Thursday, June 30, 2022

CDC says Covid-19 risk is high in 43 counties and medium in 35; transmission levels are high in 111, and Beshear advises caution

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention map
By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

The number of Kentucky counties on the federal Covid-19 risk map continues to increase, with almost two-thirds estimated to have either a high or a medium level of risk.

Gov. Andy Beshear cautioned at his weekly news conference that "There is a lot of Covid out there."

"So watch this," he said. "Make decisions to protect yourself, get tested if you feel sick and certainty don't go to work or out in public if you are sick." 

Forty-three Kentucky counties are orange on the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention risk map, indicating a high level of risk. That's up from 22 on last week's map. 

Thirty-five counties are yellow, indicating a medium level of risk. Last week, 37 were yellow. 

The rankings are based on new coronavirus cases, hospital admissions and hospital capacity and is the map that Kentucky's officials say should be used when deciding on what types of precautions to take to protect yourself and others from the disease. 

A number of  counties have been orange for three weeks in a row, including McCracken, Livingston, Lyon, Woodford, Fayette, Greenup, Boyd, Wolfe, Breathitt, Leslie and Perry. 

Other orange counties are Hickman, Carlisle, Ballard, Graves, Calloway, Marshall, Trigg, Crittenden, Hopkins, Muhlenberg, McClean, Ohio, Hancock, Grayson, Monroe, Barren, Metcalfe, Hart, Larue, Hardin, Bourbon, Clark, Powell, Carter, Lawrence, Martin, Pike, Magoffin, Floyd, Letcher, Harlan and Bell.

Beshear referred to the orange counties as red: "If you are in these red counties, especially if they have been red multiple weeks in a row . . . you really ought to look at the guidance really carefully. In red counties, you ought to wear masks when in public and indoors, especially around larger crowds."

The yellow counties on this week's map are Fulton, Todd, Christian, Caldwell, Webster, Henderson, Daviess, Allen, Warren, Jefferson, Adair, Taylor, Marion, Nelson, Washington, Mercer, Anderson, Franklin, Owen, Harrison, Nicholas, Montgomery, Bath, Menifee, Madison, Rowan, Johnson and Knott.

Meade, Breckinridge, Jessamine, Scott, Owsley, Lee and Lewis are yellow for the third week in a row.

 In orange counties, state guidelines call for wearing masks in indoor public spaces, limiting in-person gatherings, limiting the size of gatherings, and social distancing.

People in yellow counties who are immunocompromised, or at high risk for severe illness from the virus, should talk to a health-care provider about whether they need to wear a mask or take other precautions, the CDC says.

CDC map

The CDC also publishes a virus transmission map, which again shows 111 counties with high levels of transmission (in red) and nine with substantial levels (in orange). State officials say the other map is the best one for guidance.

Kentucky's weekly pandemic report, released on Monday, showed the state had an average of 1,368 new cases a day last week, up 21% from the week before. The report showed the lowest number of weekly Covid-19 deaths in the last 11 months and hospital rates that remain low, but inching up. Beshear said the increase in hospitalizations is not expected to continue. The positive-test rate increased to 13.36%, up from 12.45% the prior week. 

Judge blocks state abortion bans until at least Wednesday, July 6

Kentucky Health News

A judge has temporarily blocked Kentucky laws that ban abortion.

Jefferson Circuit Judge Mitch Perry issued a restraining order Thursday morning that allows Kentucky's two abortion clinics, both in Louisville, to resume offering the procedure, at least until Wednesday, July 6, when he will hear their arguments for a more lasting injunction against the laws.

State Attorney General Daniel Cameron filed a petition with the Court of Appeals, but lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky said the temporary order is not subject to appeal. Appeals Court Judge Glenn Acree agreed, but Cameron appealed to the state Supreme Court. UPDATE, July 5: The court rejected the appeal.

Perry's order blocked the state "trigger law" passed to ban abortions except in cases of threat to the woman's life upon the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which occurred a week earlier. He also blocked a ban on abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy, which is in a 2019 law that a federal judge has blocked. Cameron said the law took effect as soon as the decision was handed down, but Acree said it won't take effect until July 19, when the decision becomes final under Supreme Court rules, reports Jack Brammer of the Northern Kentucky Tribune.

"The matter will be assigned to a three-member appeals court panel to review once the 17 days have expired before the trigger law becomes effective," reports Deborah Yetter of the Courier Journal

"Kentucky becomes at least the fifth state where a judge has temporarily blocked a state law banning or strictly limiting abortion under a strategy abortion rights advocates are using to challenge such laws based on state constitutional claims," Yetter reports. "EMW Women's Surgical Center and Planned Parenthood, the state's only two abortion providers, have begun taking appointments at their Louisville locations."

The Kentucky lawsuit is based on the untested legal theory that the state constitution grants a right to privacy that the laws violate. Cameron told Perry Wednesday, “There is no textual, precedential, or historical support for the argument that there is a right to abortion embedded within the Kentucky Constitution.” He said a ruling supporting the argument “would be directly contradictory to the historical precedent in the commonwealth and to the will of the people as expressed through their duly elected representatives.”

The General Assembly has placed on the Nov. 8 ballot a constitutional amendment saying that the state constitution does not grant a right to abortion or government funding of abortions.

Gov. Andy Beshear, asked what he would do to defeat the amendment, didn't respond directly but said he would "lend my voice to the overwhelming view of Kentuckians" that abortion bans should have exceptions for cases of rape and incest.

"The law as we had it before [the Supreme Court's decision] is the type of balance we ought to be looking for," he said at his regular Thursday afternoon press conference. He also said the trigger law may pose an obstacle to the process of in-vitro fertilization.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Baby formula is slowly returning to store shelves in Kentucky

Baby formula from the U.K. is in Louisville. (WDRB photo)
Baby formula is slowly beginning to reappear on store shelves in Kentucky.

WDRB reports, "Laura Serke, a NICU dietician for UofL Health, found cans of Kendamil at a local Target recently. They came from the United Kingdom and were part of Operation Fly Formula. Previous flights focused on specialized formula, and most of that went to area hospitals." Serke told the Louisville TV station that there is still a severe shortage of certain specialized formulas.

Any formulas flown into the U.S. are required to meet U.S. nutritional guidelines, but parents should read the label, Serke said: "It's very important that as parents are possibly choosing different brands or different formulations of their formula, that each time they're checking the can to confirm the recipe. And also, if they're using an alternative recipe to make a higher calorie formula, that they're talking to their doctor."

Registration for July 14 Rural Health Journalism Workshop in Chattanooga is open through July 7; pay no more than $30

The Association of Health Care Journalists is hosting a Rural Health Journalism Workshop on July 14 in Chattanooga for its members, and it's easy to join and attend. This year marks the first in-person rural health workshop since 2019.

The focus of the free workshop will be the medical challenges of rural areas. The sessions will touch on a range of topics, including how to find data and research about rural health, impacts of the pandemic, telemedicine in rural America, new models for rural health care, the opioid-settlement dollars, and building a rural health-care pipeline. 

