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Vaccinating school personnel begins

As students returned to school Monday, local educators lined up at The Medical Center at Bowling Green to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

Warren County Public Schools Superintendent Rob Clayton and Bowling Green Independent School District Superintendent Gary Fields received their first doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

Fields, who said he received the Pfizer vaccine, said the experience was as simple as getting a flu shot. At The Medical Center, where school employees received the vaccine by appointment only, Fields compared the mood there to being liberated from a siege.

“It was surreal,” Fields said, adding that the late Dr. Rebecca Shadowen, who lost her life to the disease, was on his mind.

On Monday, The Medical Center gave those who received the vaccine commemorative bookmarks honoring Shadowen. The memento included a quote from Shadowen in May before her health worsened.

“You are my heroes, friends, colleagues, and family,” Shadowen wrote at the time. “I hope soon to be free again!”

Shadowen died Sept. 11. She was 62 years old.

“I encourage people to get the vaccine,” Fields told the Daily News, adding that it will hasten the return to some sense of normalcy. “I would hope that everybody will join together and make that possible.”

Gov. Andy Beshear on Monday announced 2,085 new COVID-19 cases, including 21 additional deaths. The state’s positivity rate is now at 12.35%.

Locally, the Barren River District Health Department has announced 21,323 cases since the pandemic started, 17,816 of which have recovered. The department said its eight-county region has 227 deaths reported from COVID-19.

The breakdown of recovered/deaths/total cases by county is Barren: 2,454, 35, 2,878; Butler: 770, 16, 958; Edmonson: 538, 13, 648; Hart: 1,094, 11, 1,350; Logan: 1,599, 40, 1,899; Metcalfe: 552, 10, 653; Simpson: 1,108, 14, 1,338; and Warren: 9,701, 88, 11,599.

In Allen County, the local health department wrote on its Facebook page that it would begin vaccinating residents 70 years old and older and above Wednesday.

Those who fit that criteria should call the Allen County Health Department (270-239-7378) to make an appointment. Patients should bring a driver’s license or other proof of address to receive the vaccine.

“Once the vaccine is available, the health department will contact the resident to schedule an appointment,” the department wrote in the post.

The Warren County and Bowling Green school districts returned to the hybrid schedules they used before closing for a second time last month.

“You could tell that they were excited to see their teachers and their friends,” Fields said of his experience welcoming middle and high school students back for in-person classes Monday.

Between WCPS and BGISD, nearly 2,000 employees have signed up to get initial doses of the coronavirus vaccine, district representatives said.

“I think it’ll bring some peace of mind to our staff for sure,” Fields said.

Even as it continues vaccinating health care workers, Med Center Health is now authorized to begin vaccinating first responders, K-12 school personnel and anyone 70 or older.

Those who match that criteria can text the word “SENIOR” to 270-796-3200 or send an email to vaccine @mchealth.net with the individual’s full name, date of birth and phone number.

The vaccines are available by appointment only, and Med Center Health requests the public to refrain from calling its hospital lines to get on the appointment waiting list.

Melinda Joyce, Med Center Health vice president of corporate support services, said in a statement that applicants will get a notification of their vaccination appointment but asked for patience. Those who’ve made appointments must also keep them, Joyce said, since the vaccine is only viable for a few hours after it’s removed from storage.

“Med Center Health is using all vaccines it receives and has not – and will not – waste a drop of what is received.”

The bulk of Med Center Health’s vaccine doses are from Pfizer, Joyce said.

“We are continuing to schedule individuals from the 1A and 1B phases, concentrating on health care workers, first responders, and school personnel in Warren and Simpson counties. We will also be adding some individuals 70 and older as the schedules permit. We are planning to offer clinics daily for this week and continue to evaluate,” she said.

Like other hospitals across the state administering the vaccine, The Medical Center does not know how many doses of the vaccine it will receive each week, Joyce wrote. Clinic availability depends on how many quantities of the vaccine the hospital has at one time, she wrote.

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @NewsByAaron or visit bgdailynews.com.

"Sis" of the Vette City Chapter of Guardians Of The Children stands with other members in silence during Phoenix Rising's fourth annual candlelight vigil honoring National Human Trafficking Awareness Day on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, on the steps of City Hall. (Grace Ramey/photo@bgdailynews.com)

Bowling Green City Commissioner Dana Beasley Brown reads a proclamation recognizing Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Bowling Green during the fourth annual Phoenix Rising candlelight vigil on the steps of City Hall. (Grace Ramey/photo@bgdailynews.com)

Coleman to resign as U.S. attorney

Russell Coleman, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, will resign from the position effective Jan. 20.

The chief federal prosecutor for the 53-county jurisdiction that includes Warren and its surrounding counties submitted his resignation letter Monday to President Donald Trump and Acting U.S. Attorney General Jeff Rosen.

A one-time Logan County resident and graduate of Logan County High School, Coleman was an FBI agent until a spinal tumor ended his career with the agency.

