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Government & Politics

For Kentucky lawmakers, it's business as usual as record COVID numbers are reported

file photo-Stu Johnson
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Friday marks the 13th day of the Kentucky General Assembly. The 2022 regular session of the legislature is, for the most part, running along as most traditional law-making 60-day sessions do. The legislative work continues as COVID-19 remains a health issue across the Commonwealth.

Despite being at or near another peak in coronavirus cases, some representatives and senators gathered in person Thursday while some met remotely to take up various bills.

The highest positivity rate for coronavirus since its start in March of 2020 came Thursday at 31%, with another 13 thousand 614 cases reported. Cases of COVID have skyrocketed in recent weeks with the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Clark County Senator Ralph Alvarado chairs the Senate’s Health and Welfare Committee. The Winchester doctor said Omicron in other parts of the world has spiked and declined rapidly. He noted this variant is less virulent than the previous Delta form of coronavirus. In a time when vaccinations are readily available, Alvarado said steps can be taken to better protect everyone. “But, you got treatments available, prevention available. Not, it just comes down to people willing to do it. If people don’t want to do it and they’re still contracting it and get ill, that’s a choice that people are making, at this point,” said Alvarado.

With a positivity rate, where three out of ten COVID tests come up positive, Alvarado noted any large gathering is particularly risky for the unvaccinated. Like with any viral ailment like the flu or even a cold, Alvarado added staying out of the public is the best advice for those infected.

 Senate legislative committee meeting
Stu Johnson
/
Senate legislative committee meeting

Louisville Senator Karen Berg said people can’t be forced to make good decisions. For the University of Louisville physician, when it comes to coronavirus, that would be getting vaccinated and wearing a properly fitted mask indoors. While there are lots of thoughts as to what’s next with this pandemic, Berg said it’s a tough question to answer. “Is it going to be more virulent, is it going to be less virulent, more contagious, less contagious? Is it going to be the same population it’s been striking, is it going to be a different population. I wish….I wish some knew the answer,” said Berg.

Governor Beshear continues to hold briefings twice a week, detailing the latest information about coronavirus cases, vaccinations, hospitalizations, testing, and treatment. When asked if the general assembly needs to make any procedural changes during this Omicron-related surge, the governor said everyone should be wearing a mask.

“We don’t have to be tougher than the person next to us. Nobody is watching us to see how scared or not scared that we are. This isn’t some test of masculinity. It is a virus. Wear a mask,” said Beshear.

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers said he doesn’t see a need to alter operations or adjust the schedule at this time. A number of lawmakers have been out with COVID. The leader of the Senate says being out of session for four days over the Martin Luther King weekend did provide time for some de-escalation of the virus. “The best thing that could be done to decrease the severity of this virus is to take their vaccines and get boosted. But, with that, I think that most everybody that I know in this process has taken the vaccine and has been boosted and we plan to move forward,” said Stivers.

Moving forward full steam ahead is certainly the indication from the legislative branch. In fact, not only did the GOP leaders in the House release a budget plan before Governor Beshear unveiled his suggestions, but in what’s likely record time, the full House approved a state budget Thursday and sent it on to the Senate. It came on day 12 of the session. Previously budget approval in the House didn’t come until March.

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