Pandemic Special Session Expected

At a Monday news conference in which he announced Kentucky’s COVID cases had reached new record levels, Governor Andy Beshear said he is prepared to call a special session of the General Assembly as soon as possible.

“My goal is to call a special session as soon as legislative leaders have reached a consensus about what can be done,” he told reporters. “It needs to happen soon, and it probably needs to happen before the state of emergency in and of itself may go away.”

Just more than one week ago, a Kentucky Supreme Court ruling on House Bill 1, Senate Bill 1, Senate Bill 2, and House Joint Resolution 77 ensured any statewide actions concerning the pandemic require legislative involvement. Legislators passed the bills in the 2021 session to restrict the governor’s emergency powers.

When asked whether he would hold off calling the session to get everything he wants, Beshear said, “I’m going to seek all of the tools (to fight COVID-19) that I can, but I’m not going to hold off. If I want eight tools, and I can get all but two, that’s better than nothing.”

He spotlighted the need for schools to receive more non-traditional instruction (NTI) days as a big reason to act soon. School districts weighing the cost of canceling classes due to coronavirus cases are hesitant to decide unless absentee days do not impact funding.

Monday’s COVID report included 2,619 new cases ‒ the highest Monday since the pandemic began last year. In addition, the state experienced single-day records in (1) hospitalizations, 2,198; (2) patients in intensive care units (ICU), 615; and (3) people on ventilators, 361. The governor stated that only 15 adult ICU beds are currently available across the state. Monday’s 13.45% positivity rate was also a new record.

Beshear continued to state that the surge in cases is fueled by the unvaccinated. Since March 1, 87.1% of Kentucky’s COVID deaths have been among the unvaccinated, and they represent 90.8% of hospitalized COVID patients. “We could stop this by everyone getting vaccinated tomorrow,” Beshear insisted.

This week, Kentucky National Guard support teams will arrive to help some hospitals. Three Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Emergency Medical Services (EMS) strike teams arrived on Friday to assist in Somerset, Prestonsburg, and Louisville.

Kentucky also requested a nurse strike team. Beshear said Kentucky should receive at least one. Additionally, nursing students are helping staff area hospitals needing support and COVID-19 testing.

According to Monday’s statistics, 2.52 million Kentuckians have received the vaccine, and 68% of all Kentucky adults have received at least one dose ‒ a 1% increase from last week. Those older than age 65 continue to lead all age groups with 85% vaccinated.