As COVID-19 cases increase, the Kentucky Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet (KYTAHC) announced a sweepstakes for vaccinated Kentuckians. Prizes include overnight stays, golf rounds, and camping gift certificates. Cabinet Secretary Mike Berry described the sweepstakes during Governor Andy Beshear’s news conference on Thursday.
The “Vax and Visit KY” sweepstakes will award 30 winners over three drawing dates: September 9, September 23, and October 7. Vaccinated Kentuckians older than 18 years of age may enter for several prizes. Click here to enter.
Beshear said he did not yet have Thursday’s new case totals, but he expects them to exceed 3,000. Hospital intensive care units are also beginning to fill to capacity.
Officials with Thomson Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore described the pandemic’s early days and the deaths of 34 residents. Those lost will be remembered with a memorial plaque shown during the news conference. Nurses said that since public health officials provided vaccinations at the center in December 2020, there have been no resident deaths from the virus.
Their message was one of several from medical professionals who continued to push for people to get vaccinated. Beshear reported more than 2.39 million residents had been inoculated ‒ 65% of the state’s population older than 18 years of age.
He also commented on his executive order that requires school students, staff, and visitors to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. When asked whether he considered calling lawmakers to the Capitol for a special legislative session on the issue, Beshear argued that would have taken too much time. “You simply can’t make these decisions or expect a courageous decision from 100-plus people. I’m willing to take the heat. I’m willing to do the right thing,” he replied.
Beshear said he could not wait to give local leaders a chance to “do the right thing” by ordering their own mandates. More than 40 school districts announced mask requirements before the governor’s executive order. The Kentucky Board of Education unanimously passed an emergency order Thursday requiring all individuals to wear a mask inside public school facilities. The regulation spans 270 days, the maximum amount an emergency regulation can last. The board could rescind the order at any time.
Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) and others released statements critical of the executive order. “By issuing another blanket mandate concerning the use of masks in our education and childcare facilities, the governor is once again proclaiming to Kentuckians that he is above the law,” read Stivers’ statement. He also voiced support for Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s legal action that challenges the school mask mandate.
Cameron’s office released a statement on Wednesday that stated, in part, “The governor does not have to choose between following the science and following the law. The two can and should work together. If he believes that the science requires a statewide mask mandate for schools and childcare centers, then he needs to do what the law requires and work with the General Assembly to put the necessary health precautions in place.”
Thursday, Beshear responded, “If he wins, we’re having a statewide chickenpox party with the third leading cause of death.”
During the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1 to limit a governor’s executive order to 30 days unless extended by the General Assembly. Governor Beshear vetoed the measure, and lawmakers voted to override the veto, leading to a court challenge. Currently, that bill and others pertaining to the governor’s executive powers are under an injunction until the Supreme Court decides the matters.