McConnell: Time to wind down Covid-19 emergency; Beshear says Ky. still needs resources from it but is ‘pretty close to normal’

Sen. Mitch McConnell speaking on Senate floor. Photo captured from YouTube.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell says it’s time to trust science and the Covid-19 vaccines, follow the data and to “forget the tribalism” caused by politics and wind down the pandemic’s state of emergency.

“Two years in, it is time for leaders at all levels of our society to take a deep breath, clear the decks, and review where we stand today,” McConnell said Feb. 2 in a Senate floor speech, transcribed in a press release and available to watch on YouTube. 

McConnell argued that we have vaccines and boosters available to anyone who wants them that prevent hospitalizations and death; that the level of risk from the virus is to “retreating the level of risk that we all regularly face in other aspects of daily life,” that the impact on children is low; and that for now, all of the metrics that we use to measure the virus’ impact are on the decline.

“I continue to encourage Kentuckians and all Americans to discuss the vaccines with their doctors and take this safe and effective step. It can be the difference between life and death,” he said. “But from a society-wide perspective, after two years on this hellish highway, it appears our country is finally arriving at the off-ramp. The virus appears to be heading endemic. Seventy percent of Americans agree with the statement, ‘It’s time we accept that Covid is here to stay and we just need to get on with our lives.’ It is time for the state of emergency to wind down.”

Asked to comment, Gov. Andy Beshear cautioned that Kentucky is still in need of some of the resources that are available through an official state of emergency.

“To fully unwind a state of emergency would mean we couldn’t have national guardsmen in hospitals, helping them out,” Beshear said. “We still have a huge number of cases, we still have a huge number of people dying.”

In mid-January, Beshear announced that more than 450 National Guard members are supporting the state’s health-care facilities, and earlier this week said the state had increased its Guard presence by about 10 members in an additional hospital.

The seven-day rolling average of cases in Kentucky is 10,011 and the Covid-19 death reports have averaged about 25 per day for the last few weeks, but Covid-19 hospitalizations are still on a plateau.

In closing, McConnell said nation’s leaders need to “articulate your clear plan to give the American people back their normalcy in the very near future.”

To the suggestion that it is time to get back to normal, Beshear said for all intents and purposes we are already there.

“We’re already pretty close to normal, or at least the normal he’s describing when, as long as cases aren’t too high, all of our school systems are back in person, we don’t have anything closed across the state. There are even large sporting events that are occurring,” Beshear said. “You hear a lot of rhetoric about opening up, but we are open.”

Beshear added later, “At some point we’ve got to get away from the rhetoric that seems to be used for political terms and address the reality of where we are, which is open, but also that there are still risks out there. And I think people are smart enough to be able to process both, right that we need our economy open, our kids in school, which is happening, and at the same time, wear a mask at a big sporting event, right, it’s going to protect you. We can all do those things.”

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