Beshear gives update on COVID, storm response

Published 9:03 am Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Gov. Andy Beshear updated Kentuckians Monday on the state’s response to the devastating storms that hit Western Kentucky just over a week ago and to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The message is pretty simple: Omicron is spreading faster than anything we’ve ever seen, and it looks like this might be one of the most contagious viruses in modern history,” said Gov. Beshear.

“Unfortunately, some of the therapeutics won’t work on it. But what does work is being vaccinated and being boosted. If you haven’t gotten vaccinated yet, please consider doing it now.”

The governor also reported today that, according to the company, Moderna’s COVID-19 booster dose should offer protection against the omicron variant. Lab tests revealed the half-dose booster shot increased by 37 times the level of antibodies able to fight omicron and a full-dose booster generated an 83-fold jump in antibodies. They did note that the full-dose booster had an increase in the usual side effects. The full-dose booster is recommended for people with weakened immune systems; the half-dose booster is more commonly administered. Similar results have been found in tests of Pfizer’s booster shots.

“So the message here again is, these vaccines are helping to prevent severe disease and we need everyone to go get a Pfizer or Moderna booster as soon as they’re eligible,” Gov. Beshear said.

COVID-19 Case Information, Vaccinations Update
• Number of people who have received at least one vaccine dose in Kentucky: 2,749,942• Number of people who have received a vaccination booster in Kentucky: 777,448
• Number of cases:
Dec. 18, Cases: 2,575
Dec. 18, Deaths: 32
Dec. 19, Cases: 1,531
Dec. 19, Deaths: 29
• New Cases Monday: 1,215
• New Deaths: 32
• Monday’s Positivity Rate: 9.20%
• Current Hospitalizations: 1,206
• Current Intensive Care Admittances: 325
• Currently on Ventilators: 176

During the week ending Dec. 19, 15,588 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Kentucky, and the average test positivity rate was 9.06%.

Western Kentucky Tornado Toll
Gov. Beshear said the most accurate number of lives lost now stands at 76. The Governor has said multiple times he has been waiting to confirm three people from Dawson Springs that at one point had been included in Hopkins County’s report. He said those three are believed to already be counted in the Caldwell County numbers. The Governor said that would have pushed the number back to 75, but one additional employee of the candle factory who escaped the collapse later succumbed to their injuries.
Gov. Beshear said there continues to be no one listed as missing from the storm. No active search or rescue operations are underway, he said.

Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund
As of Monday morning, the relief fund set up by the Beshear administration to help those in Western Kentucky impacted by the devastating tornado storms that hit the region Dec. 10 has received 112,079 donations totaling $21,483,814.

First Lady’s Western Kentucky Toy Drive
To help distribute the toys donated through First Lady Britainy Beshear’s Western Kentucky Toy Drive, locations across the state will host a Christmas storefront on Tuesday, Dec. 21, and Thursday, Dec. 23, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. CST. Locations include,
• Kenlake State Resort Park, 542 Kenlake Road, Hardin, KY 42048
• Lake Barkley State Resort Park, 3500 State Park Road, Cadiz, KY 42211
• Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park, 20781 Pennyrile Lodge Road, Dawson Springs, KY
• Hope House Ministries at Stryker Logistics, 308 Dishman Lane, Bowling Green, 42101
• West Kentucky Educational Cooperative, 435 Outlet Avenue, Eddyville, KY 42038

For those unable to make it to the storefront site, please email toydrive@ky.gov with county of residents in the subject line to arrange an alternative delivery method.

Kentucky State Parks Update
Kentuckians displaced by the tornadoes are being lodged at Kentucky state resort parks. Currently there are 226 state park rooms occupied by displaced Kentuckians and 92 rooms have been provided for first responders.

Kentucky State Parks will be looking for volunteers after the New Year to help with dining room, kitchen, housekeeping and laundry as well as some maintenance work assistance. Those interested in volunteering should contact Andy Kasitz via email at andy.kasitz@ky.gov and provide the following information: your name, a cell phone number, the name of park(s) at which you wish to volunteer and your availability.

Team Kentucky All-Stars
Today, Gov. Beshear named Kentucky State Park employees as this week’s Team Kentucky All-stars for their continued efforts to care for and house displaced Kentuckians from last week’s historic tornadoes. The Governor shared that some employees of Pennyrile State Resort Park are now living at the park after losing their own homes in the storm, yet they are still showing up daily to help staff the park showing their dedication and compassion to the people of Western Kentucky.

