Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday a commitment to provide health insurance for all black people in Kentucky, part of what he calls a push to correct racial inequalities in the state.
“In our health care system, the inequalities have been … exposed by this COVID-19 epidemic, and the results of inequality and health care have been shown: It’s death,” Beshear said during his daily briefing in Frankfort. “We see African Americans dying at twice the rate that they make up of the (state) population, and it simply can’t be allowed to continue any longer.”
Beshear offered few details on the initiative, but said it would involve a “multi-faceted campaign.” He added that he believes health care is a basic human right and that he hopes to “eventually make sure that there’s coverage for everybody.”
An estimated 8.4 percent of Kentucky’s 4.4 million population is black, according to the most recent data provided in July 2019 by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Meanwhile, Executive Cabinet Secretary Michael Brown said Kentucky police officers will receive at least eight hours of in-service training by the end of the year “in response to current issues in law enforcement nationwide.” The training will address implicit bias, use of force, civil rights laws, ethics/accountability, emotional intelligence and community relationships.
The state Department of Criminal Justice Training is reviewing its curriculum and creating an online course.
Over the last three weeks, protests have emerged worldwide following the police-involved death of black man George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis. Video shows then-Officer Derek Chauvin holding his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes while Floyd pleaded for air. Chauvin, who is white, has been fired and charged in the case.
Demonstrators are also protesting the police-involved deaths of two Louisville natives, Breonna Taylor, and David McAtee. Taylor, a black woman, was fatally shot by police during a no-knock raid in March. McAtee, a black man, was fatally shot May 31 when Louisville police and Kentucky National Guard members were reportedly attempting to disperse a “large crowd.” The Louisville Metro Police Department said McAtee fired a weapon before he was shot by law enforcement.
During the protests, some Confederate monuments on prominent display on public property across the nation have been vandalized or called for removal. A reporter asked Beshear on Monday if he believes a monument of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee should be removed from outside a courthouse in Murray.
“I am not that familiar with this monument in Murray, but if it is at a courthouse, it should come down,” he said.
Last week, Beshear said a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis should be taken out of the state Capitol Rotunda because it causes a “divide.” He told reporters Monday that he is taking steps toward its removal.
On Friday, Beshear spoke at a rally in Frankfort that drew an estimated 1,500 young people. Beshear responded Monday to the Kentucky GOP’s criticism of his attendance amid ongoing social distancing guidlines.
“Even with the health concerns, I thought – this moment in time – it was important to be there and … it was important to talk to (those individuals),” he said.
He also urged demonstration attendees to get tested for the coronavirus, saying it is the “smart thing to do.”
Beshear also announced 11,476 total coronavirus cases statewide, 190 of which are newly confirmed since Saturday and 264 are considered probable. Of the 190 new cases, 70 were reported Sunday and 120 were reported Monday. At least 3,359 people have recovered, 486 are currently hospitalized and 76 are in intensive care. At least 285,358 total people have been tested statewide, which is about 6.5 percent of the state’s 4.4 million population.
Despite a nearly 25 percent case increase over the last two weeks, Beshear said he is “still comfortable” with the state’s reopening strategy.
Beshear said the weekly positivity rate has increased about 1 percent over the last three weeks, from 2.07 percent to 2.93 percent, compared with the first week of May when the positivity rate was 9.77 percent.
Museums, libraries and some in-home child care programs reopened Monday, and state park campgrounds may reopen Thursday. Next week, some center-based child care programs and day camps, along with low-touch youth sports, are slated to reopen.
Beshear also announced two virus-related deaths since Saturday, bringing the total statewide to 458, two of which are considered probable. One death was reported Sunday, the other on Monday.
The Barren River Area Development District’s COVID-19 Dashboard, which uses state health department data, showed 1,870 total cases Monday in its 10-county region, including 1,127 in Warren, 238 in Butler, 170 in Logan, 105 in Allen, 60 in Edmonson, 55 in Barren, 54 in Simpson, 27 in both Monroe and Hart and seven in Metcalfe.
In the Barren River District Health Department’s eight-county region, officials announced 1,755 total cases, including 1,142 in Warren, 234 in Butler, 175 in Logan, 65 in Edmonson, 52 in Simpson, 49 in Barren, 31 in Hart and seven in Metcalfe. Of those, 1,110 people have reportedly recovered.
There have been 43 total virus-related deaths in the district, including 13 confirmed deaths in Butler, 11 in Edmonson, seven in Warren, six in Logan, three in Simpson, two in Metcalfe and one in Barren.
At least 10.4 percent of Warren County’s population of roughly 130,000 people has been tested as of Sunday, according to Emergency Management Director Ronnie Pearson. Some testing facilities have not yet reported testing totals from Friday, Saturday or Sunday, he said.
There are at least 116 coronavirus cases in Allen County, according to an update from the Allen County Health Department, which is not part of the Barren River district.
Numbers often differ between the state and local sources because of different reporting methods.