By B.N. Frank
It’s been over a year since American COVID-19 concerns have led to recommendations and mandates that many believe have been and continue to be unsafe, invasive, extreme, ineffective, and unnecessary. This includes “contract tracing” for people of all ages (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) including minor students.
Because COVID vaccines have become more readily available, some Americans are being pressured (even by businesses) to “get the shot” despite ongoing reports, testimonies, and warnings about side effects and deaths. The “pause” on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has undoubtedly validated Americans who are not interested in taking emergency issued COVID shots or any other vaccines.
Some might remember that last summer COVID concerns in Kentucky led to a couple being required to wear ankle monitors after the wife refused to sign a self-quarantine order. More recently, Governor Andy Beshear has promised to lift some COVID restrictions after 2.5 million residents are vaccinated, while state legislators have passed a bill preserving vaccine exemptions.
Gov. Beshear Announces 2.5 Million Vaccination Challenge to Lift Many Capacity Restrictions
Office of the Governor
700 Capitol AvenueFrankfortKY40601
When goal is met, capacity restrictions and physical distancing requirements for nearly all venues, events and businesses that cater to 1,000 or fewer patrons will be lifted
FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 12, 2021) – On Monday, Gov. Andy Beshear announced the Team Kentucky Vaccination Challenge: When 2.5 million Kentuckians have received at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the state will remove most capacity restrictions.
When the goal is met, the Governor said he will lift capacity restrictions and physical distancing requirements for nearly all venues, events and businesses that cater to 1,000 or fewer patrons. In addition, he will end the curfew for bars and restaurants.
“The question is, how quickly can we get there? With the vaccine supply we have, we could get there in as little as three-and-a-half weeks from now. That minimum time frame might not be realistic, but we should get there in four to six weeks if we are intentional,” said Gov. Beshear. “We have to try everything to reach this point as quickly as possible. That will help us have a more normal summer than any of us could have imagined this winter.”
Masking would remain in effect and mass gatherings would still be limited until COVID-19 variants are under control and more Kentucky children are able to be vaccinated. The Governor said Kentucky has reported cases of all three variants of concern: the B-117 variant first detected in the United Kingdom, the B-1427 and B-1429 variants first detected in California and the P1 variant first identified in Brazil.
The Governor said he estimates more than 1.6 million Kentuckians have received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine; he added that vaccination data would update to that number in the next two to three days after the state’s reporting system completed a security upgrade.
To see a list of vaccination sites that have openings this week, visit vaccinemap.ky.gov.
As he encouraged Kentuckians to get vaccinated, the Governor referenced comments from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, who said the US economy is at an “inflection point” and that economic growth and job creation could accelerate if the U.S. continues to increase vaccinations and avoids another wave of COVID-19.
COVID-19 Funeral Assistance from Federal Emergency Management Association
“We have lost more than 6,000 Kentuckians to this horrible virus, leaving many grieving families with unanticipated funeral costs,” said Gov. Beshear. “To help ease some of the stress and burden caused by the pandemic, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has opened a COVID-19 funeral assistance program that provides financial support for funeral expenses incurred due to COVID-19 related deaths.”
Starting today, applications can be submitted for financial assistance from FEMA. At this time, there is no deadline to apply for the assistance, but the Governor encouraged Kentuckians not to delay in submitting an application.
To apply, Kentuckians can call the toll-free FEMA COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Helpline at 844-684-6333, or 800-462-7585 for deaf and hard of hearing Americans. The help line is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EDT.
“Please note, FEMA is not contacting anyone until the individual seeking assistance either has called FEMA first or has applied for assistance,” said Gov. Beshear. “If you doubt a FEMA representative is legitimate, hang up and report it to FEMA at 800-621-3362 or the National Center for Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.”
For more information about COVID-19 Funeral Assistance eligibility and the application, visit fema.gov and search “COVID-19 Funeral Assistance.”
Gov. Beshear, Health Care Leaders Open Kentucky’s Largest Vaccination Site
Gov. Beshear marked another key moment in Kentucky’s fight against COVID-19 on Monday when he joined health care leaders to open a drive-through vaccination site at Cardinal Stadium where 200,000 Kentuckians can get their shot of hope over the next seven weeks. To learn more, see the full release.
Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Protecting Lives at Correctional Facilities
J. Michael Brown, secretary of the Executive Cabinet, said to date, 6,602 out of 9,653 (68.39%) state inmates have received the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine and additional vaccine clinics are being conducted this week at the Kentucky State Penitentiary. If inmates declined a vaccine when it was first offered to them, but they change their minds in the future and request one, they will still be able to receive a vaccine.
As of 4 p.m. Monday, April 12, Gov. Beshear reported the following COVID-19 numbers:
New cases today: 270
New deaths today: 7
New audit deaths: 0
Positivity rate: 3.16%
Total deaths: 6,257
Currently hospitalized: 380
Currently in ICU: 104
Currently on ventilator: 54
Top counties with the most positive cases today are: Jefferson, Harlan, Laurel and Daviess. Each county reported at least 11 new cases.
