Governor Andy Beshear said Kentucky’s COVID-19 case positivity rate is 20.72% as the Omicron variant spreads through the commonwealth at a rate unseen during the pandemic. Beshear’s Monday news conference updated residents on the virus as well as tornado recovery efforts. He requested the federal government extend for 60 days 100% coverage of storm damage recovery costs.
Beshear reported that the 6,441 total COVID cases reported on December 30 were the highest one-day tally since the pandemic began. The 29,955 cases confirmed last week equaled twice the prior week and moved Kentucky from a “plateau” to a spike. “We have never seen an escalation of cases, meaning how infectious this virus is, than we are seeing with Omicron,” he said.
The governor said that home testing has resulted in many people not reporting positive cases to local health officials. Beshear insisted anyone testing positive needs to isolate, notify people they have been in recent contact with, and reach out to their healthcare provider if in need of care.
While Governor Beshear said the number of people hospitalized, in intensive care, and on a ventilator has risen, the increase is not as dramatic as overall case totals. He admitted that hospitalizations typically follow extended periods of increased cases but voiced optimism. “I expect Omicron, by percentage, will have fewer people hospitalized per number of cases. But if there are six, eight, ten times as many cases, we could end up with more people hospitalized very fast. The other concern is that it spreads so quickly that it can spread through our healthcare workers in a way that can lessen the amount of capacity that we have.”
Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Stephen Stack insisted that children wear masks in schools. “If you open a school this week, and you’re not requiring masks, you are going to infect the whole building in the first two weeks. It’s going to happen that fast.”
When asked if he wanted to require children to wear a mask in school, Beshear said, “If I still had the authority to do so, masking would be required in every Kentucky school because no school is going to make it without doing it.” He added, “I have or am asking the General Assembly to return the authority to require masking in public schools. I don’t expect them to do it, but I do believe it is necessary, and I think we’ve seen the pressures on local levels are just too much for some leaders to do what I think each one knows is necessary and right.”
Dr. Stack discussed changing isolation requirements for people who test positive or are exposed to the virus. The requirement differs depending on a person’s vaccination status, testing record, and level of contact with an infected individual. Click here to see the chart of new requirements.
Both men reiterated the importance for people to get vaccinated and a booster.
Beshear intends to hold his State of the Commonwealth Address in House chambers on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. EST, unless pandemic conditions require him to speak remotely.
Governor Beshear also reported that he requested the federal government extend its offer to pay 100% of tornado recovery costs for an additional 60 days. During a tour of areas damaged by the storms that hit western Kentucky on December 10, President Joe Biden said the government would cover the first 30 days of recovery costs.
Beshear said that only 3% of debris removal is complete, and the Army Corps of Engineers predicts they won’t finish their mission until the end of April. Their estimated cost is $100 million. Beshear said the combined local cost if the federal government initiated its planned 25% share would equal $67 million.
The United States Department of Labor approved Beshear’s order temporarily suspending the work search requirement and waiting period for unemployment benefits for tornado survivors. Only those directly impacted by the storms will fall under the criteria for near-immediate benefits.
Mayfield Mayor Kathy O’Nan asked the Kentucky League of Cities to share a letter of gratitude for the many city officials and Kentuckians who pitched in to help her city recover from the deadly storm.
To my fellow mayors across the commonwealth and to our KLC family:
Before the sun rose on December 11, 2021, the words from each of you echoed what still continues today ‒ we are not alone in the devastation. I heard your prayers ‒ I heard your offers of help. And I know all of those offers still stand. Our own folks rallied immediately with equipment ‒ farmers clearing the paths for the emergency vehicles, school buses ferrying hurting, lost people to shelters. The outpouring of help from within our own state and across the nation is humbling and has been much needed.
We said goodbye to the NY State Emergency Management Team yesterday ‒ a group sent only to major catastrophic events such as 9/11, Katrina, and now Mayfield. I have never, ever witnessed a more efficient, professional group ‒ but they left us much better than they found us. Speaking only for myself, I feel like they carried us when we were barely able to stand. The 29 of them have been replaced by an eight-person EMS team from Virginia, and we welcome them.
We still have human needs ‒ people displaced and living with such uncertainty ‒ but through the efforts of so many volunteers, repair, demolition, and some rebuilding has begun. Our efforts to care for our people will never end until their needs are met, but this week we will begin to do city business. We have a conference call with the White House, a Zoom meeting with former and current Joplin, MO, city officials, and presentations from firms specializing in so many areas we do not have the personnel to man.
We are still standing strong and proud ‒ determined to honor our past while building a better future. From the bottom of my heart, I send our thanks for all you have offered to our beloved city. It is truly evident that none of us can survive alone and that when there is a need Kentuckians step forward.
I wish each of you many blessings in the coming year.
With a full heart,-