Stephanie Boynton, vice president and chief executive officer of Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital and Erlanger Bledsoe Hospital in Pikeville, Tenn., will talk about how a hospital just days away from closing its doors found a path to survival and what that has meant to a community.

The workshop is open to members of AHCJ, but there is a limited-time offer for journalists who are not members but would like to attend. You can register for the conference and get a six-month AHCJ membership for $30. 

Click here to register. The registration deadline is 5 p.m. CT Thursday, July 7. The association still has some travel assistance money available to help pay for gas or a hotel room, even though the deadline to apply for this assistance has passed. There are a limited number of slots for those who work in public relations or are public information officers. The cost for these individuals is $50.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

In Morehead is an example of what the pandemic taught hospitals

St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead
With the pandemic no longer stressing them, rural hospitals in Kentucky are reflecting on what it taught them. Liz Carey of The Daily Yonder reports on St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead, which at the height of the pandemic had 160 Covid-19 patients and four temporary intensive-care units in its parking lot.

“One of the biggest lessons we learned was that we need to be more flexible and adapt more quickly,” CEO Donald Lloyd told Carey. “We had to learn how to be nimble and how to be innovative, and gained the ability to develop, test, and implement procedures quickly.”

Lloyd also said the hospital will continue to rely more on telemedicine, or telehealth. "Before the pandemic, telehealth visits weren’t common at his hospital," Carey reports. Now telemedicine accounts for 18% of clinic visits and more than 80% of behavioral-health visits, Lloyd said. Carey writes, "Telehealth is more convenient for rural residents who might have transportation issues, but it helps with rural hospitals’ labor shortage as well, he said."

Speaking of labor, “One of the big positives that has come from this very unfortunate thing is a recognition of the resiliency of our workforce,” Lloyd said. “We have to be more cognizant of the impact that so much trauma has on our health-care workers. Those doctors and nurses train to deal with death, but I don’t think anyone has trained for a disaster that has lasted for more than two years.”

Monday, June 27, 2022

Ky. Covid-19 cases and positivity rate increased last week, but hospital numbers kept nearly stable and deaths hit 11-month low

Graph by Kentucky Health News from state data; click on it to enlarge.
By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

While most of Kentucky's pandemic metrics went up last week, hospital cases went up only a bit, and fewer deaths were attributed to the disease than in any week in the last 11 months.

The state's weekly report for Monday through Sunday shows 9,574 new coronavirus cases, an average of 1,368 per day. That's 21 percent more than the week before, when the rate was 1,132 cases per day. 

Of last week's new cases, 13.6% were in people 18 and younger. Covid-19 vaccinations for children aged 6 months to 5 years old were recently approved and have been available for those 5 and older for some time. 

Both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines became available to those 5 and younger at UK HealthCare Monday. While clinics are just beginning to offer them across the state, they are expected to become widely available to this age group by early July. 

The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus last week continues to tick up. Today, that rate is 13.36%, up from 12.45% the prior week. The figures do not include at-home tests.

The statewide incidence rate increased to 26.6 cases per 100,000 residents, up from 24.41 in last week's report. The top 10 counties were Perry, 51; Marion, 46; Montgomery, 45.2; Taylor, 40.5; Harlan, 39.5; Owen, 39.3; Hardin, 39.3; Hickman, 39.1; Muhlenberg, 38.7; and Washington, 37.8.

The New York Times ranks Kentucky's incidence rate 12th in the nation, with a 2% increase over the last two weeks.

The state reported 30 more Covid-19 deaths last week, an average of 4.3 per day, much lower than the 7.3 daily rate the previous week and the lowest since last Aug. 3. The state's pandemic death toll is 16,144. 

Kentucky's Covid-19 hospitalization numbers remained nearly steady, even as they slowly increase. Kentucky hospitals reported 377 patients with Covid-19 Monday, up from 369 a week ago, with 54 in intensive care (up 6) and 18 on mechanical ventilation (down 7). 

The latest CDC national Covid-19 risk map, which measures cases and hospital capacity, shows 22 counties with a high level of coronavirus transmission and 37 with a medium risk. The map is updated on Thursday evenings.

Tips for keeping children safe in the 'deadliest days of summer'

Yobro10, iStock / Getty Images Plus
By Sherri Hannan
University of Kentucky

The season from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day is known as the "100 deadliest days of summer." The summer months, while a highlight for kids, can also expose them to greater injury risk. Kids spend time in the water, walking or riding bikes in their neighborhood and just enjoying their summer break from school. All that can change quickly without the use of safety devices or following safe practices.

Here are some tips and trips to keep kids safe while they have fun in the sun.


  • Apply sunscreen when kids will be outdoors, even on cloudy day. Reapply every two hours and after your child has been swimming.
  • Kids are at a higher risk for dehydration. Combined with the summer heat, the lack of water can lead to muscle cramps, heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Have them drink water before, during and after physical activity.
  • Fireworks are a fun way to celebrate, but every year, more than 3,000 children under the age of 15 visit the emergency department because of fireworks. Give children glowsticks instead of sparklers, and always keep fireworks away from children. If possible, attend a public fireworks display instead, and leave the firepower to the professionals.
  • Keep a first aid kit handy, and give your children a few first aid basics such as when to use a bandage, what a tick might look like and how to spot poison ivy.

In the water or on a boat:

  • Actively supervise children in and around water, giving them your undivided attention.
  • Teach children to swim with an adult. Older, more experienced swimmers should still swim with a partner every time. From the first time your kids swim, teach children to never go near or in water without an adult present.
  • Swimming aids such as water wings or noodles are fun toys for kids, but they should never be used in place of a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • A large portion of boating accidents each year involve alcohol consumption by both boat operators and passengers. To keep you and your loved ones safe, it is strongly recommended not to drink alcoholic beverages while boating.
  • Wear a properly fitted helmet. It is the best way to prevent head injuries and death. Learn how to properly fit a helmet for your children in seconds.
  • Ride on the sidewalk when you can. If not, ride in the same direction as traffic as far on the right-hand side as possible.
  • Use hand signals and follow the rules of the road. Be predictable by making sure you ride in a straight line and don’t swerve between cars.
  • Wear bright colors and use lights, especially when riding at night and in the morning. Reflectors on your clothes and bike will help you be seen.
  • Ride with your children. Stick together until you are comfortable that your kids are ready to ride on their own.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Kentucky had the second highest increase in deaths caused by alcohol, drugs and suicide in 2020, just behind West Virginia

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

In the first year of the pandemic, the United States experienced the highest-ever combined rates of deaths due to alcohol, drugs and suicide, and Kentucky's rate was second in the nation, according to a report released by Trust for America's Health and Well Being Trust.

Nationwide, deaths associated with alcohol, drugs and suicide, called "deaths of despair," took the lives of 186,763 Americans in 2020, a 20 percent increase from 2019. It included the highest number of substance-misuse deaths ever recorded for a single year, according to the report.

