FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 2, 2021) – Today, Gov. Andy Beshear filed a lawsuit to stop lawmakers from stripping the Governor of his ability to implement lifesaving public health measures during a pandemic that has killed more than 3,700 Kentuckians at a time when the country is experiencing the emergence of new COVID-19 variants and vaccine supplies remain limited.
Just over two months ago, the Kentucky Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, ruled that the Governor’s lifesaving measures were both legal and necessary. The lawsuit filed in Franklin Circuit Court today seeks to keep these measures in place.
“Today, the General Assembly attempted to surrender to COVID-19 and accept the casualties. As your Governor, I cannot let this happen,” Gov. Beshear said. “I have filed this action to continue to fight for the protection of all Kentuckians.”
To date, Kentucky has fared better than other states, seeing fewer cases and significantly fewer deaths. Adjusted for population, Kentucky has lost less than two-thirds the number of lives to COVID-19 as Tennessee, a state that refuses to impose a mask mandate. Kentucky has lost less than half the lives lost in North or South Dakota, states that refused to enact any mitigation measures until they recorded the highest mortality rates in the world.
“The lesson is clear: When a governor takes action, his or her state experiences fewer deaths,” the Governor said. “When a governor does not, the results are tragic.”
Without the ability to continue to implement lifesaving measures, the Governor said chaos would ensue, as Kentuckians would have to read nearly 175 different guidance documents on the website of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In a Jan. 11, 2021, letter, the CDC said its guidance should not be used in this way.
Instead, the Governor said his administration, including health experts like Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Department for Public Health, continually have listened to CDC experts and applied the guidance in Kentucky.
The Governor said now is not the time to surrender to the virus. In fact, public health authorities have warned that the coming months will be very deadly, forecasting 200,000 additional American deaths by May 1, an almost 50% increase of the already tragic toll. Along with the rise of the new coronavirus variants, public health experts agree that strong state mitigation efforts remain critical.
A recent excerpt from Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, is mentioned in the lawsuit brief. He states that while the vaccine is cause for celebration, active public health measures must continue. “The eventual vaccine is ‘not going to do it alone, though,’ he said. ‘That’s the important point. This should not be a signal to pull back on the public health measures that we must continue to implement.’”
Prior to the General Assembly overriding three of the Governor’s vetoes, he sent a letter to Speaker of the House David Osborne and Senate President Robert Stivers seeking to meet and discuss a compromise.
Stivers and Osborne, who have complained the Governor has not communicated with them, responded in a letter the day before overriding the veto. They indicated they had received the Governor’s letter 12 days earlier but insisted the timing of the legislative session “will make such discussions a challenge” and that “given our time constraints we are compelled to proceed with the veto override votes this week.” They wrote that, after legislators vetoed the bills, they would be “happy to sit down with you as soon as schedules allow.”
The Governor has said throughout the pandemic that each decision he has made was tough, but he made them to protect the lives of more Kentuckians. In response, Kentuckians widely support the Governor’s efforts, with 86% support for asking people to stay at home and avoid gathering in groups; 78% support for limiting restaurants to carry-out only; and 73% support for prohibiting K-12 schools from teaching in-person.