Coleman worked in the U.S. Department of Justice under two attorneys general and has also served as legal counsel to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

He was appointed U.S. attorney by Trump and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, assuming the post in 2017 for a four-year term.

“I’m proud of the outcomes of the challenging cases we worked, and I’m hopeful we delivered justice to victims,” Coleman said in a statement Monday.

Under Coleman’s leadership, the U.S. attorney’s office expanded its presence beyond Louisville, where the Western District office is headquartered.

A Bowling Green office staffed with two full-time assistant U.S. attorneys was opened last year, and staffing was increased in the existing Paducah office.

“I think he’s been an advocate for law enforcement since he’s been in that office and certainly a voice of reason in Jefferson County during all the protests and riots,” said Tommy Loving, director of the Bowling Green-Warren County Drug Task Force.

Since its opening, prosecutors in the Bowling Green office have presented several dozen cases for indictment and have taken the lead in prosecuting a drug case in which law enforcement seized 40 pounds of crystal methamphetamine and seven people were charged with various crimes in the alleged conspiracy.

Loving has long pushed for the presence of a Bowling Green office to help agents build drug cases.

“During the major meth case, that was certainly the first time in 23 years that we’ve had an assistant U.S. attorney working with us in our office after dark,” Loving said. “On many occasions, prior to the office being here, we wouldn’t have had those resources available to us.”

Coleman’s travels in the district have been focused primarily on strengthening relationships among the federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in the area, meeting with law enforcement leaders in each of the district’s 53 counties.

In addition to increasing staffing in regional offices, Coleman has contended with a spike in violent crime in Louisville and has supported a Group Violence Intervention approach to reducing gun crime and other violence by encouraging community leaders, social service providers and law enforcement to work cooperatively to deter violent crimes committed by gangs and other street-level groups.

“We must continue to build relationships between law enforcement and communities that feel under-protected and over-enforced,” Coleman said.

Coleman also joined other authorities in condemning the violence that occurred Jan. 6 when the U.S. Capitol was breached by rioters as Congress met to certify the Electoral College results of the 2020 election won by President-elect Joe Biden.

Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died from injuries suffered during the storming of the Capitol.

“I hope each and every perpetrator is brought to justice, and our country can heal from this tragic chapter,” Coleman said. “Law enforcement is not a partisan calling, and to be clear, I stand at the ready to be helpful to my successor in any way.”

– Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter @jstorydailynews or visit bgdailynews.com.

Parks department expects savings with digital processes

Social distancing, mask-wearing and hand-washing aren’t the only changes coming to the Warren County Parks and Recreation Department as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The department’s director, Chris Kummer, told Warren Fiscal Court on Friday about a new digital-based administrative system – largely an outgrowth of the pandemic – that he expects will save his department time and money.

The magistrates approved a new five-year parks department contract with XBS Copier Solutions that Kummer projects will cost about $43,000 a year when fully implemented. That’s much lower than the $185,000 per year now expended on administrative functions like payroll and purchase orders.

“As we have operated a lot differently during these hard times, it has allowed us to review our processes and do some critical self-examination,” Kummer said. “We looked at what processes we can improve upon.”

Working with XBS, Kummer said his department came up with a customized system that will reduce the need for parks personnel to bring paperwork to the county parks department office at Basil Griffin Park.

“Using this new platform, our employees can fill out time sheets and send them electronically,” Kummer said. “That’s going to be a huge time saver. We’ll simplify not just one area but a good half-dozen processes. It will save the county quite a bit of money.”

Kummer said his department will be getting equipment from XBS “in the next 30 days” that will allow for creation of digital work orders and purchase orders and other functions traditionally handled by paper.

“We always want to operate more efficiently and streamline our administrative operations,” he said. “This will allow us to use our time more efficiently.”

Fiscal court on Friday also approved issuing industrial revenue bonds for two companies planning to locate manufacturing plants in the county.

They approved issuing industrial revenue bonds of up to $80 million for Nova Steel USA, which announced in October plans to purchase an existing “speculative” building in the Kentucky Transpark and launch a manufacturing plant that is expected to eventually employ up to 110 people.

Also approved were industrial revenue bonds of up to $400 million for Ball Metal Beverage Container Corp., which announced plans this month to build in the Transpark a 450,000-square-foot plant for manufacturing tops for aluminum cans and eventually employing as many as 200 people.

The magistrates also granted Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon authority to sign an agreement with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to improve U.S. 31-W (Nashville Road) from south of Ky. 242 (Rich Pond Road) to Dillard Road.

Included in the state’s highway plan for the current biennium, the $11.69 million project is for widening and improvements to a 2.6-mile stretch of U.S. 31-W from south of Ky. 242 to Dillard Road.

Wes Watt, public information officer for the KYTC’s District 3 office in Bowling Green, said the project should go out to bid in late spring or summer. Construction will start sometime after that.

Fiscal court also approved:

  • spending $5,780 to purchase an equipment trailer for the parks department from Miles Trailer Sales.
  • spending $2,700 to purchase a heater from Big Red Supply for a new maintenance bay at Phil Moore Park.

Chris Kummer