Beshear: Any Pandemic Special Session Must Be Productive

Governor Andy Beshear said that he would call a special session about the pandemic if he felt it could be productive, adding that his administration would need to reach agreements with lawmakers before making the decision for an extraordinary session of the General Assembly.

“Without a special session that state of emergency will expire,” Beshear said of his current pandemic orders. “That has some ramifications that anyone who recognizes the pandemic is real wants to avoid.”

The comments followed weekend discussions with legislative leaders after a Kentucky Supreme Court decision meant the General Assembly must be involved in more emergency orders.

Earlier in the day, Beshear rescinded his executive order mandating all Kentucky school children wear facial coverings. Despite the announcement, the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) mask mandate remains in place.

Monday’s filing comes two days after the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled on the executive powers case. Beshear sued the General Assembly to block Senate Bill 1, House Bill 1, Senate Bill 2, and House Joint Resolution 77 from becoming law. In a rare Saturday rendition, the high court issued a unanimous opinion that a lower court should not have prevented the laws from taking effect although the constitutionality of the legislation must still be determined. Beshear said he rescinded the order in response to the high court’s decision.

During a Monday afternoon news conference, Beshear mentioned the decision and acknowledged that some policy decisions must now be made by the General Assembly. While he feels a statewide mask mandate is nearing “necessary,” Beshear said he “did not make a specific ask for a mask mandate” during talks with lawmakers. Overall, he called those discussions “productive.”

When asked whether the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine would lead him to require state workers to get vaccinated, Beshear responded, “That’s really a big policy decision and the ball is now in their (the General Assembly’s) court. I haven’t talked with them about that at all.”

Kentucky set records on Monday for total weekly COVID-19 cases, total patients hospitalized, total people in intensive care units (ICUs), and patients on a ventilator. Beshear did not give the weekly total but reported 1,893 people are now hospitalized, 529 in an ICU, and 301 on a ventilator.

The state’s positivity rate is 12.87%. Beshear attributed 17 new deaths to the pandemic.

Kentucky’s red zones now include 119 of the state’s 120 counties. To be a “red zone” a county must have more than 25 cases per 100,000 people.

In response, Beshear announced that the Kentucky National Guard will begin an operation on September 1 to assist hospitals in need. The state will call on 75 guard members for two weeks. Five teams of 15 will report to hospitals. The first scheduled to receive help include St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead, The Medical Center at Bowling Green, and Pikeville Regional Medical Center.