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0:02 - Introduction and Initial Question

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Partial Transcript: David James: Hi, my name is David James and I am the president of the Louisville Metro Council.

Peggy Cummins: David, can you describe who you were and what your life was like prior to your realization of the gravity of the COVID virus?

Segment Synopsis: Peggy Cummins, the interviewer, briefly describes the oral history project. David James, the interviewee, describes that prior to the pandemic, the Louisville Metro Council was moving into a new legislative year and were figuring out ways to be better with the city budget - especially with the pension crisis.

Keywords: COVID-19; Louisville (Ky.); Louisville Metro Council; Pension Crisis

2:46 - The Wake-up Call

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Partial Transcript: As soon as you found out about the seriousness of the pandemic, how did your life immediately change, personally and professionally, then and up until now?

Segment Synopsis: James explains that he has always paid attention to pandemics. He was once a FEMA instructor who taught Incident Command. Early on in 2020, James was worried about the COVID-19 pandemic and was staying informed about what was happening in China. He and his wife became worried about the supply chain interruptions and they stockpiled two-weeks worth of supplies for their family.

James notes that by March 13, 2020, the day Breonna Taylor was killed and the day that the cancellation of the NCAA basketball tournament was announced, he and his wife had stocked their supplies. James remembers that around this time, he was scheduled to speak to a national sorority at the Galt House. There were supposed to be 5,000 people in attendance. The event was cancelled.

James' colleague in the Metro Council, Paula McCraney was hospitalized due to COVID-19 in March 2020. James thought she was going to die. McCraney's husband was also hospitalized with the virus. James states that this was the wake-up call for everyone on Metro Council.

James describes the difficulty the hospital had in caring for McCraney due to the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The breathing treatment that McCraney needed, could not be administered without putting the healthcare workers at risk due to the shortage of PPE. James states that his colleague's experience gave him a firsthand account of the serious problems facing the doctors and nurses attempting to care for patients fighting COVID-19.

James describes the difficulty the city faced in purchasing PPE. He remembers that early on in the pandemic, masks were $0.92 and they price skyrocketed to $7.50 per mask. The city was bidding agains other counties, other cities, and other states for PPE. He describes this time as a nightmare. James remembers holding his head in his hands thinking, "How are we going get through this? How much is it going to cost?"

At this time, he was learning how to use Zoom and Webex.

James describes the lack of proper public education about the COVID-19 virus from a national level.

In James' district, district 6, there is a senior living facility, Treyton Oak Towers. Twenty-nine people died from COVID-19 in that tower. James reveals that he had a friend who was a resident of a senior living facility who passed away due to COVID-19 in March of 2020.

James states that he felt like he had a mission to help secure PPE and to help people push past the politics of the virus and into the reality of COVID-19.

There were weekly phone calls with the Metro Council Members and the Mayor of Louisville to provide accurate information to their constituents.

James describes the steady increase in cases during the early weeks of the pandemic. There were difficult conversations regarding religion and if places of worship should shut down.

James continues to discuss the conversations he's had throughout the year regarding gatherings and the spread of misinformation.

Keywords: COVID-19; FEMA; Louisville (Ky.); Louisville Metro Council; National Incident Management System (NIMS) - FEMA; Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); The Galt House Hotel; Webex; Zoom

17:00 - Local, State, and Federal Governing during COVID-19

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk a little bit about how the various levels of government have handled this. You've talked a little bit about the local level, do you feel pretty confident about Metro?

Segment Synopsis: James states that Dr. Sarah Moyer, the Chief Health Strategist for the city of Louisville, is excellent at her job. Cummins and James state that they are confident in the abilities and leadership of Marty Pollio, Superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS), Abby Piper, Executive Administrator, Government and Community Relations (JCPS), and Brent McKim, Jefferson County Teachers Association.

At the state level, James has had conversations with Governor Andy Beshear and Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky Commissioner Department for Public Health regarding state-mandated closures and guidelines.

Cummins and James discuss the politicization of the COVID-19 pandemic by President Donald Trump, Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and Kentucky Attorney General, Daniel Cameron.

James describes the communities most impacted by COVID-19 and the failings of the government to protect its people.

Keywords: Jefferson County Public Schools; Jefferson County Teachers Association; Kentucky Department of Public Health; Louisville Metro Council

32:55 - COVID-19, Racism, Homelessness, and Job Insecurity

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Partial Transcript: Well, let's talk a little bit about the pandemic within the pandemic. Is the gravity of the problem (with racism) connected with the stress of the pandemic?

Segment Synopsis: James describes that there is a quality of life issue in the time of the pandemic - we cannot gather in-person to converse, discuss, and debate. People need to express their feelings, relieve their anxiety and their frustrations in a community setting where they feel they are being heard.

James discusses violence, the COVID-19 pandemic, and economic stresses.

James states that he thinks it is a good thing we are having conversations about racism.

Keywords: Injustice Square Park; Jefferson Square Park

41:22 - Connection and Loss

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Partial Transcript: Can you say anything good that has happened to you, come into your life, as a result of the virus?

Segment Synopsis: James states that he has learned to appreciate his connectivity to people that he didn't appreciate before. James appreciates being around other people and he has learned to tell people that he loves them.

James talks about the loss of physical touch and the dangers of isolation.

James' uncle-in-law passed away due to COVID-19. He discusses the physical limitations at the funeral and how that has impacted the grieving process for families world-wide.

47:56 - The New Normal

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Partial Transcript: Once the virus is passed its acute phase and we have a vaccine, say, for example, what do you think the new normal will be like?

Segment Synopsis: James discusses the ways in which developers and employers are strategizing a new work environment. James and Cummins discuss public health in the future and what other public health crises may come along.

James states that the original occupant of his home in Old Louisville died due to the Spanish Influenza of 1918.