As COVID surge continues, state message is heroes and leadership

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Leadership and heroes, from individuals to the nation’s leadership, it’s time for a heavy dose of both, Gov. Andy Beshear and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack stressed Tuesday.

Continuing on the warnings they sounded Monday as the state starts into what is likely to be another staggering record week of new coronavirus cases, both went from almost begging to preaching on the need for everyone to take the virus seriously.

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“The vast majority of Kentuckians are good people…you want to be a hero, be a hero, wear a mask,” Stack stated, repeating a theme he started Monday by using other states to illustrate how fast the current surge can get out of hand in the state.

“We saw with the last escalation that we have the power to stop it if we simply do what we know works and that is wearing a mask and engaging in social distancing,” the governor said. “If we are honest with ourselves, we know that fewer people are wearing masks right now than they were when we took steps in July on the mask mandate to stop that escalation.”

“We are experiencing an escalation, our third major escalation in this COVID crisis, and it is significant. Last week we had 6,126 positive cases and we are on pace to have more than that this week.”

Beshear had conversations with mayors and county judges Tuesday, asking them to continue to be leaders in their communities to encourage wearing masks and other health rules and finding ways to step up enforcement.

“They’ve been leaders through all this, I just asked them to do it again,” Beshear said, adding, “I told them to blame it on me.”

At the same time, Beshear said he is meeting with the labor, public safety and Alcohol, Beverage Control board on enforcement tools and inspections to crack down on what anecdotal reports suggest are a growing numbers of businesses not following mask and social distancing guidelines.

And as expected, Beshear announced he is extending the mask mandate another 30 days.

Action could include fines to license suspensions, the governor said, noting he nor anyone else wants to but the time has come.

The governor reported 1,054 new cases Tuesday, pushing the state’s total in seven months to 74,194. Of the new cases, 144 are in kids under 18 an many counties in central and eastern Kentucky are among those with double digit new cases, including Laurel, Madison and Whitley with 24 each, Scott with 20 and Knox with 17.

The positivity ate was down slightly from Monday to 4.29 percent but some other barometers of the direction of the surge are up, the governor said, noting 592 people are hospitalized because of the coronavirus, 150 are in ICU and 93 are on ventilators.

Four more Kentuckians have died, raising the total coronavirus-related deaths to 1,218. Two were in Jefferson County and one each were in Christian and Henderson counties.

But the governor’s call for leadership and heroes wasn’t limited to himself or local leaders.

Tuesday afternoon, President Donald Trump said he was calling off any negotiations on a possible federal stimulus package to help workers, businesses and the economy, opting instead to focus on getting confirmation of his Supreme Court nominee.

Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, who has centered his campaign around his role as Senate majority leader, said he agreed with the President.

The remarks came has the head of the Federal reserve, the nation’s chief money-management and economic forecasting arm, said the nation needed another stimulus package and soon to avoid shutting down the mild recovery that has been under way.

Beshear sounded disappointed in his response when asked about their positions.

“We need it now…delaying for confirmation…I disagree…if they can’t sit down and agree on something for the good of the entire country, put politics aside, shame on them,” Beshear said.

Saying it’s time to put politics aside, Beshear continued, aiming his comments at McConnell.

“It’s your job to sit down and get something done,” Beshear said of McConnell. “Do your job.”

Moments later, Beshear was asked about Trump’s actions to remove his mask for a photo opp as soon as he got back inside the White House Monday night.

Noting he knew his response is going to be viewed politically because he is a Democrat, Beshear said setting an example and leadership aren’t political.

“The time to set an example is when the whole world is watching…it was an opportunity for true leadership, I hope he takes the opportunity to show that,” Beshear said of the President.

Ironically, earlier in the briefing, Beshear read from the White House Task Force notice issued Tuesday morning which is supposed to provide guidance nationally for states: “Masks must be worn indoors in all public settings and group gatherings should be limited.”

“We must get back to following them on a higher level,” the governor added.

For additional information, including up-to-date lists of positive cases and deaths, as well as breakdowns of coronavirus infections by county, race and ethnicity, click here. To see all recent daily reports, click here.

Information about COVID-19 and schools is also being made available. To view the reports, click here for K-12 and here for colleges and universities.