A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Governor says cases continuing decline, though ‘too many COVID deaths’; questions ‘end of pandemic’

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday that he is pausing his weekly COVID-19 updates as the number of cases and other metrics continue to show declines in Kentucky, “and I’m going to hope that pause becomes permanent.”

He pointed out during a Capitol press conference that while COVID is still with us, “Things continue to move in the right direction, and they are continuing to move at a regular pace. That means cases, positivity rates, hospitalizations, those in the ICU and those on a ventilator. Every metric is moving the right direction.”

There were 9,532 new cases of COVID last week, down from around 12,000 the previous week, and marking the seventh straight week of declines.

The positivity rate is down to 4.17%, the lowest since the delta and omicron variants began affecting the state, as are the hospital utilization figures.

“That’s what we really want to see,” Beshear said. “We really want to see these get down to where we were before delta. That was last summer, and right now it looks like we are headed in that direction.”

He said there is still one concern, that deaths are too high.

“Some of this is due to reports still coming in from January and February, but this continues to be a deadly virus.  283 death last week, which is comparable, if not higher, than the week before. It continues to kill people far too young.”

There have now been 14,301 deaths in Kentucky, since the start of the pandemic.

The governor also offered his thoughts on Senate Joint Resolution 150, which effectively ends the pandemic, as soon as either he signs it into law, or in the case of a veto, is overridden by both the House and Senate, saying it jeopardizes $50 million in SNAP benefits.

“SJR 150 is politics at its worst,” he said. “It will take food off the tables of more than a half-million Kentuckians, most of them struggling seniors and struggling children. The federal government is currently providing these benefits, because COVID hasn’t just hurt us in terms of health and infection, it has impacted supply chain, which has caused the price of food to increase.”

He added, “Cutting $50 million worth of food to our people is wrong, and for what? There are no COVID restrictions in Kentucky, and there haven’t been for six months.”

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, issued a statement, which said, “While the governor claims his signature on an executive order declaring a State of Emergency is the only remedy that can secure extended pandemic-related SNAP benefits, we note that a Statement of Emergency is provided through the emergency administrative regulation process.
“The governor uses his pen to sign the Statement of Emergency on the regulation, and the public has the opportunity to engage in public hearings with adequate legislative oversight. If the governor needs something from the legislature, he still has time to come to us and we have time to respond.”

Beshear responded with the hint of a veto, “These are dollars flowing from the federal government. We don’t pay one penny of it in Kentucky to get the extra help. And I, for one, certainly think our struggling kids and our struggling seniors ought to have enough food. You’ll likely see some action on that, later this week.” 

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