In dedicating memorial, Beshear says he intended it partly as a response to those who discounted the pandemic for political ends

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

As he dedicated the state’s memorial to Kentucky’s 18,600-plus Covid-19 victims Wednesday, Gov. Andy Beshear said it was intended partly as a response to those who diminished the pandemic for political reasons.

“I wanted everyone who’s lost someone to this virus to know that their loved one was important, and that they are missed, and that we in Kentucky will not bow to politics, we will recognize the loss that we have been through; we will recognize the sacrifices that were made, and we will provide a place, a safe place, for everyone to be able to come to grieve, to remember, and hopefully to process it in a way that helps them move forward.”

Asked afterward what he meant by not bowing to politics, the Democratic governor said “We’re gonna honor those that we lost, we’re gonna honor those that sacrificed. Just because talking about something is difficult … that doesn’t mean you don’t do the right thing.” Asked what “politics” would have him do otherwise, he said, “Not talk about Covid anymore.’

The state’s Republican leaders, none of whom were at the event on the state Capitol grounds, have been talking about Covid as part of their campaign to unseat Beshear in the Nov. 7 election. He was asked what he would say to their arguments that his emergency measures lasted too long and were too strong.

“We lost 18,600 Kentuckians, and we would have lost a lot more. Tell that to the folks here who lost their loved ones,” he said. “It diminishes the sacrifices made by so many, whether that’s health-care workers, all the way to our kids that understood the sacrifice they were making. And to them, it was easy; it meant if somebody’s relative would still be alive because of their actions, they were willing to do it.”

In his dedication speech to the crowd of about 150, Beshear said health-care workers showed “more courage than most of us would have imagined,” working with insufficient personal protective equipment early in the pandemic. “As more disease then we could ever imagine swept through the doors, they kept showing up” at hospitals, nursing homes and clinics.

At the time, it was thought that as many as 10 percent of those exposed to the virus would die from it, said Dr. Jason Smith, chief medical officer of UofL Health. “Yet we never had a problem getting people to come and take care of people who were affected.” He said the privately funded memorial should be not just for those who were lost, “but for what we can be.”

Beshear said “It’s hard not to think about how far we’ve come and about how we never take certain things for granted again; just being able to hug your fellow human beings, being able to go to a restaurant with your family, making those memories, ’cause Covid reminds us that life is fleeting and short’; you can lose someone in an instant. And I believe we as a people are not just more united, despite everything out there, based on what we have been through; but I think we are more grateful for all of the moments that we have.”

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