State COVID numbers up, Guard to help on Mexican border, memorial taking shape

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Governor announced Thursday the next phase in creating a permanent Team Kentucky Memorial to honor Kentuckians lost to COVID-19.

To date, more than 80 artists have indicated interest in designing the memorial.

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A panel of experts from state government and local art organizations selected 11 finalists that will now submit in-depth proposals for their vision.

During a weekly briefing Thursday, Gov. Andy Beshear said he will be creating a Team Kentucky Memorial Community Advisory Panel, which will include family members and loved ones of those lost, health care heroes, first responders and COVID-19 survivors, to select the final design.

For more information and to apply to be on the panel, visit tah.ky.gov.

Beshear also said for the next week, people who wish to have a flag from the current memorial may come collect one from the Capitol grounds before all are removed Friday, July 16.

Anyone needing assistance in collecting a flag, may contact the Governor’s Office of Constituent Services and make a request.

Beshear updated Kentuckians on the status of COVID-19 vaccinations across the commonwealth.

The Governor said the state’s vaccination rate is remaining steady, and thousands of Kentuckians have signed up for the Shot at a Million incentive drawing following the state’s first drawing last week.

Since then, more than 177,000 adult Kentuckians have registered for the $1 million prize and more than 5,000 Kentuckians ages 12 to 17 registered for a full-ride scholarship.

Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, said after eight weeks of decreasing cases in Kentucky, last week, cases and the positivity rate increased.

To protect everyone and be able to keep taking part in activities they enjoy, he encouraged all Kentuckians, especially younger Kentuckians, to get vaccinated.

“If you have a football team with 50 people on it, think about a high school varsity football team, if 20% are vaccinated and 80% are not, here’s what could happen. If you’re in a locker room with all these kids for more than 15 minutes, and you have one positive case, every single one of those players will count as an exposure, because they’re probably all unmasked and close together. If your team is only 20% vaccinated, that means 40 of the students have to be quarantined, and you can’t field a team with just 10 players. But if the team is 80% vaccinated, only 10 kids have to be quarantined and you still have 40 players,” said Dr. Stack. “Here’s the bottom line for students, parents and coaches: if you want to stay safe and on top of that, play sports, the single best thing you can do is go out and get vaccinated.”

Also, Beshear said after a notice from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Guard Bureau, Kentucky will send approximately 220 Kentucky National Guard soldiers to support the Southwest Border (SWB) mission in late 2021.

Kentucky National Guard soldiers will be deployed on federal Title 10 status and will provide operational and logistics support.

The Kentucky National Guard soldiers will join the estimated 3,000 guard personnel requested from other states to support the SWB mission.

“This is a direct request from the federal government, from the Department of Homeland Security,” said Beshear. “This is not a request made from several governors that are out there, without the backing of the federal government. What this means is we will have a clear chain of command, we will have clear missions that come down through the military and our Guardsmen and women will have the authority that is necessary and also legal protections.”

The governor also recognized Team Kentucky All-Stars who represent the best of Kentucky.

The governor thanked Hodgenville Chief of Police James Richardson for his role in increasing autism awareness among officers in his community, which included designing and printing decals that autistic Kentuckians or their parents or caregivers can stick to their doors or bumpers so police are aware they might interact with officers differently or need additional support.

He also congratulated Madison Lilley for being named the SEC Female Athlete of the Year. Lilley was a member of the 2020-21 University of Kentucky women’s volleyball team, which won the national championship.

The Governor thanked Ballard High School alumnus Trevon Davidson for organizing a drive to donate 343 pairs of shoes to local organizations in Louisville this summer.