Kentucky's combined deaths of despair increased 36% between 2019 and 2020, the second only to West Virginia, which had a 37% increase.

Maps are from the report
In 2020, the latest Pain in the Nation: The Epidemics of Alcohol, Drug, and Suicide Deaths  report shows Kentucky had 3,680 combined deaths from alcohol, drug and suicide, an age-adjusted rate of 82.8 deaths per 100,000 people. Of those, 738 were alcohol-induced (37%); 2,187 were drug-induced ( 47%); and 801 were by suicide (7%). 

“With the trends continuing to go in the wrong direction we must ask ourselves, what will it take to move to robust and comprehensive action? The story behind these data is beyond devastating and heartbreaking to those families who have suffered loss,” Dr. Benjamin F. Miller, president, of Well Being Trust, said in the release. 

He added, “Let’s begin to address this crisis with the urgency it deserves by bringing care to where people are. From schools to primary care to our workplaces, let’s ensure that all places are equipped to address mental health and substance misuse. This is not just the responsibility of the mental health and addiction field – but all our responsibility.”

The release notes that while deaths of despair have increased for decades, the national increase in 2020 was unprecedented and driven by a 30% increase in drug-induced deaths and a 27% increase in those related to alcohol. 

According to the report authors and other experts, the 2020 increase in alcohol and drug deaths was exacerbated by: the rise in synthetic opioid and psychostimulant overdoses, disruptions to recovery and treatment programs, and the financial hardships many individuals and families experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report offers detailed recommendations for local, state and federal governments to take to reverse this crisis, including ways to invest in programs that promote and prevent substance misuse and suicide, programs and policies that address substance misuse and overdoses, and ways to increase access and ensuring parity for  mental health and substance use disorder treatment, all while working to decrease stigma. 

The report also examines the last two decades of the drug overdose crisis, including an analysis of the underlying causes and policy responses, with a  call to rethink strategies to match the crisis. It also includes an interview with Sam Quinones, author of two acclaimed books on the opioid crisis, about the need to heal communities in order to deal with the addiction crisis.

Recovery in the Workplace Conference encouraged Kentucky employers to hire people who are in recovery from addiction

More than 150 attended the Recovery in the Workplace Conference. (Ky. Chamber of Commerce photo)
By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

A June 21 conference to encourage Kentucky businesses to offer second-chance employment to Kentuckians who are in addiction recovery featured stories of success, with advice and resources to help. 

Mark LaPalme, founder and CEO of Isaiah House, a treatment and recovery center, told Kentucky Health News that efforts to help people in recovery involves not only creating a healthy recovery community, but also placing them in healthy communities as part of their next steps. 

"So the first thing that we need to do is instill hope, because that gets them through the next day," LaPalme said. "I think the next thing that we've got to do is work on helping them define their purpose in life. And that involves everybody, you know. . . . So hope, opportunity, purpose, employment and education are really those holistic things that make it all work."

Isaiah House was presenting sponsor of the fourth annual Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Kentucky Recovery in the Workplace Conference in Lexington.

LaPalme encouraged employers to give people in recovery a second chance, saying they are dedicated and articulate "and they will absolutely be your best employees because they're appreciative, they're faithful, and they know that they've been given that second chance or that third chance. So they turn out to be your best employees." 

Van Ingram, executive director of the state Office of Drug Control Policy, opened the conference with an overview of the recent report that showed 2,250 Kentuckians died from a drug overdose in 2021, 14.6% more than in 2020. 

"These are people that didn't have to die," he said. "This is a preventable death. Statistically, six people will die today in the state. . . . We have got to do more."

Ingram discussed several programs supported by his office, including the Chamber's three-day "Fair Chance Academy" to help employers foster second-chance employment. The program  graduated its first class in June, which included 20 business leaders with 20,000 employees. He said "That is huge!"

He also noted recent legislation aimed at getting people in recovery back to work, including one to create "Recovery Ready Communities" that will create a list of programs and services a community needs to support people in recovery, like access to recovery and treatment care, and recovery housing and transportation access. 

"That's how we're going to beat this addiction [crisis], one community at at a time," he said. 

Ingram also pointed to a new law for a pilot program to let low-level offenders in 10 counties who have a substance-use disorder to choose treatment instead of incarceration: "It's a chance for us to show the General Assembly and to show the state that treatment will yield better outcomes than prison."

Morgan Kirk, director of the Kentucky Chamber Foundation Workforce Recovery Program, spoke to the need to get this population back into the workforce, noting that Kentucky ranks 43rd in workforce participation. 

Kirk walked through a list of programs offered by the foundation, including the Kentucky Transformational Employment Program, authorized in 2020 to lessen the risk of liability to employers who hire or retain people with substance-use disorders. So far, she said, 70 businesses have signed up for the program, representing nearly 13,000 employees who could be affected. 

"It's the right thing to do, but it is so good for your business to do this," Kirk said. "We see statistically what a difference it can make when you hire someone who's in recovery or with justice involvement and how much they want to show the gratitude and just show up and be an amazing employee for you." 

Advice from businesses that offer second-chance hiring

A persistent theme among businesses that already offer second-chance hiring is the need for "wrap-around services," such as transportation, housing, and flexibility in traditional workplace policies. 

Rob Perez, founder and owner of Lexington's DV8 Kitchen, which is based on second-chance hiring, talked about his company's journey. One key lesson, he said, was to not be driven by the traditional, transactional rules of business, but to adopt a business model that focuses on relationships.  

"We have gotten to the point where relational leadership is paying dividends," he said, ticking off a list of "amazing results" among its bakery employees, all of whom are in recovery, including an 11-month average tenure, which he called "huge in the restaurant business." 

Jamie Johnson of Dorman Products stressed the need for employers to educate themselves and their employees about the misconceptions around substance-use disorders. In addition, he said his company offers peer support services and created its own Narcotics Anonymous program and allowed some flexibility in scheduling for their employees to attend.

“Don’t fool yourself into believing you’re insulated from this problem because over 70 percent of those struggling with a substance-use disorder are currently working,” Johnson said. “You are a fair chance employer; it’s just whether you admit it or not.”

Rena Sharpe, COO of Goodwill Industries, said her company offers career coaching for their employees and companies that contract with them. Another Goodwill program allows an employee who relapses to sign an agreement saying they are seeking treatment and their job will be waiting on them when they're able to return. 

Patrick Bryant, recruitment manager at AppHarvest, and Johnson talked about creating a culture that invites this population to apply for a job. Bryant stressed that it's important for people to be able to look at your "career page" and know they are welcome to apply. 

"There's a lot of people out there with criminal records or in addiction recovery and they're ashamed. They're scared. They don't want to come forward, " he said. "But if you give them that opportunity . . . invite them by having it on your career page that you're a fair chance employer, that's going to help them take the first step." 

Support systems, well-paying jobs needed

Alex Elswick, founder of Voices of Hope and assistant extension professor at the University of Kentucky, talked about his "privilege" of having all kinds of "recovery capital," resources and supports, available to him. His parents' church found him a home, one of his father's patients found him a job, and he was able to see a therapist. 

