Gov. Beshear: Death toll from tornadoes now 77
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Governor Andy Beshear discussed the state’s response to the tornado damage across the commonwealth and provided the latest information on the coronavirus in Kentucky during a briefing on held on Monday.
Beshear announced another person has died as a result of the deadly storms that ripped across Kentucky nearly three weeks ago.
“Today’s tornado update starts with tough news,” he said. “Tragically, today we’re announcing another death has been confirmed. And this is one that rips at the very fabric of who we are. This is a loss of another young life, an infant from Graves County.”
The current death toll now stands at 77 lives lost.
Regarding recovery efforts, Beshear said FEMA has distributed approximately 4.7 million dollars to affected families thus far. In addition, debris removal remains a priority and three disaster recovery centers have been opened, bringing the total number to seven.
Kentucky State parks continue to provide housing and food services to 606 displaced Kentuckians and 154 first responders.
To access the online resource that was launched last week to assist Kentuckians affected by the tornados, click here.
“We want to make sure every individual and family in Western Kentucky knows all of the different resources that are out there, where to go, and who to talk to,” Beshear said.
Recovery efforts continue across the state, with several organizations offering their help to affected individuals and families.
“Behavior, emotional, and spiritual care teams have made over 4,000 contacts in the region and they continue to provide emotional and psychological support to displaced or distressed individuals,” he said. “The level of trauma is hard to describe with these families. Many of them were already struggling with the neighborhoods that were hit and when you don’t have much and a tornado takes what you have, it can be even harder. There’s some families that were dealing with trauma before this hit.”
Fortunately, there has been an overwhelming amount of donations received from across the country and in Kentucky.
“The Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Find is now at nearly 30 million dollars,” Beshear said. “Its truly extraordinary. We’ve issued 39 funeral expense checks so that families don’t have to front that money.”
For those looking to donate money to help in the recovery efforts, 100 percent of proceeds go to those directly impacted and can be done through TeamWKYReliefFund.ky.gov.
“This fund is for the long haul,” Beshear said. “Rebuilding the homes and structures and lives is going to take years. And we got to make sure when support is needed down the road that we have it, it’s there, and we can deploy it quickly to help these families.”
First Lady Britainy Beshear said because of the significant amount of donations received, thousands of gifts were distributed through the Western Kentucky Toy Drive for affected families and children for Christmas.
“Together, we showed the world that the true meaning of Christmas isn’t what you receive, but the joy of giving,” she said.
She added that so many toys were left over after Christmas that impacted families with children will be able to receive gifts for their birthday from the Toy Drive.
In terms of COVID, Gov. Beshear said the omicron variant is increasing significantly across the country, and states like Maryland have reached a positivity rate past 15%.
“The good news for now is that [Kentucky is] not seeing the same type of increase yet,” he said. He added that the commonwealth so far was hit harder with the delta variant. However, he urges Kentuckians to be care moving forward and that the best thing the state can do as a whole is to get vaccinated and get booster shots.
“If you are unvaccinated, it is one of the most contagious viruses we’ve seen in 100 years,” Beshear said.
On Dec. 23, there were 2,878 new COVID cases and 39 deaths including a 44-year-old woman from Kenton County. The day after, there were 2,847 new COVID cases and 44 deaths including a 42-year-old man also from Kenton County.
On Christmas, 1,946 new COVID cases were confirmed with 34 new deaths, including a 46-year-old man from Hardin County.
“Primarily delta is killing people in their 40′s at a rate we have not seen before in this pandemic,” Beshear said.
On Sunday, there were 981 new COVID cases and 22 new deaths including a 49-year-old man from Lincoln County. On Monday there were 1,342 new COVID cases and 17 deaths.
“Omicron, when it hits, if it hits, will increase these numbers in a much smaller time period than delta,” he said. Beshear added the positivity rate is now up to 11.8 percent.
Beshear emphasized the only way to get COVID numbers to decrease is to get vaccinated and boosted, to wear a mask at school and work, and to get tested before a get together.
“I think a lot of this next year is likely going to be using rapid tests just to make sure you’re little bit safer,” he said. Over the past week, there was almost a 10 percent rise in testing across the state, which Beshear said is a significant increase compared to last Christmas, when testing percentage actually decreased.
“Remember how far we’ve come with testing,” Beshear said. “I mean originally there were no tests and then there were only tests for people who were really sick. I still remember standing here telling people that if you think you’re going to make it, don’t get tested because we don’t have enough. That was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life. But now you can get tested in an hour!”
More rapid at home COVID tests will be made available soon. Beshear said people continue to get vaccinated.
Over the weekend, 11,071 Kentuckians received their first vaccine shot. Additionally, Beshear reported 35,296 Kentuckians got their booster shot over the weekend as well.
Jefferson County is currently third in the top five counties with residents vaccinated with at least one shot. In total, 2,764,914 Kentuckians are vaccinated with at least one shot.
Demographically, five to 11-year-olds remain as the least vaccinated age group.
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