To see a list of those reported lost to the virus today, click here.
“I urge everyone – for your own safety, for your own well-being – to make that choice to get vaccinated to keep yourself and your loved ones safe,” said Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health. “Vaccines are available. For example, all Kroger and Walgreens stores in the state of Kentucky are offering COVID-19 vaccines. If we can all rally around this and go get vaccinated, we can get back to activities safely.”
Unemployment Insurance Update
Today, Amy Cubbage, general counsel for Gov. Beshear, updated Kentuckians on when the state’s unemployment insurance (UI) system will go live again after a temporary shutdown for security upgrades.
“We are on track for the system to go live again at 7 a.m. EDT tomorrow,” said Cubbage. “So far, 100,000 letters have been mailed with new login information for claimants and the remaining letters will be mailed tomorrow. Knowing that the letters will not reach you in time for the system’s reopening, we will have call center assistance at 502-564-2900 available from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. EDT for the next 10 days.”
Claimants can only get PIN assistance on this call line. Wait times are expected to be longest between 7 and 8 a.m. and between 8 and 9 p.m. when there are fewer call center staff on duty.
“A valid email address is required to verify identity in new registration process. Free email accounts are available through Google and Yahoo. You will also need the new eight-digit PIN to create the new account,” said Cubbage. “If you are not due to request benefits this week, please hold off on requesting a PIN via phone and wait for the letter.”
Kentucky Tops South Central Region for 2020 Economic Development Projects Per Capita
Though the past year brought no shortage of obstacles for businesses across the globe, private-sector companies continued to announce job-creating projects in the commonwealth as Team Kentucky works to build a stronger economy for the long-term.
As evidence, Site Selection magazine’s annual Governor’s Cup rankings for 2020 positioned Kentucky atop the South Central region, and third nationally, for qualifying projects per capita. The commonwealth also placed seventh overall in total projects, the highest of any state with a population under 5 million. To learn more, see the full release.
To see all vaccination sites and free transportation options to and from vaccination appointments, visit vaccine.ky.gov. To see a list of vaccination sites that have openings this week, visit vaccinemap.ky.gov. If Kentuckians have questions, they should call the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline, 855-598-2246 or TTY 855-326-4654 (for deaf or hard-of-hearing Kentuckians).
To view the full daily report, incidence rate map, information on testing locations, vaccines, contact tracing, school reports and guidance, guidance for health care providers and the White House Coronavirus Task Force reports for Kentucky and more, visit kycovid19.ky.gov.
New Kentucky Law Preserves Vaccine Exemptions Even During Pandemic
Legislation passed with bipartisan support preserves certain vaccine exemptions, including religious and medical, even if the state mandates vaccines during a pandemic.
The Kentucky House of Representatives passed the bill with bi-partisan support, breaking the typical pattern of party line voting on health freedom bills.
Kentucky Medical Freedom Coalition (KMFC), a grassroots organization founded in 2020, has been tirelessly advocating for health freedom. Two of the organization’s officers, Mary Kathryn DeLodder and Bethany Clark, worked with their team to raise awareness on issues and legislation, including Senate Bill 8, that impact health freedom. Together they built relationships with elected officials and the community.
While this bill is a win for Kentucky, there is growing concern all over the country about businesses and employers requiring COVID vaccines for employers and customers. DeLodder said the work continues in 2022 to protect employees from mandates, as S.B. 8 does not apply to Kentucky’s private businesses.
DeLodder and Clark have been doing this work since 2017. They recognized the need for a formal organization and worked with their team to create KMFC. Their work includes educating, empowering and uniting concerned citizens to take action and be part of the medical freedom conversation.
The two women advise other advocates looking for ways to make a difference to understand the makeup of their state legislature, seek out like-minded, like-hearted people and work together to create change.
DeLodder and Clark said this recent win was a result of the collaborative efforts of Kentucky citizens taking action.
A bi-partisan win in Kentucky proves the tide is turning and medical freedom is being honored in many states. Advocates can learn from Kentucky’s and other states’ best practices and build on their momentum.
Now is the time to revisit and initiate conversations with state representatives to ensure that mandates do not become the new normal. It’s not necessary to be part of a formal group to be an advocate — all that’s required is the passion, persistence and perseverance to take daily action.
Here are three actions medical freedom advocates can take to make a difference at the state level:
- Initiate/revisit conversations with your state legislators on the topic of medical freedom. Elected officials are in office to address constituents’ concerns. Call your elected officials to express concerns about mandates. Schedule an appointment to meet and foster a relationship with your representative.
- Share “good bills” with your local representatives and partner with like-minded legislators to create legislation for your state. Partner across state lines and utilize bill language that’s been successful.
- Create community. You are never alone! Find a local group that shares your values and beliefs. Get involved with grassroots advocacy groups and work together to make change. If you are in Kentucky visit Kentucky Medical Freedom Coalition for local news, events and bill updates.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Children’s Health Defense.
Top image: Pixabay
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