Beshear Updates on COVID and Disaster Relief

Governor Andy Beshear updated Kentuckians on disaster relief efforts following the western Kentucky tornadoes and the pandemic. On Saturday, he reported the first confirmed case of the Omicron variant in Kentucky. At a Monday afternoon news conference, the governor warned unvaccinated Kentuckians that the variant should serve as a warning to get a shot.

While states such as New York have seen an increase in cases and hospitalizations, Beshear said Kentucky is in a three-week leveling-off period ‒ although the state’s positivity rate is inching higher.

Beshear reported 1,206 Kentuckians are currently hospitalized, 325 in intensive care, and 176 breathing with the assistance of a ventilator. Kentucky’s positivity rate is 9.20%. Hospitalizations will be what the state watches most closely to determine Omicron’s impact.

Beshear urged people to get vaccinated. “It may be that you could still contract Covid, the Omicron variant, if you are vaccinated, but it doesn’t look like you will get very sick. It’s unlikely you’ll get very sick. If you are unvaccinated, it looks like it could hit you very hard.”

The percentage of unvaccinated Kentuckians is now at 62% ‒ 2.749 million residents. Beshear said 66% of eligible people and 73% of those over 18 had received at least one shot. He reported that researchers found the Moderna vaccine should provide protection from the latest variant. “Pfizer’s testing has also found that its’ Covid-19 vaccine caused a similar increase in antibodies for fighting Omincron,” he added.

The tornado death toll now stands at 76. Beshear said an additional employee of the Mayfield candle company died in the hospital. He asked Kentuckians to continue to pray for the injured, noting that at least one person is still in very critical condition.

No one is reported missing from the storm, there are no active search or rescue operations, and all state roads are now drivable. The governor said 904 survivors are living in 20-plus facilities, from state parks to hotels. More than 500 national guard personnel are still on the ground, but they will be drawn down this week.

So far, victims have filed 1,023 insurance claims and 7,700 FEMA claims. Victims continue to file online applications as crews canvass impacted areas.

Volunteers will begin handing out the hundreds of thousands of toys collected for children who lost their belongings in the storms. Storm victims can pick up toys from 10 a.m. CST to 4 p.m. CST Tuesday, December 21 and Thursday, December 23 at the following locations:

  • Kenlake State Resort Park in Hardin
  • Lake Barkley State Resort Park in Cadiz
  • Pennyrile Forest State Park in Dawson Springs
  • Hope House Ministries at Forest Park Baptist Church in Bowling Green
  • West Kentucky Education Cooperative (WKEC) in Eddyville

The governor reiterated that the state is accepting applications for Disaster Unemployment Assistance for people in the 14 western Kentucky counties impacted by tornadoes. Individuals who became unemployed or those who are self-employed and had work interrupted in Caldwell, Christian, Fulton, Graves, Hart, Hickman, Hopkins, Logan, Lyon, Marshall, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Taylor, and Warren counties due to severe storms, straight-line winds, flooding, and tornadoes on December 10 can apply.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency funds the disaster unemployment payments and benefits are not charged to employers. Affected individuals should visit the Kentucky Career Center website or call 502.875.0442 to file their initial claim. The deadline to apply for assistance is January 18, 2022.