“There’s really nothing special about my addiction, but in so many ways there’s something special about my recovery. Because I had access to the things I needed." 

Elswick expanded on the value of being offered that first job after coming out of recovery.

"I didn't deserve it. I didn't earn it. It wasn't based on an illustrious CV or resume. I didn't even have a resume," he said. "But somebody gave me an opportunity and it made all the difference in my life because as soon as I had a job, I had benefits. I had health insurance and since I had health insurance, I could meet with a therapist." 

Lisa Lourie, owner and CEO of Spy Coast Farm, said she supports her employees from the Blackburn Correctional Facility with some basic items before they leave the facility by making sure they have appropriate clothing to come to work in. Further, she said she ensures that they had housing and transportation. 

Kim Moore, founder and CEO of Joshua Community Connectors, a grant-funded community building project in Louisville that works on issues of mental health, housing and employment, also talked about the value of support systems in her road to long-term recovery.  She has been sober for 24 years, according to her short biography. 

"I stand here today . . . because I had supportive services," she said. "I'm who I am because people believed in me, people pushed me." 

LaPalme opened the conference by talking  about the need for second-chance employees to have well-paying jobs. He also said it is time to get rid of the "scourge" in the treatment industry of hiring interns who have gone through the residential part of a program and paying them less than the minimum wage and calling it a stipend, a practice not allowed at Isaiah House. He said the practice keeps them "tied to food stamps and keeps them on Medicaid." 

Moore also talked about the need for well-paying jobs, saying that you have to pay a person more than they can make selling drugs if you want them to move away from that lifestyle.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

National poll shows some parents need to enforce better safety rules on fireworks; children's sparklers can be dangerous, too

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

As communities and families prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July, some parents overlook the risks of burn and injury that fireworks pose for children, according to a national study. 

A national poll by the children's hospital at the University of Michigan found that one in five parents said their children were less than 100 feet, the recommended distance, from where fireworks were set off.  

Kentucky law prohibits igniting fireworks within 200 feet of homes, vehicles, structures or other people, and cities and counties have ordinances that apply even if they are more stringent than state law. 

Why keep your distance? Because fireworks are unpredictable, poll co-director Sarah Clark said in the news release: "It’s essential that parents keep children far away from where those fireworks are set off.”

The poll also found that over a third of parents said their children or teens helped set off fireworks in the past two years, with one in five parents saying they’d allow a child 10 or younger to help. Another third said they’d let kids ages 11-15 help, and more than a quarter said they’d let older teens get involved, the release said.

“Parents differ on what age they would allow their child to be part of setting off fireworks,” Clark said. "But parents need to ensure children are at the right age and maturity level to understand the dangers involved and importance of carefully following all safety rules. If the child is not ready to do these things, their risk of burns, eye injuries and other accidents is increased.”

Kentucky law says you must be 18 or older to buy or set off fireworks. 

Sparkler safety

Sparklers pose an extra risk, because parents often perceive sparklers as a safe option for kids, not realizing that they can burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to melt some metals, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The poll found that two in three parents say their children always follow the rules when using sprinklers, and a majority said they enforce the rules. However, just half of parents said they have sand or water nearby to dispose of used but still-hot sparklers.

Most parents also said they talk to their children about safety rules for fireworks, and more mothers than fathers said the believe they are always careful about supervision, the release said.

"Sparklers are only safe if parents enforce all safety measures and children follow them," said Clark. 

About 15,600 people went to emergency rooms because of fireworks injuries in 2020, a 56 percent increase from the 10,000 injured in 2019, according to the latest annual report from the Consumer Product Safety CommissionThe report says that in 2020, 18% of the estimated fireworks injuries were in children younger than 15. 

“Our poll suggests that some parents may need to be more diligent to ensure a safe environment that minimizes these risks and protects children from firework injuries," said Clark.  

Michigan Medicine offered tips for safe Fourth of July celebrations: 
  • Stay at least 100 feet away from where any fireworks are set off.
  • If setting off your own fireworks, purchase legal ones that are clearly labeled for consumer use and follow directions and safety guidelines carefully.
  • Never use fireworks while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
  • Never point or throw fireworks, including sparklers, at anyone.
  • Wear safety goggles or other eye protection if setting off fireworks yourself.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby in case of a fire.
  • Douse all used fireworks with water before discarding to avoid trash fires. 
  • Only light one firework at a time and don’t try to relight the duds.
  • Wait until fireworks cool before picking them up, possibly even the next day.
Sparkler safety: 
  • Consider your child’s age and maturity level, including their ability and willingness to follow rules, before allowing them to use sparklers.
  • If using sparklers, teach children how to hold them below the point where they will burn down and to put the sparkler in a water bucket after use.
  • Check the area for rocks, toys or other objects to prevent children from tripping when it’s dark. The space should also be far from trees, homes, and fire hazards.
  • Make sure children are at least six feet apart when using sparklers.
  • Make sure children know to hold the sparkler away from their face. 
  • Use only one sparkler at a time. 
  • Ensure children wear shoes to prevent burns if they accidentally step on a used sparkler.
First aid tips for burns: 
  • Be prepared to use first aid. For a minor burn, place a towel soaked in cool water over the area for about five minutes. Then cover with a clean bandage and give your child acetaminophen to reduce pain and swelling.
  • For a major burn, or if the burn involves eyes, take the child to the emergency room promptly.

Friday, June 24, 2022

First probable case of monkeypox is reported in Kentucky

Centers for Disease Control map, adapted by Ky. Health News
Kentucky health officials announced Friday that the state's first probable case of monkeypox has been identified in a resident of Jefferson County.

"The patient remains isolated, and health officials are working to identify anyone the patient may have had close contact with while infectious," the Department for Public Health said in a news release. "Confirmatory testing is pending at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." The CDC has identified 201 monkeypox cases in 28 states.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said in the release, “Identifying the first case of monkeypox in Kentucky is concerning but not surprising. Fortunately, the risk to the general public remains low. We continue to work closely with CDC and our local health department and healthcare partners to contain the spread of this virus.”

Monkeypox can be transmitted through body fluids, sores created by the disease, contaminated items such as bedding or clothing, or respiratory droplets during "prolonged face-to-face contact," the release said.

The disease usually begins with a flu-like illness, including fever and swelling of lymph nodes five to 21 days after exposure, followed one to three days later by a rash or lesions that are often painful . They usually begin on the face but may occur anywhere. Illness generally lasts two to four weeks. Infected people are considered contagious from the time symptoms start until all scabs from the rash have fallen off and the skin has healed.

Monkeypox can spread through sexual contact, so the health department "urges you to be vigilant," the release says. "People who have symptoms of monkeypox, particularly the characteristic rash or lesions, should take the following steps: Visit a medical provider for an evaluation; cover the area of the rash with clothing; wear a mask," and avoid close contact with others.

