A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Newport Business Association hosts virtual panel discussion on COVID-19, experts participate

Newport Business Association held a COVID-19 panel discussion at its virtual event this week.

The panelists included Commonwealth of Kentucky Transportation Secretary Jim Gray, President & CEO St. Elizabeth Healthcare Garren Colvin, District Director NKY Health Department, Dr. Lynne Saddler, and City of Newport, Larisa Sims. Moderator was Pat Crowley of Strategic Advisers.

Here — in brief — is what the panelists had to say:

Commonwealth of Kentucky Transportation Secretary Jim Gray

In addition to his role as Transportation Secretary, Jim Gray is overseeing the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccination process throughout the state. Over 300-sites are located across Kentucky with the goal being to keep the travel time for vaccinations to be a maximum of one-county away. Kentucky has 3 1/2 million residents qualified to receive the vaccine via the Phased process. Currently 16% of eligible residents have been vaccinated, which is a good sign for the short time the vaccine has been available to the public. New cases of the virus are currently on the decline. If this continues, Secretary Gray is confident we will see activity return to some type of normalcy by summer 2021. However, many Safety Guidelines will still need to be followed into fall/winter 2021.

President & CEO St. Elizabeth Healthcare Garren Colvin

St. Elizabeth Healthcare–Fort Thomas currently has 80 COVID-19 patients, a greatly reduced number compared to January 2021 which was 225+. The Fort Thomas facility is now in its re-opening phase with the return of routine patients, surgeries, etc.  St. E’s goal has been for the protection of its associates, requiring face masks for all employees, before the mandate was issued. They have retained their 10,000 staff associates.
He praised the continued support St. E received from Dr. Lynne Saddler and her NKY Health Department staff, State Representative Rachel Roberts, Campbell County Judge Steve Pendery and his Commissioners, plus all the cities and communities during this pandemic. St. E has provided updates 3-times-per-week to city officials/staff via virtual meetings. 45,000 vaccinations have been given by St. Elizabeth, which is a 95% distribution rate. The state has done a magnificent job with prioritizing Nursing home staff/patients, Health Care workers, First Responders, and teachers performed by dedicated workers. Looking forward to Phase 1C starting on March 1st for age 60+ individuals and age 16+ with underlying health conditions. Unfortunately, the lack of vaccines limits St. E’s ability to provide more vaccinations. He is optimistic the vaccinations will create herd immunity by summer. So optimistic, he purchased tickets for the 2021 Reds season. He concluded with a reminder to continue to mask-up.

District Director NKY Health Department Dr. Lynne Saddler

Dr. Saddler stated the NKY Health Department works together with other entities for the “common good” and the COVID-19 pandemic has solidified that relationship.  She presented multiple current updates for Campbell County: 330 cases in isolation, 7,600 total cases and 47 deaths. New cases continue to decline.  Vaccinations to date: 65,000 doses administered: 43,489 – 1st doses and 22,214 – 2nd doses representing 13.1% and 6.7% respectively for eligibility. The continued increase of vaccination sites is greatly appreciated. Phase 1A and 1B has resulted in Long Term Care, First Responders, K-12 Educators, Childcare Workers and Essential Employees to be immunized. Looking forward to Phase 1C starting on March 1st and expanding the eligibility for more vaccinations. Health Districts across the state are currently reviewing how to reach the homebound, homeless, African Americans, Hispanic, etc. She encouraged vaccinations for all eligible workers and individuals. She also stated pathogens do not care about party affiliations/politics. Listen to the professionals and follow recommended Guidelines/Procedures because the virus can/does harm everyone. She is optimistic things will be better in 6-9 months. Her closing remark was the reminder to continue preventive measures: mask-up, social distance, and hand washing.

When asked about Essential Worker classification, she responded the CDC (Center for Disease Control) sets the criteria for the Health Departments to follow for administering vaccinations. She commented Kentucky’s position is to get as many people vaccinated as possible with its limited supply. She is optimistic with the approval of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine since it is a single dose without refrigeration.

City of Newport, Larisa Sims, Assistant City Manager:

Ms. Sims reported on the success of the city’s Financial Assistance Program which benefitted 87 businesses in the city dispersing approximately $200,000 in CARES Act funding and CDBG-CV funds (Community Development Block Grant-Corona Virus) received via the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Recipients: 8 Entertainment/8 Fitness/ 36 Restaurant, bars/pubs/ 35 Retailers.

She reminded everyone the City Building remains closed to the public, but city staff is working processing Licensing applications, hosting virtual Commissioner and Committee meetings, etc.  A drop-box system has been installed in the entryway of the city building to make the application process easy for individuals unable to process on-line. All city First Responders have been vaccinated. The city did a quick transition in March 2020 to go virtual, rotating work schedules, encouraging staff to work from home for the city to continue day-to-day transactions.

NBA President, Mark Ramler closed with a reminder the NBA will be back to monthly meetings, using the virtual format. The next meeting will be Wednesday, March 31st. Future NBA topics: Newport Forward – Comprehensive Plan Update, virtual tours of Ovation Music Venue and Newport on the Levee, Job Opportunities at Newport businesses, Marketing Tips, General Assembly Update and more.

City of Newport


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