, what they are doing gets in the way of Kentucky’s public policy that favors testing. And so they should be able to sue them over it. And also enjoin the memo from ever being applied to anybody else,” said John Friend, a director and shareholder at Bishop Friend, P.S.C. “You have a lot of companies that are losing money, and they’re panicking because they were not prepared for something like this. And when people panic, they do dumb stuff. In an era where there is not this COVID-19 going on, there is not a company in the United States of America that would send out a memo like this. Anywhere. Like, this is crazy.”

Friend said while he couldn’t immediately point to a specific executive order or state statute that would clash with the memo’s protocol, he believes “if somebody decides to come after them, I think they’re gonna have a problem.”

PMG has had to make recent cuts that the company says is associated with the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Another leaked memo dated June 25 states some furloughed employees had their positions eliminated, impacting WPSD and six PMG-owned newspapers. 

Liam Niemeyer | Ohio Valley ReSource

Excerpt from a management memo announcing cuts due to the pandemic’s impact.

PMG owns a significant chunk of media outlets in the Jackson Purchase and Pennyrile regions of Kentucky, including newspapers covering cities including Hopkinsville, Madisonville, Mayfield, Owensboro, Paducah, Benton, Eddyville, and newspapers covering Trigg County and McLean County. PMG also owns multiple newspapers in other states including Durham, North Carolina, and Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Despite the social media discussion of the memo as early as June 27, the memo appears to have garnered no previous media coverage. Al Cross is the director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky. Cross said it’s rare for media companies to cover themselves.

“In the ideal world, there would have been some independent reporting with an outside editor in Paxton Media Group publications. But, sad to say, that would be a rarity in American journalism today,” Cross said.

Cross also said he believes the reason the memo was issued was to prevent more losses from canceled newscasts, but that it was still an “inappropriate” protocol. 

“If I were an employee, I would feel discouraged from getting a test, and that is not appropriate,” Cross said. “The staffing needs of the station should not stand in the way of the employees’ health.”

On Saturday, June 27, WPSD made a since-deleted post on Facebook stating they were canceling their morning newscast, a day after Evans issued his June 26 memo.

“The essential employees who work on our news and production team have made extraordinary personal sacrifices during the past few months providing dedicated & extensive coverage of COVID-19 and its continuing impact, while dealing themselves with the economic and health impacts of the pandemic,” the post stated. “These factors contributed significantly to our decision to suspend the broadcast on a one time basis in consideration of our team.”

The post did not mention that the cancellation was due to a positive COVID-19 test among  employees.

DISCLOSURE NOTE: The news director at ReSource partner station WKMS is a former Paxton Media Group employee. In order to avoid any conflict of interest, the news director was not involved in editing or producing this story.

Louisville men’s basketball stops operations after positive COVID-19 tests Wednesday, Jul 8 2020 

By John McCarthy —

University of Louisville men’s basketball activities have come to an abrupt halt after two members of the organization tested positive for COVID-19. U of L athletics has been testing student-athletes for COVID-19 regularly since May 29. U of L is not disclosing who tested positive within the organization.

This comes nearly two months after U of L reopened its doors to student-athletes for voluntary workouts. At this point, it is unknown if any other members of the men’s basketball organization have been exposed to those who tested positive.

“[Men’s] basketball is certainly a sport that is going to get a lot of attention. These two individuals exhibited signs and we were able to have them tested on Monday. Because we are part of the U of L health system we were able to get those results back quickly. Through quarantining and contact tracing we are able to make sure we have everyone covered in the program,” Athletic Director Vince Tyra said during a virtual press conference on July 7.

U of L men’s basketball has been following all CDC approved guidelines and regulations for involuntary workouts leading up to the incident. Proper quarantine guidelines will be in play for the members of the men’s basketball organization that were potentially exposed to the virus.

The possibility of positive tests has trickled into other sports as well. U of L football has continued to push back the start date of their season. The ACC’s original plan for the Cardinals to host North Carolina State on Sept. 2 is to be determined.

“You have to know that if you enter a season you are going to run into instances like we are running into now,” Tyra said. “There is a lot of monitoring going on to discuss these situations that campuses are individually having.”

Vince Tyra talked about the steps that would be taken if mid-season positive COVID-19 tests occur. “You have to be prepared. That is where you get into situations whether it is a no-contest or a forfeit. These are going to be things that we are dealing with for the first time,” Tyra said.

The 2020-2021 men’s basketball schedule has yet to be released.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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