The CDC says, "It’s not clear how the people were exposed to monkeypox, but early data suggest that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men make up a high number of cases. However, anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox is at risk."

If you develop a rash in the genital or anal area and don't have a regular health-care provider, you can get medical attention at local health department sexual-health clinics. The state health department is advising providers that "the rash may be hard to distinguish from syphilis, herpes simplex virus infection, chancroid, varicella zoster, and other more common infections." More information is available on the state health department website.

Decision triggers Ky. law banning abortion unless woman faces risk of death or serious, permanent harm to a life-sustaining organ

Abortions were performed in this room at the Planned Parenthood center in Louisville.
(Photo by Ryan C. Hermens, Lexington Herald-Leader)
UPDATE, June 27: A lawsuit to overturn the trigger law, on grounds that it violates a right to privacy supposedly created by the first two sections of the the Kentucky constitution, was filed Monday in Jefferson Circuit Court. It also seeks to overturn an earlier law that would have imposed a ban on abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy had it not been blocked by a federal court. UPDATE, June 29: A judge heard arguments for and against a temporary restraining order and said he would rule that day or the next.

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

Abortion became illegal in Kentucky Friday morning when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its 6-3 decision overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that created a limited constitutional right to the procedure.

Kentucky is one of 13 states with "trigger" laws that were passed to ban abortion if Roe was overturned, and state Attorney General Daniel Cameron said in an advisory that it took effect immediately.

Other Republican officials hailed the ruling, but Gov. Andy Beshear said the law is "extremist" because it has no exceptions for rape or incest, only a threat to the life of the woman. Abortion-rights advocates said women and girls would die as the result of illegal abortions.

Kentucky's only two clinics that provide abortions, in Louisville, halted them, the Courier Journal reported. Louisville Metro Mayor Greg Fischer didn't say whether he would enforce the trigger law, but Craig Greenberg, the Democratic mayoral nominee, said he wouldn't. The Republican nominee, Jeffersontown Mayor Bill Dieruf, said he would leave the issue to state and federal officials.

In Lexington, Councilman David Kloiber, the Democrat in the nonpartisan race for mayor, blasted the decision and said that if elected he would not use the law against "victims of crime," an apparent reference to rape and incest. The law rules out prosecution of women who get abortions.

Mayor Linda Gorton, a nurse by trade and a Republican, sidestepped the question. Her spokeswoman, Susan Straub, told the Lexington Herald-Leader, “We have not assessed if there will be an impact on local government. Generally, we are talking about state and federal actions and laws.” State laws are enforced by local prosecutors, and enforcement in Lexington is in doubt.

Fayette County Attorney Larry Roberts told the Herald-Leader, “I’m going to take every case that comes to me by itself.” Angela Evans, who defeated Roberts in the Democratic primary and is unopposed in the fall election, is set to take office Jan. 1. "She said she would attend a Planned Parenthood rally downtown Friday night," the Herald-Leader reports, quoting her: “I’m going to protect the rights of women as equal citizens of the country. I don’t believe this decision does that at all. It reduces women to less than equal citizens, as second-class citizens. I will not be inclined to prosecute women or those trying to help them make decisions . . . on when and how they reproduce.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky said it will file a lawsuit arguing that the state Constitution provides for a legal right to an abortion, but in the Nov. 8 ballot has a constitutional amendment that would add the statement, “To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to an abortion or require the funding of an abortion.”

The only exception to the state's new abortion ban is when a physician determines through “reasonable medical judgment” that abortion is necessary to save the life of the woman or prevent substantial risk of death, or to prevent serious and permanent impairment to a life-sustaining organ, Cameron said.

He said the law "does not prohibit the proper use of contraceptives to prevent pregnancy or before a pregnancy can be determined through conventional medical testing" and "has no application when a pregnant mother suffers a miscarriage. Nor does it prohibit medical treatment to help a mother in this circumstance."

The Supreme Court decision will likely mean more work for organizations that have long helped poor women get money and transportation for abortions, such as the Kentucky Health Justice Network, reports the Herald-Leader's Alex Acquisto: "Illinois is among the closest reliable 'receiving states' capable of taking on the roughly 4,000 Kentuckians who get abortions every year. The group is planning to grow its network of volunteers willing to drive patients to their appointments, as well as boost donations for gas money, child care and hotel stays."

NBC News reported, "Legal scholars said the decision to overrule Roe is one of the few times the Supreme Court has ever invalidated an earlier decision that declared a constitutional right — and the only time it took away a right that had considerable public support."

Thursday, June 23, 2022

CDC says Covid-19 risk is growing in Ky.; it's high in 22 counties and medium in 37; virus transmission levels are still high in 111

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention map, adapted
By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

This week's federal Covid-19 risk map shows almost half of Kentucky's counties at increased risk. The rankings are based on new coronavirus cases, hospital admissions and hospital capacity. 

Twenty-two Kentucky counties are orange on the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention risk map, indicating a high level of risk. That's up from 19 orange counties on last week's map. 

Thirty-seven counties are yellow, indicating a medium level of risk. Last week, 29 were yellow. 

The press release from Gov. Andy Beshear's weekly press conference Thursday didn't mention the pandemic, but he said it's still important to talk about Covid-19 and to consider this map when you are doing business in orange counties (which he called red).

"It is not time to stop talking about Covid," he said. "It is time to learn to live with Covid. But understand that while most of our state is green or yellow, there are red counties. We need to be thoughtful if we are traveling to or doing business in red counties [around] what steps that we take." 

This week's map showed much shifting of counties between the colors but many counties that remained with the same level of risk as the week before. 

Ten of last week's yellow counties moved up to orange this week: Ballard, Carlisle, Hickman, Graves, Crittenden, Marshall, Powell, Knott, Pike and Johnson. The other 12 orange counties were also orange last week: McCracken, Livingston, Lyon, Woodford, Fayette, Rowan, Greenup, Boyd, Wolfe, Breathitt, Leslie and Perry. 

Seven of last week's orange counties moved down to yellow this week: Hardin, Clark, Menifee, Carter, Lawrence, Martin, and Morgan. Fifteen of the counties are yellow for a second week in a row, including Muhlenberg, Meade, Breckinridge, Grayson, Larue, Monroe, Jessamine, Scott, Owsley, Lee, Robertson, Lewis, Elliott, Magoffin and Floyd. 

Newly yellow counties on this week's map are Calloway, Caldwell, Hart, Barren, Metcalfe, Allen, Taylor, Washington, Anderson, Montgomery, Bracken, Mason, Fleming, Letcher and Harlan. 

In orange counties, state guidelines call for wearing masks in indoor public spaces, limiting in-person gatherings, limiting the size of gatherings, and social distancing.

The CDC says people in yellow counties who are immunocompromised, or at high risk for severe illness from the virus, should talk to a health-care provider about whether they need to wear a mask or take other precautions.

