Beshear: If had the authority now, would have done mask mandate Wednesday

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – On Thursday during his weekly Team Kentucky update, Gov. Andy Beshear said hospitalizations have increased every day without exception for the past 42 days, from 239 people July 14 to a record 2,074 people Aug. 25.

Before the delta variant, Kentucky’s record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations was 1,817 on Dec. 17, 2020.

The Governor highlighted other statistics from July 14: On that day, there were 60 Kentuckians in the ICU for COVID-19; as of Wednesday, there were 549. On July 14, there were 25 Kentuckians with COVID-19 on a ventilator; as of Wednesday, there were 338. On July 14, the state’s COVID-19 test positivity rate was 3.81%, and it was down to a low of 1.79% June 24; Wednesday, it was 13.16%, a record high in the time since the state has had adequate testing supplies.

“My point with all of these numbers is that we are in uncharted territory. We have been fighting this virus for almost 18 months, but we have never been here before,” said Beshear. “As horrible as last year’s surge was, we were never in the position where doctors worried they’d need to choose between treating a patient who can’t breathe because of COVID or treating a patient who is bleeding out from a car accident. But that is the strain that our hospitals are under now.”

Kentucky health care heroes said vaccinations are the “No. 1 priority right now.”

“It is exhausting to see more and more patients come in who are struggling,” said Courtney Fales, registered nurse at St. Elizabeth Healthcare. “We have to work twice as hard. It takes more staff, it takes more bodies to keep these patients stable. It just makes me really want people to get vaccinated because the ones that I see struggling right now are the ones who have not gotten the vaccine.”

“The decision on broader masking, on masking throughout the commonwealth, is now one that’s going to be left to the legislature. But yesterday, having the third highest number of cases we’ve ever had and having 65 people die, that would’ve been the trigger for me,” added Beshear. “If it was in my authority to put in a masking order for indoors across the state, every other time we’ve been this high, we’ve done that, and it’s worked. It has decreased the number of cases. I can’t do that now, and I get that, and I’ll provide all of the information I can to the General Assembly. Hopefully they will make the best decision they can. But I am begging you out there, put on that mask. We desperately need for you to do it again.”

The governor announced four new testing locations across Kentucky:

Gravity Diagnostics
7 a.m. to 12 p.m. EDT
Beginning Friday, Aug. 27
Drive-through testing available daily, no appointments required

  • Danville, 224 Southtown Drive, Danville, KY 40422

Wild Health and UK Healthcare
8 a.m. to 3 p.m. EDT
Beginning Friday, Aug. 27
PCR testing only; next day results via email; walk-up appointments accepted

The Governor said North Carolina State University modeling results showed that without masks or regular testing, up to 90% of susceptible students may become infected by the end of the semester. The study demonstrated that, when used in combination, masks and testing can prevent 80% of new infections, an especially important finding for schools with children younger than 12 who cannot be vaccinated yet.

The governor stated from March 1 to Aug. 18, 2021, 85.3% of COVID-19 cases, 90.3% of COVID-19 hospitalizations and 87.4% of COVID-19 deaths were among partially vaccinated or unvaccinated Kentuckians.

As of Thursday, 2,488,328 Kentuckians have received at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine; 6,674 have been vaccinated over the past 24 hours.

Led by medical professional Guardsmen, the Kentucky National Guard has distributed approximately 10,000 vaccinations among both the general public and Department of Defense personnel in the commonwealth.

As part of Health Care Heroes Appreciation Week, the Governor recognized some of Kentucky’s Guardsmen who also serve in the medical community, including:

  • Air Guardsmen
    • Maj. Angela Himler, a registered nurse practitioner who works full time for the Air National Guard;
    • First Lt. Natasha Perry, a registered nurse at Norton Healthcare; and
    • Senior Master Sgt. Paul Vought, an Air Force medic and a cardiopulmonary technician at UK Healthcare.
  • Army Guardsmen
    • Col. Chris Howell, a physician assistant at the Lexington Veterans’ Affairs Hospital;
    • Capt. T.J. Shaddix, a physician assistant at Eastern State Hospital; and
    • Sgt. Alicia Shultz, an Army medic and ICU technician at St. Joseph Health Care.

“I stand before you as a man who grew up in the same knobs and hollers of LaRue and Nelson counties as Abraham Lincoln,” said Army Col. Chris Howell of the Kentucky National Guard. “Alongside my fellow Kentuckians, I’ve been able to play a small part in a dynamic team that has brought the fight to this pandemic, and we will continue to do so until it’s won. Please help in this fight and do your part. Please get the shot.”

“With as much as we’ve asked of both our medical professionals and our military over the last 18 months, I can only imagine how hard these folks must have worked,” saidBeshear. “Since March 2020, we’ve called on the National Guard to do a variety of jobs across the commonwealth to help combat the COVID-19 virus. In particular, our military medical professionals have helped with drive-through testing services, mass vaccination centers, mobile vaccination teams and long-term care facility and local health department support, as well as setting up and completely staffing our Alternate Care Facility at the Louisville Fair and Expo Center last summer. It’s incredible to look back at their impact.”

On Monday, Beshear said President Joe Biden extended reimbursement to states for mobilizing National Guard personnel in support of COVID-19 response efforts beyond the original deadline of Sept. 30, through the end of the calendar year. To learn more, see Monday’s release.

On Monday, Gov. Beshear said he had submitted a resource request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for additional health care professionals to help where Kentucky needs them most.

Thursday he announced that 30 FEMA personnel and 15 advanced life-support ambulance vehicles will be dispatched to Kentucky for 30 days, arriving Friday, Aug. 27.

Team Kentucky All-Stars
During Health Care Heroes Appreciation Week, Beshear visited staff at the Franklin County Health Department, Deaconess Hospital in Henderson, the Powell County Health Department and Mary & Elizabeth Hospital in Louisville to thank them for their work as life-saving Team Kentucky All-Stars.

Tomorrow and Saturday, he will visit more health care heroes in Fayette, Woodford, Anderson and Jefferson counties.

“On Monday, I signed a proclamation declaring this Health Care Heroes Appreciation Week in order to put the spotlight where it belongs as the delta variant of COVID-19 is filling up hospital beds across the nation and right here in the commonwealth,” saidBeshear. “I again urge everyone in government, everyone in media and everyone in your daily lives: This week and every week, let’s refocus and redouble our support for the people who have been keeping us healthy and safe for so long now.”

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