Driver’s License Replacement
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet opened a temporary driver licensing issuance station in Mayfield. Fees are waived for disaster victims needing to replace lost operator licenses, permits and state ID cards. The office, at 355 Charles Drive, will operate Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CST, through at least Jan. 28.
A temporary driver licensing station will be set up in Dawson Springs once an appropriate space is located.

Insurance Claims
As of Monday morning, the Department of Insurance (DOI) has received 10,235 insurance claims of which 84 have been addressed and closed. DOI provided on-site consumer assistance Monday. A toll-free number is available for additional consumer assistance: 800-595-6053.
Insurance companies are reportedly onsite in Western Kentucky and claims adjusters are working with affected residents.

Disaster Unemployment Assistance
Kentuckians who became unemployed or who are self-employed and had work interrupted in one of 14 counties as a direct result of the severe storms, straight-line winds, flooding and tornadoes on Dec. 10, 2021, are eligible to apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) benefits through the Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance. The 14 counties are Caldwell, Christian, Fulton, Graves, Hart, Hickman, Hopkins, Logan, Lyon, Marshall, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Taylor and Warren.

To qualify for DUA benefits, claimants in eligible counties must show that their employment or self-employment was lost or interrupted as a direct result of the disaster and that they are not otherwise eligible for traditional unemployment insurance benefits under state or federal law. Farmers and other self-employed individuals who are traditionally ineligible for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits may qualify for DUA.

Affected individuals should visit the Kentucky Career Center website or call 502-875-0442 to file their initial claim. The deadline to apply for assistance is Jan. 18, 2022. For more information, visit kcc.ky.gov.

Beware of Bad Actors
Kentucky State Police is warning Kentuckians affected by the tornadoes to be aware of fraudulent disaster relief workers. These individuals may be posing as FEMA representatives, American Red Cross workers, insurance adjusters, contractors for debris removal or general contractors.

While there have been reports of fraudulent workers, there are also legitimate FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance teams, housing inspectors and other officials working in areas impacted by the storms.

Legitimate FEMA representatives carry official identification badges with photo IDs and will have residents’ relevant FEMA application numbers.

FEMA and U.S. Small Business Administration representatives never charge applicants for disaster assistance, inspections or help with filling out applications for federal assistance. FEMA representatives will never promise a disaster grant in return for payment and are never authorized to collect your personal financial information.

Anyone observing individuals removing items from properties where they do not belong should contact law enforcement. KSP, Kentucky National Guard and local law enforcement are providing saturated patrols in storm-damaged areas to fend off this criminal activity. Suspicious individuals or activity can be reported to KSP at 270-856-3721.

FEMA Assistance
Survivors may continue to apply for assistance by calling 800-621-3362, going online to DisasterAssistance.gov, or using the FEMA App. We’ve seen significant progress getting those who have been impacted registered for assistance. Already, there are more than 8,500 validated registrants approved for more than $2.6 million. FEMA is currently operating seven Mobile Registration Centers and two Disaster Recovery Centers are now open in Hopkins and Warren counties.

Debris Removal
Debris management and removal is a key priority. Counties are identifying and approving locations, and we are working with county and city leaders and our state and federal partners to ensure program understanding and compliance, while at the same time securing contracts to remove and monitor debris.

Economic Development Announcements
Gov. Beshear noted three recent announcements for more jobs and investments coming to Kentucky.
• Universal Piping Industries Inc., a subsidiary of Gallagher-Kaiser Corp. and fabricator of prepackaged industrial piping assemblies, will construct a new operation in Georgetown and consolidate its existing Lexington facilities, adding 25 new high-wage jobs. See the full release here.
• Taylor Corp., among the largest graphic communications companies in North America, will invest $18.8 million in its Radcliff operation and create 28 quality job opportunities in the Radcliff area. See the full release here.
• Commonwealth Rolled Products Inc. will invest more than $167 million in its Lewisport aluminum rolling mill, a project that will create 40 full-time jobs in the years ahead. See the full release here.
Build Back Better Regional Challenge

At Monday’s briefing, Gov. Beshear announced that Kentucky is a finalist for the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge. The Build Back Better Regional Challenge aims to boost economic pandemic recovery and rebuild communities, including some that have been grappling with decades of disinvestment.

Kentucky is one of 60 finalists, chosen from a pool of 529 applicants, and will receive a grant of approximately $500,000 to further develop the proposed project, Prosperity through AgriTech Hub, or Kentucky’s PATH.

The proposal involves five aligned projects that revolve around the construction of a new state-of-the-art AgriTech research and development center that will establish Eastern Kentucky as an agriculture technology hub.

A diverse group of partners that includes international partners, economic development agencies, workforce innovation boards, colleges and universities, industry leaders and local governments is joining together to elevate PATH.