CDC map, adapted by Kentucky Health News
The CDC also publishes a map showing virus transmission levels. As it did last week, it shows 111 of the 120 counties with high levels, and the rest are all orange: Fulton, Trimble, Gallatin, Cumberland, Lincoln, McCreary, Whitley, Bell and Jackson.

State officials say the risk map is the best guide to protecting yourself from the virus.

Kentucky's weekly pandemic report, released on Monday, showed the state had an average of 1,132 new cases a day last week, down 41% from the week before. The report showed fewer Covid-19 deaths and hospital rates that are still low, but creeping up. The positive-test rate increased to 12.45%, up from 12.07% the prior week.  

Beshear again stressed Thursday that while "it is a blessing" that overall case numbers are no longer directly connected to serious illness, hospitalizations and death, it's still important to protect yourself against the virus and get vaccinated and boosted. 

"We are still seeing . . . huge advantages in terms of cases, in terms of overall outcomes if you are vaccinated, versus unvaccinated," he said. Later adding, "So please, if you haven't gotten vaccinated, if you haven't gotten your first booster, if you're over 50 and you haven't gotten your second booster, go out and get it." 

FDA orders Juul products off the shelves, and firm asks court to block it; rule to limit level of nicotine in cigarettes is coming

Photo from Juul Labs
UPDATE, June 27: A federal judge blocked the order pending proceedings in Juul's lawsuit.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

The federal government has ordered Juul Labs to stop selling and distributing its products in the United States after denying the company's application to keep selling them, saying the company did not provide adequate data to determine "relevant health risks." 

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration is planning to establish a maximum nicotine level in cigarettes and other combustible tobacco products to reduce the addictiveness of the products, which claim the lives of 480,000 Americans each year, with more than 8,000 in Kentucky.

"While we welcome the ban on Juul -- we think that's a good thing -- it is not nearly enough, and until they actually come to grips with the nicotine problem, they're not going to solve this," said Ben Chandler, president of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. "The central problem here is that we are addicting an entire new generation of young people to nicotine."

The FDA issued marketing denial orders against Juul that require the company to remove its electronic-cigarette products from the U.S. market, or risk enforcement action. 

“Today’s action is further progress on the FDA’s commitment to ensuring that all e-cigarette and electronic nicotine delivery system products currently being marketed to consumers meet our public health standards,” FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf said in the release. He also noted the role of e-cigarettes in the rise of youth vaping.

The 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey found Juul was the most popular e-cigarette brand used by adolescents with 25.4% of high school e-cigarette users and 35.1% of middle school users saying Juul was their most used brand.

According to the latest 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System report, 26% of Kentucky's high school students had used an electronic vapor product on at least one day in the 30 days prior to the survey, while just 8.9% had smoked cigarettes. A national survey found youth vaping rates have declined during the pandemic, but a separate survey taken in late 2020 found that 34% of the 400 Kentucky youth surveyed believed there had been an increase in tobacco use due to the pandemic.

The FDA said the company's marketing applications “lacked sufficient evidence regarding the toxicological profile of the products to demonstrate that marketing of the products would be appropriate for the protection of the public health.” 

A key public-health issue the FDA looks for in reviewing electronic cigarettes is whether the potential benefit to adult smokers who may be using them to quit smoking is greater than the risks to youth. 

The agency said it didn't see clinical information suggesting there is an immediate risk to using Juul products, but "Some of the company’s study findings raised concerns due to insufficient and conflicting data– including regarding genotoxicity and potentially harmful chemicals leaching from the company’s proprietary e-liquid pods – that have not been adequately addressed."

Joe Murillo, chief regulatory officer at Juul Labs, issued a statement saying the company had "provided sufficient information and data based on high-quality research to address all issues raised by the agency" and that the data meets the standard of being "appropriate for the protection of the public health." He added, "We intend to seek a stay and are exploring all of our options under the FDA’s regulations and the law, including appealing the decision and engaging with our regulator."

UPDATE, June 24: Juul asked a federal court in Washington to block the order.

Juul, which has long been blamed for the surge in teen vaping, had already stopped selling its sweet-flavored e-cigarette pods, but had continued selling tobacco- and menthol-flavored cartridges while it waited on the FDA to review its marketing application. The company had also worked on efforts to stop teens from buying its products, like halting television, print and digital advertising. ”

Anti-smoking advocates praised the FDA's ruling. 

Ellen Hahn, a University of Kentucky nursing professor and the director of the Bridging Research Efforts and Advocacy Toward Healthy Environments (BREATHE) initiative, said in an email that the decision "is long overdue. This move is particularly important [for] our ability to breathe in Kentucky. Kentucky youth smoke e-cigarettes, or vapes, over twice the rate of high school students in the U.S. (26.1% vs. 11.3%). E-cigarette aerosol contains highly addictive nicotine that damages the lungs and the developing brain. Vaping is a cause of serious lung injury and makes it harder for the user to fight infection. Lung damage from vaping is comparable to conventional cigarette use." 

That said, Hahn cautioned that since the FDA's decision to limit flavorings in Juul products, other "disposable" vapes have become more popular because they continue to offer a variety of flavors. "So while today’s decision shows the power of FDA’s premarket review, there are plenty of other e-cigarette products still on the market," she said. 

Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the decision "represents the most significant action the FDA has taken to reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic." 

Harold Wimmer, president and CEO of The American Lung Association, commended the FDA for "following the science and denying Juul the ability to sell its products that are clearly marketed to addict a new generation of youth to tobacco."

Limiting nicotine: The FDA's goal in limiting nicotine in cigarettes and other combusted tobacco products is to reduce youth use, addiction and death, says the FDA news release announcing the effort. 

The FDA notes that while nicotine is not what makes cigarettes so toxic, it is the ingredient that makes it hard to quit. And says if the proposed reduction is successful, it "would make those products minimally- or non-addictive." 

"The U.S. Surgeon General has reported that 87% of adult smokers start smoking before age 18, and about two-thirds of adult daily smokers began smoking daily by 18 years of age. Lowering nicotine levels to minimally addictive or non-addictive levels would decrease the likelihood that future generations of young people become addicted to cigarettes and help more currently addicted smokers to quit," Califf said in the release. 

Inside Health Policy reports that the FDA is expected to publish its proposed rule in December. It was originally scheduled for July.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Ex-Govs. Fletcher, Beshear in 2022 Recovery Hall of Fame class

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Four Kentuckians were inducted into the 2022 Kentucky Recovery Hall of Fame at the fourth annual Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Recovery in the Workplace Conference in Lexington on Tuesday. 

“Our 2022 Kentucky Recovery Hall of Fame inductees have spent years pioneering a comprehensive approach to recovery in the commonwealth,” said Tim Robinson, president and CEO of Addiction Recovery Care. “They exemplify the collaborative effort it takes to ensure every Kentuckian has the best opportunity for sustained recovery. We’re grateful for their leadership and commitment to ending the addiction epidemic once and for all.”

Two of the awards are named after inaugural inductees U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers and Jay Davidson of The Healing Place; an Employer of the Year award was added this year. The awards are sponsored by Recon Ky, a consortium working to promote long-term recovery in Kentucky.

