Beshear announces measures to improve policing, healthcare access in black communities

Updated: Jun. 8, 2020 at 3:58 PM EDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX19) - The COVID-19 fatality rate among African Americans in Kentucky is cause for concern, according to Gov. Andy Beshear.

Despite African Americans comprising just eight percent of Kentucky’s general population, the governor says they represent 16 percent of all COVID-19 deaths.

That is, proportional to their population share, COVID-19′s fatality rate for blacks is double what it is for whites.

Beshear attributed that disparity to racial inequalities at the core of American society, saying in his Monday press briefing that the pandemic has laid those inequalities bare.

The governor then announced new statewide commitments in healthcare, police training and education Monday.

On healthcare, Beshear previewed an effort "to cover 100 percent of individuals in black and African American communities,” adding the campaign will be fully funded and multi-faceted with a significant door-to-door component.

On police training, Cabinet Secretary Michael Brown announced implicit a new course at the Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training that will address implicit bias, use of force and community relationships.

Previously, according to Brown, the training facility offered just one such course, a cultural awareness class for dispatchers.

The Kentucky Law Enforcement Council will review the course’s training materials to ensure they meet Kentucky Peace Officer Professional Standards.

On education, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman announced implicit bias for all school faculty and staff as well as new strategies and programs to recruit more people of color into teaching.

“(Students) deserve teachers who listen and they deserve leaders who look like them, and today’s actions move us closer to that reality,” Coleman said.

Coleman shared that in a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, end-of-year test scores are higher for black students who have a teacher who looks like themselves. Black students who have just one black teacher by third grade are 13 percent more likely to go to college and black students who have two are 32 percent more likely.

Beshear said he will announce economic commitments to address racial disparities next week.

“Already with COVID-19, the world was going to be different afterwards, the United States was going to be different afterwards and Kentucky was going to be different afterwards,” Beshear said. “Our commitment is to make sure it’s not just different from a public health perspective, but it is truly different from an equality and a justice perspective.”

Beshear reported Sunday and Monday COVID-19 figures on Monday.

On Sunday, the state had 70 newly confirmed cases as well as one new death.

On Monday, the state had 120 newly confirmed cases for a total of 11,476 on 285,358 tests.

Beshear also reported one new death Monday.

“Both Sunday’s and Monday’s numbers are down, but we will have to be watching as this continues,” the governor said.

Currently 486 Kentuckians are hospitalized with the virus and 76 are in the ICU, numbers the governor continued to call “low."

Beshear highlighted the importance of positive testing rate again Monday, saying it is a crucial benchmark to monitor as the state continues reopening. Health experts have said a 10 percent positive testing rate is the minimum to control outbreaks of the virus and below 3 percent is ideal.

Kentucky’s positive testing rate the week of May 4 was 9.7 percent, Beshear said.

Its positive testing rate last week was 2.9 percent.

The governor also said Kentucky has conducted more than 40,000 tests per week each of the last four weeks, a testing rate that means the. state can meet thresholds to reopen.

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