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Med Center enters next phase of COVID-19 vaccinations

The Medical Center at Bowling Green has been authorized by the Kentucky Department of Public Health to move into Phase 1b of COVID-19 vaccine administration.

This phase includes first responders, anyone at least 70 years of age and K-12 school personnel.

While the Med Center is still vaccinating health care personnel included in the state’s Phase 1a, individuals who qualify under the age requirements for this next phase can add their name to the scheduling request list by texting SENIOR to 270-796-3200.

Alternatively, you can also email vaccine@mchealth.net with your full name, date of birth and phone number.

Using either method, your name will be placed in a queue, and you will be contacted when an appointment time becomes available.

Moving forward, the Med Center will continue to prioritize health care workers for the vaccine while continuing to work through Phase 1b.

There is no charge to the patient to receive the vaccine.

“We are committed to meet the governor’s requirement to use all doses we receive within seven days,” Med Center Health Vice President of Corporate Support Services Dr. Melinda Joyce said. “As we receive additional vaccines, individuals in that Phase 1b group will be able to schedule appointments.”

According to Joyce, the main vaccine being used by the hospital is the Pfizer vaccine. The Med Center has received a supply of the Moderna vaccine that will also be used.

Joyce said there is not a time frame for when Phase 1c will begin. The main concentration currently is on a successful administration of the first two phases.

Phase 1c is comprised of anyone older than 60, anyone older than 16 with the highest risk of having health problems from the virus and all essential workers.

Phase 1b includes a large number of Kentuckians, and the Med Center is asking the public to be patient as they work through the request list due to the limited supply of the vaccine at the hospital.

The next phases after 1c of COVID-19 vaccination in Kentucky are as follows: Phase 2 which includes anyone age 40 or older, Phase 3 which includes anyone age 16 or older and Phase 4 which includes children under the age of 16 if the vaccine is approved for that age group.

As of Sunday, a total of 107,779 vaccine doses had been administered in the state.

Area tourism looks to rebound in 2021

In what was a down year for tourism across the country, popular sites in southcentral Kentucky also saw fewer visitors in 2020.

Popular locations such as the Historic RailPark & Train Museum, the National Corvette Museum and Lost River Cave saw their numbers decrease.

RailPark & Train Museum Executive Director Jamie Johnson said the museum not only saw a decline in visitations but a decline in funding.

“In 2021, we are looking forward to moving the needle back to where we used to be,” Johnson said. “We kicked off 2020 with a huge initiative to fundraise over $40,000 and we only got to around 20% of that.”

Johnson added that while the number of people who donated did rise from 2019, the museum still saw a considerable overall decrease in funding.

In order to combat the pandemic, the RailPark had to adapt in a number of ways to safely still have events and move forward with fundraising.

For example, Johnson said several events had to be either canceled or reduced to limited capacity out of concern for public health.

The annual “Polar Express” event usually serves as a positive fundraiser for the museum but had limited capacity in 2020.

Moving into the new calendar year, Johnson remains optimistic that the RailPark will be able to have events such as Romance at the RailPark and Brunch with the Bunny at normal capacity in the near future.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the National Corvette Museum, which President and CEO Sean Preston said had a very strong year despite seeing a decrease in visitations.

“We didn’t just survive – we thrived,” Preston said of 2020. “During the shutdown, we installed four different galleries at the museum. Our donors were able to provide us with so much funding in 2020. We were a tremendous national story.”

Preston added that there were no full-time layoffs and every worker got paid despite the museum only averaging around 75% of its yearly attendance numbers.

“We were given incredible support locally, statewide and nationally,” Preston said. “The public and our 36,000 museum members have been awesome in continuing their trust in us.”

Preston said the museum adapted to the pandemic by becoming considerably more virtual.

One initiative was the Vette Academy, a daily virtual video series for students to learn while they were at home.

Also, the museum launched a virtual series called Fully Vetted, which is geared toward Corvette enthusiasts of all ages. The series has now since moved to a podcast format.

In 2021, the main goal of the National Corvette Museum is to host its two large annual events with full capacity.

The first of these events is the Michelin NCM Bash, which was held virtually in 2020. Over 2,000 people still managed to attend the bash last year despite the virtual setting.

The other large event is the museum’s 27th anniversary, which is scheduled for Labor Day weekend. Last year’s anniversary was held in person, but in limited capacity.

“We followed all the public health guidelines throughout this pandemic,” Preston said. “We really do hope to have our large events in person in 2021. We will still continue to offer new and exciting content no matter what.”