Former U.S. Rep. and Gov. Ernie Fletcher and former Gov. Steve Beshear (who ousted Fletcher in the 2007 election) were the recipients of the Rogers Award, which recognizes Kentucky public officials who have advocated for legislation and policies that address the addiction crisis and help Kentuckians with substance-use disorders reach long-term recovery. 

Ernie Fletcher
Fletcher Group photo
During his tenure as governor, Fletcher established a recovery housing program called "Recovery Kentucky" that is still in operation. He is the founder of the Fletcher Group, which works to help rural communities with safe, sustainable recovery housing and other best practices for people with opioid and other substance use disorders. 

“While addiction is still one of the commonwealth’s most pressing issues, I’m proud of the comprehensive and collaborative approach Kentucky has taken to address this public health crisis,” Fletcher said in the news release. “Since leaving public office, I’ve kept my commitment to helping Kentuckians return to healthy, purposeful, addiction-free lives, and it is an honor to be inducted into the Kentucky Recovery Hall of Fame.”

Steve Beshear
Bipartisan Policy Center photo
During Beshear's second term as governor, he expanded Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which has been instrumental in allowing more Kentuckians access to comprehensive, inpatient and outpatient addiction care. He also launched Rewarding Kentucky, a program to help people in recovery with job training and meaningful employment, and secured funding to strengthen the treatment and recovery infrastructure across the states. Beshear is one of seven members on an opioid crisis task force of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C. 

“Expanding and protecting access to care for all Kentuckians, including those struggling with substance use, was one of my top priorities as governor, and I am grateful for this recognition,” Beshear said in the release. “This crisis is far from over, and I will continue to work alongside other advocates and stakeholders to help more Kentuckians reach long-term recovery.”

Mike Barry
People Advocating Recovery photo
Mike Barry is the recipient of the Jay Davidson Award, which recognizes an individual in recovery who has helped to support Kentuckians with their long-term recovery. 

Barry is the former CEO of People Advocating Recovery, an organization committed to mobilizing, organizing, training and rallying people in recovery and their allies. He also spearheaded the creation of PAR's Advocacy Training Center to help spread the message of recovery through public policy and legislation. Barry recently announced his retirement, but continues to serve as chairman of the board for PAR. 

“I’m humbled to receive the 2022 Jay Davidson Recovery Hall of Fame Award,” Barry said in the release. “During my time at PAR, I was able to use my personal recovery experience to advocate for meaningful policies that promote long-term recovery, and I will continue to support these efforts however I can. It is a privilege to be honored for this work alongside so many other distinguished recovery leaders.”

Rob and Diana Perez ( photo)
DV8 Kitchen of Lexington is the Hall of Fame’s inaugural Employer of the Year, which recognizes a business that has championed second-chance employment and helped to reduce stigma around recovery in the workplace.

DV8 Kitchen now has two locations and all of the bakery's employees are in recovery. Owners Rob and Diana Perez have also created the DV8 Kitchen Vocational Training Foundation, which allows employees the chance to participate in professional development workshops and network with local business people. 

“After experiencing the loss of so many employees to substance use, we felt compelled to step up and do more to address addiction in our community,” Rob Perez said in the release. “We became intentional about hiring Kentuckians transitioning out of treatment and providing them with meaningful employment and mentorship. As the Kentucky Recovery Hall of Fame’s first Employer of the Year, we will continue to champion second chance employment, destigmatize addiction and encourage others in the business community to do the same.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Your brain needs proper diet and exercise, too; it's something to remember in June, Brain and Alzheimer's Awareness Month

Photo illustration by Daniel de la Hoz, iStock/Getty Images Plus
By Dr. Greg Jicha
University of Kentucky

Healthy brain aging is a concern for all of us. June is recognized as Brain and Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. It’s normal to struggle with small things such as recalling names — and we all experience some slowing of the thought processes with advanced age — but everyone hopes to avoid serious cognitive impairment.

Some cognitive difficulties, such as Alzheimer’s disease, have underlying pathological causes that we are still working to understand. However, we know that brains can also lose function simply through poor physical, mental and social health. Many of the causes of cognitive decline are preventable.

Just as we create exercise regimens for the body, we should create a routine for brain health.

As a general rule, what is good for heart health is good for brain health. Getting regular exercise, eating well and maintaining a healthy weight all promote a healthy brain.

People of all ages, particularly seniors, benefit from leaving the house, engaging in learning activities and having an active social life. It is important to commit to a schedule that encourages all of these healthy brain aging activities.

Summer, in many ways, is an ideal time to set up a routine for healthy brain aging. Warm weather offers the opportunity to get physical exercise through gardening and walking. Many community organizations offer summer classes in dance, photography, art, music and other hobbies.

Summer also is the season of farmers markets and fresh produce. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain compounds called plant polyphenols. These compounds, which help plants fight off disease, have been observed in animal models to extend lifespan by promoting general cellular health. Blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and red wine are all good sources of polyphenols.

Anyone interested in healthy brain aging also can practice “neurobics.” These “aerobics for the brain” are activities that can be thrown into the daily schedule on a whim. Examples include taking a different route home, shopping at a different grocery store, or purposely driving or walking through an unfamiliar neighborhood. These simple activities activate the problem-solving areas of the brain as the person navigates unfamiliar territory.

Social engagement is key for seniors, who might find their social circle shrinking as friends and relatives move, develop serious illness or die.

Senior centers offer great resources for social activities. Something as simple as gathering with others for a regular card game can help keep the cognitive functions of the brain sharp. For some seniors, moving into a senior-living community is ideal, because it provides increased opportunities for structured activities and socialization with peers.

Through socialization, hobbies, lifelong learning, healthy eating, physical activity and challenging their brain on a daily basis, most people have the capacity to achieve healthy brain aging.

I have seen some patients reverse mild cognitive impairment simply by adopting a healthier lifestyle — so it’s never too late to encourage healthy brain aging.

Greg Jicha, M.D., Ph.D, is assistant professor of neurology in the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and UK's Sanders-Brown Center on Aging.

Celebration of the life of Dr. Douglas Scutchfield is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at UK and will be livestreamed on YouTube

By the University of Kentucky College of Public Health

Dr. F. Douglas Scutchfield
An author, diplomat, doctor, editor, educator, father, founder, friend, grandfather, husband, mentor, researcher, veteran, and so much more, Dr. F. Douglas Scutchfield, inaugural dean of the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, passed away Monday, May 23, in Lexington.

A celebration of life will take place in the Lewis Honors College atrium at UK Wednesday, June 22, at 4:30 p.m. and will be livestreamed on YouTube here. After the ceremony, there will be an opportunity to share stories about the man who was known in the community as "Scutch." 

Frank Douglas Scutchfield was born on April 23, 1942, in Wheelwright, attended Hazard High School and Eastern Kentucky University, and received his medical degree from the University of Kentucky in 1966.

