FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Millions of dollars for child care relief and to help homeowners behind on their mortgages are the latest opportunities for the state to invest in what the economy and future will look like in a post-COVID climate.
But residents still must do more to tame the coronavirus as small signs continue to suggest the state could be on the verge of a fourth surge, Gov. Andy Beshear warned Thursday.
“We have a chance not just to save but to build it up,” Beshear said when asked about $763 million in federal child care assistance announced Thursday by the Biden Administration.
“It’s an opportunity to think about things differently…a chance for us to have more and better child care options,” Beshear continued, noting the pandemic has put many facilities out of business while at the same time pointing out the need for more facilities, often with more flexibility.
How and when the money will be distributed has not yet been determined.
The state also plans to apply Friday for the first 10 percent of $85.4 million in federal assistance for homeowners who have fallen behind on mortgage payments because of the coronavirus financial impact. The funding is similar to millions of dollars allocated in the last year to help renters and landlords avoid a large eviction crisis.
But making the most of those opportunities and expediting a recovery will mean the state must not ignore some of the signs the coronavirus and its variants still are serious threat.
Those signs include a higher number of cases this week than last week, an increasing positivity rate and a growing number of hospitalizations and patients in an ICU or on a ventilator.
To make matters worse, the number of cases and hospitalizations among younger people is rising, an indicator that has foreshadowed significant outbreaks in other states.
Of the 834 new cases reported Thursday, 116 were in people 18 and under. Overall, the positivity rate was 3.45 %, up from 3.33% Wednesday.
“It’s ticking up and up and up,” the governor noted, calling the increases not significant “but very worrisome.”
“The way to defeat it is vaccines,” he said, stressing a point he’s made since setting a challenge of getting 2.5 million adults vaccinated in the state as a goal to remove many of the capacity limits on businesses in the state.
“The numbers are reason to be concerned. We are so close to the end. Now that we have the vaccines, there should be no excuse. We shouldn’t say were weren’t willing to wear a mask for another month or six weeks, that we weren’t willing to get a vaccine because we thought it wouldn’t harm us,” he urged.
As a way to make getting a vaccination even more convenient, the state is shifting the focus from some large, centralized clinics to convenience like flu vaccines. That includes providing shots in every pharmacy, grocery stores, even mobile clinics that go into neighborhoods.
“The more we get vaccinated, the harder and harder our job will be,” Beshear stated, noting the more people vaccinated means fewer people are available to get it. “The challenge will get more difficult every week, but that’s a good challenge to have.”
As of Thursday, the state is 877,076 vaccinations short of 2.5 million goal with 1,622,924 people having received at least their first shot. That’s 46% percent of the 16 and over population and almost 48 percent of the 18 and over group, still well short of the 70% goal.
The state reported 17 deaths Thursday, bringing the total lost to COVID-related causes to 6,302. A total of 416 people are in the hospital, 102 are in ICU and 49 are on ventilators.