Preston added that the National Corvette Museum will also be pursuing official Smithsonian affiliation during 2021.

Lost River Cave was another tourism spot in Bowling Green that suffered a loss of visitors in 2020.

According to Operations Manager Chad Singer, visitations at the site usually run between 55,000 to 70,000 a year, but their numbers were only half of that in 2020.

“We were kind of left in the dark for a while on what we could do,” Singer said. “We were completely different from other places. So, we just did everything we could to keep our staff safe, and we constantly asked what the best ways were to keep visitors safe.”

Singer said staff played a huge part in the decision-making process on how to approach the pandemic.

While capacity was limited, there was still a “huge concentration” on sanitizing the boats used for tours throughout every day.

“Thank God for our reservation system,” Singer said. “It really did make everything easier for us and for our visitors.”

Singer said he is still nervous about the new year, but everyone is preparing and looking forward to another year of boat tours for the public.

“Overall, we need to reevaluate our programs and hit the drawing board,” Singer said. “We just want to try and hire more staff while fostering an appreciation for nature in the community.”

Singer added that there will be a “big focus” on volunteer events as he said those do a great job of getting people to the site. There are multiple volunteer opportunities already planned for January.

Bowling Green man killed in downtown shooting

A Bowling Green man was shot and killed downtown, police said.

Early Sunday, Bowling Green Police Department officers were on a foot patrol behind the 300 block of East Main, according to a BGPD statement.

At 1:40 a.m., officers heard shots coming from the front of one of the businesses.

The officers ran to the front and located Tayveon M. Bibb, 23, of Bowling Green, on the side of the road with multiple gunshot wounds.

Bibb was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The BGPD said crime scene processors were called to the scene and were attempting to find and process evidence. Detectives were interviewing witnesses and working to identify others who witnessed the shooting.

No suspect had been identified as of Sunday afternoon.

BGPD is asking anyone with information about the death of Bibb to contact police at 270-393-4000.

Feeding America continuing extra food distributions

Last April, when the Elizabethtown-based Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland nonprofit organization bumped up its monthly food distribution events in Warren County from one to three, it was viewed as a short-term change to address a need brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

Nine months later, Feeding America is still doing the enhanced food distributions in partnership with United Way of Southern Kentucky and the Warren County Parks and Recreation Department.

January’s Feeding America distributions in Warren County start Monday with an event from 9 to 11 a.m. at Ephram White Park. On Wednesday, food boxes will be distributed at Buchanon Park on Nashville Road from 9 to 11 a.m. The month’s final Feeding America event will be held Wednesday, Jan. 27, from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Lampkin Park.

Before the pandemic, Feeding America was delivering about 500 boxes of food during each monthly event at Lampkin Park. Now it is consistently handing out that much or more at each of the three events.

The boxes, which typically contain enough food to feed a family of four for a week, continue to be in great demand as unemployment remains high.

“Across the board, Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland has seen a 20 percent increase in demand for our services since March 2020,” said Jaime Thomas, director of communications and marketing for the Elizabethtown nonprofit. “More people than ever are visiting food pantries, many for the first time in their lives. Families with small children are hit especially hard.”

As the largest of the 42 counties served by the Elizabethtown Feeding America office, Warren County was chosen to receive the extra visits shortly after Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency in March.

“Because of the number of food insecure people in that county, we quickly had to implement two emergency mobile food pantries to provide additional food,” Thomas said. “Fortunately, we have two incredible partners with United Way and Warren County Parks and Recreation. They have assisted us from the beginning by providing two great locations, staff and volunteers to make these mobile food pantries happen.”

The three monthly visits will continue for at least a few more months, Thomas said.

“We offer these two extra distributions to help fill in some of the gaps because the need has grown so much,” she said. “That need will be reevaluated in April to determine whether the extra distributions still are necessary.”

Despite beefing up the food distributions in Warren County and other areas it serves, Feeding America isn’t yet facing a food shortage.

“We’ve been lucky in that we have plenty of food to provide to those dealing with food insecurity,” Thomas said. “Through government commodities, donations of both food and money, and our purchasing power as a food bank, we have been able to consistently handle the increased need across our 42 counties. At no time have we been at risk of running out of food. Our warehouses continue to be stocked and ready for distribution.”

Thomas said Feeding America has already scheduled its visits to Warren County through April.

In February, food distributions are scheduled for 9-11 a.m. Feb. 8 at Ephram White Park, 9-11 a.m. Feb. 10 at Buchanon Park and 8:30-11:30 a.m. Feb.24 at Lampkin Park.