Public Health Passion and Impact

Scutch, after seeing firsthand the poverty in Appalachia, gravitated toward the field of public health and preventive medicine. He completed post-graduate medical education at Northwestern University, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UK. He holds honorary doctoral degrees from Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Pikeville.

He served as co-editor of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine from 1995 to 2014 and launched the Journal of Appalachian Health in 2018. He is the author of more than 200 papers, book chapters, and technical reports, and has edited several books.

Scutch was a founder of the College of Community Health Sciences at the University of Alabama and founded the Graduate School of Public Health at San Diego State University. He returned to his home state of Kentucky and founded the then School of Public Health at UK in 1997 and became the Peter P. Bosomworth Professor of Health Services Research and Policy.

Scutch held faculty appointments in UK’s College of Public Health and the College of Medicine. He was a diplomat of the American Board of Preventive Medicine and of the American Board of Family Practice from 1972 to 1985. He held fellowships in both the American College of Preventive Medicine and the American Academy of Family Practice.

Scutch held many national positions in professional organizations, including president of the American College of Preventive Medicine, and received several awards from those organizations, including the American Medical Association’s Distinguished Service Award.

Dr. Julia Costich, who succeeded Scutchfield as the public health college’s Peter P. Bosomworth Professor of Health Services Research, told Kentucky Health News, “Public health is about doing things for populations, but Scutch’s gift was relating to individuals—students, colleagues, prominent leaders—as individuals. His generous nature was tempered by a deep need for reciprocation. This was part of what drew him to the work of Thomas Merton, who articulated the need for human contact to bridge the spiritual gulf.”

Scutch earned the UK Libraries Medallion for Intellectual Achievement in 2017. In his acceptance, he said his interest in Merton and the humanities reflected a part of his philosophy of being a physician: “I am a firm believer in the importance of humanity to those of us in the health professions. We do not treat a disease; we treat a person, thus we must know the humanness of the individual in front of us, as well as the diagnosis and treatment of their disease.”

In 2019, Scutch received the Sedgwick Memorial Medal for Distinguished Service in Public Health from the American Public Health Association. Recipients of this award, known as the most prestigious award offered from the APHA, are held in high esteem, as they are nominated by their colleagues and recognized for their dedication to service and accomplishment in the field of public health.

Scutch had an international reputation and was a consultant to government and non-governmental organizations in Panama, China, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Germany, as well as the U.S. But he never forgot his hometown of Wheelwright, which was one of Kentucky’s biggest coal towns when he was growing up.

Scutch most recently served as chair of the accreditation committee of the Public Health Accreditation Board, which accredits local and state health departments, and spurred Kentucky to be a leader in getting its departments accredited. It was one of his latest accomplishments in a life devoted to public health.

Remembering Scutch

Many of Scutch’s students will remember him fondly. Former student, Dr. Scott Keel, said he was “so honored to be one of the many he took time to mentor. I am forever grateful, forever impacted, and forever changed. He made a difference in my life.”

Glen Mays, professor and chair of Health Systems, Management and Policy at the Colorado School of Public Health, recalled, “I began working with Scutch in the mid-1990s while I was still a graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill, after meeting him at a conference. Our shared goal was to build a robust national program of research that could identify how best to organize, finance, and deliver public health services across the U.S.”

“In less than a decade Scutch had accomplished this goal, with a multi-million-dollar research program, dozens of graduate student trainees, and a nationally renowned conference based at the University of Kentucky. I was honored to join Scutch in this enterprise from 2011-19 and serving in the endowed professorship that bears his name. One of Scutch’s lasting legacies is his ability to create big new things out of nothing to solve problems that really matter to people.”

The F. Douglas Scutchfield Endowed Professorship was established at the UK College of Public Health in 2008 to honor Scutch’s many years of service to the college. In addition, the college established a Faculty Scholarship for the Future of Appalachian Health, which provides scholarships to students pursuing an MPH degree who are from an Appalachian county in Kentucky, have a commitment to improving heath in the region, and a desire to return to this region to promote and improve public health – just like Scutch.

“The legacy of Scutch was his commitment to service – to the discipline of public health, to the academic and medical communities, and to those who were fortunate enough to work with and learn from him,” says Donna Arnett, Dean of the College of Public Health. “Scutch will forever be memorialized as a public health hero, champion, and humanitarian.”

Scutch will be remembered and missed by a myriad of his colleagues, friends, family, and students. One thing that everyone will remember about Scutch was his big, infectious smile and laughter.

A full obituary can be found here.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Ky. medical experts say Covid-19 will always be with us, but vaccines, therapies and preventive steps mean we can live with it

Top: "Kentucky Tonight" host Renee Shaw. Bottom right: Jon Klein, M.D. Bottom left, L to R: Mark Dougherty, M.D.; Ilhem Massaoudi, Ph.D.; Fadi Al Akhrass, M.D. (Edited screenshot of KET image)
By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

The coronavirus that causes the Covid-19 disease will always be with us, and may become more contagious, but probably less dangerous, while still requiring caution to keep from getting sick. That's what Kentucky medical experts said Monday night on KET's "Kentucky Tonight."

"In many ways it will be like influenza," fought with vaccines adjusted annually to keep up with mutations of the virus, said Dr. Jon Klein, vice dean of medical research at the University of Louisville.

Asked by host Renee Shaw if the virus will be with us forever, Klein said, "Probably so. we are looking at a virus that mutates very avidly." But that may not be the threat that it once was.

Ultimately, mutations become detrimental to the life cycle of a virus, so "At some point there's going to be an equilibrium," said Ilhem Massaoudi, chair of immunology at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine: "We're almost there. . . . This virus is learning how to live with us, and we're learning to live with it."

Massaoudi said we will have better vaccines and therapeutics, but "This virus is not going to go away."

Klein said the virus has mutated so much that it "has in some ways disappeared" and become a different virus. He said the new vaccines expected this fall, designed to fight the latest versions of the Omicron variant, will be "very, very different" from those in use now.

But he said people who are active in society and haven't received all the booster shots for which they are eligible should go ahead and get them, and not wait until the fall.

Also, Klein said "Mask wearing in closed spaces with other individuals is still extremely important." Noting the recent rash of flight cancellations due to crew shortages, he said "This sort of disruption of society is going to continue was long as people get ill and have to stay home from work."

Dr. Fadi Al Akhrass of Pikeville Medical Center said it's important to use the best mask possible and get a good fit, because the most common infection route is aerosols, and he said good air circulation is "very important, especially in a crowded area." He also cautioned the audience about "long Covid," which can stem from even a mild case.

Dr. Mark Dougherty of Baptist Health Lexington said the disease "has an incredibly wide range of presentation," so "If you've got sneezes and sniffles, don't get together with other people. . . . Even if you have sniffles and blow your nose a couple of times, you can pass it to other people."

Noting that the oral treatment Paxlovid has now been now tested among vaccinated people, Dougherty recommended asking your doctor about it if you get infected, and do it early.

The one-hour "Kentucky Tonight" show will be rebroadcast several times and is available online.