(LEX 18) — On June 11, Kentucky will be fully open for businesses as that's the day Governor Andy Beshear says all of the state's COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted, including the mask mandate and capacity limitations at events and venues.
But that light at the end of the tunnel is not coming quickly enough for Kentucky's top Republicans. State Senate President Robert Stivers and Republican House Speaker David Osborne are not letting up on Governor Beshear. They say he needs to reopen the state now to help get the economy back on track, writing the following in a joint statement:
"Last week’s updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought the welcome news Kentuckians have eagerly awaited for nearly a year – mask mandates and capacity restrictions can be lifted for fully vaccinated individuals. The people of this state have already been forced to wait as Governor Beshear sued to prevent the General Assembly’s work to eliminate these restrictions from going into effect. While states across the country have immediately begun lifting restrictions, the Governor has now decided to set a seemingly arbitrary date of June 11, to fully reopen the Commonwealth. The selective nature with which he chooses to follow the science and listen to the experts means that Kentucky will be one of the last states in the country to reopen and regain normalcy. The Governor should remove this unnecessary target date and let Kentuckians get back to their lives."
When LEX 18's Nancy Cox asked if restrictions would be lifted before June 11, the governor referenced a point he made a couple of weeks ago when making the announcement that he wanted to make sure 12 to 15-year-olds had the ability to get fully vaccinated before reopening the state.
"The day the CDC says fully vaccinated people don't have to wear a mask, we lifted the mask mandate for fully vaccinated people," said Gov. Beshear. "The CDC didn't say anything as far as capacity; that's somebody trying a bait-and-switch. What we're doing is making sure that we're not the fastest, we're the smartest. And I believe that 12 to 15-year-olds who just started getting vaccinated last Thursday ought to get the same chance to be just as protected as the legislative leaders that got vaccinated months ago."
Watch the full interview here:
Gov. Beshear says the economy will come "roaring" back, citing Moody's Analytics, a rating agency that says Kentucky has a positive economic outlook. The report notes "mass vaccinations will be the driving force behind a sustained recovery in consumer services."
"Kentucky’s economy will improve after a modest pullback late last year," the report says. "Mass vaccinations will be the driving force behind a sustained recovery in consumer services, while manufacturing will fare well once it gets past some near-term supply disruptions."
The governor reiterated that he would not make political decisions during the pandemic. Gov. Beshear says the restrictions aren't about politics, but for the safety and well-being of Kentuckians.
"Some people like to put the politics over the people," said Gov. Beshear. "They think good news is bad because it might help one person instead of the other. The fact is we are coming back, we're coming back strong, but we've got to be smart about it. We want sustained economic recovery and that's what we are going for."
Governor Beshear previously set a goal to reach 2.5 million vaccinations in order to lift most restrictions in Kentucky. So far, 1,957,642 Kentuckians have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
"We're going to get there, [but] it's going to take us more time than I would have liked," said Gov. Beshear. "[The vaccines are] over 90% effective, they have almost ended death in long-term care, they prevent serious illness, they lessen the spread ... they're everything we could have ever hoped for."
The governor says misinformation is a reason why he thinks many Kentuckians aren't getting the vaccine.
"This thing has been so politicized, even though it's science and the difference between life and death," said Gov. Beshear. "We have fewer people getting it than we would have liked."
The governor referenced several Kentucky counties with high vaccination rates, including Woodford County (58%), Franklin County (57%), Fayette County (55%), and Scott County (49%).
"We need to keep going," said Gov. Beshear. "Once June 11 hits, those that are vaccinated are going to be pretty safe. Those that aren't may have more exposure. We need to get them vaccinated."
Governor Beshear says one of the lessons he learned during the COVID-19 pandemic is "how much Kentuckians care about one another."
"We are special people, and because of that, more people are alive," said Gov. Beshear. "I think moving forward if we can take some of that goodness and compassion and make sure this economic prosperity and opportunity, more so than I've ever seen in my lifetime, what we think is coming, we can make sure that everybody has a shot at that, and we'll be better off."
The governor says looking back, people should have been wearing masks earlier than they did, even though we were still learning the impact the virus would have globally. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, he says he's glad he still ran for governor.
"It's been hard, but it's been hard on every family," he said. "I believe we're all called in our times, and we're all meant to be in positions that we are at certain times ... this may be the most important thing I've ever been called to do, and so you want to make sure that you're ready to serve in those situations."
Hundreds of Kentuckians are still waiting for unemployment money. LEX 18 still gets dozens of emails about it every day. As he has before, Governor Beshear pointed to the antiquated computer system he inherited, and a system set up to say "no."
"What we're seeing right now is a flaw and a lack of compassion in that system," said Gov. Beshear. "I hope moving forward we can realize how important this is."