During his final planned news conference of 2021, Governor Andy Beshear updated Kentuckians on Monday about the pandemic and response to western Kentucky’s deadly tornadoes. Another infant died from injuries suffered in the December 10 storms bringing the death toll to 77 people.
Beshear said insurance companies have received 11,600 filed claims, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued $4.7 million to residents, and the Team Western Kentucky Relief Fund has collected nearly $30 million in donations. The fund has already issued $5,000 funeral expense checks to 39 families.
The state opened three additional disaster recovery centers to help survivors and state parks now house 606 displaced families. Beshear urged those impacted to visit the tornado resources website to locate services.
Beshear said the U.S. Department of Labor has set aside $25 million for residents who temporarily or permanently lost their jobs due to the tornadoes. The first $8.3 million has been distributed to the commonwealth. Workers need to file for Disaster Unemployment Assistance online, by calling 502-875-0442, or by visiting one of the following in-person sites on December 28 or 29:
Greenwood Shopping Mall
262 Scottsville Road
233 Ring Road
56 Federal Street
1220 Eagles Way
3108 Fairview Drive
Each site is open December 28, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. CST. Bowling Green, Elizabethtown and Owensboro will hold those same hours on December 29; the Madisonville and Mayfield locations will be open 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. CST. Residents must apply by January 18, 2022.
All wastewater systems are now operational although one has reduced operation, according to Beshear.
Beshear reported that the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate is 11.8%. Unlike in past pandemic surges, he said the positivity rate will not be the leading indicator of concern. Instead, he will monitor the hospitalization rate.
“If it’s Omicron,” he explained, “then we are concerned but we’re not panicked because thus far in every place that we have data, save maybe one, the level of disease that it causes is much less severe than Delta. We also have many less people in the hospital and we have many more people vaccinated.”
The governor did not say how many people currently make up the key pandemic statistics, but he added, “Hospitalizations are holding steady at the moment, intensive care units (ICUs) have seen a moderate increase but not cause for alarm yet, and ventilator use is flat or maybe a small increase.”
He said 62% of Kentucky’s total population has now received at least one dose of the vaccine. Of Kentuckians over the age of 18, 73% have received the vaccine.
Beshear urged more to get inoculated as the commonwealth waits to learn how the latest variant will impact the state. He recommended schools not already requiring masks shift to universal masking when students return to class after the new year.