A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

With schools emptying and hospitals filling, talk of special legislative session escalates in Frankfort

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday that he and legislative leaders are getting closer to a general consensus for a special session to address COVID-19 as more schools have suspended in-person classes and more hospitals report critical shortages.

During a Capitol press conference, the governor said, “The COVID-19 delta variant is burning through Kentucky at a rate the likes of which we have never seen. Even with universal masking, we now have 30 school districts that have had to pause in-person classes, at least for a period of time.”

Gov. Andy Beshear said legislative leaders are getting closer to a consensus on ways to battle COVID. (Photo by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)

The healthcare community, especially hospitals, is also being hit hard by the pandemic, according to Beshear.

“Our hospitals are running out of everything. That’s staffable ICU beds. We just got 40 additional ventilators from the national stockpile. We had to ask the federal government for more ventilators.”

But equipment is not the only problem facing those facilities, Beshear said.

“We have set a new record for hospitals that are at a critical staffing shortage. You can call it out of space or out of people, this is out of healthcare capacity. 62 out of 96, two-thirds of our hospitals, are at a critical staffing shortage. It wasn’t two weeks ago we were at a third, then we almost immediately went to 50%. These numbers are growing every day.”

Other items are also in short supply, he said.

“We’re seeing shortages of IV pumps and vital sign machines, so now it’s even affecting the everyday operation of hospitals beyond COVID.”

Beshear said he and his staff are working with legislative leaders to come to a consensus to be able to call a special session soon to address the COVID-19 pandemic after lawmakers stripped him of many of his emergency powers in legislation that was recently upheld by the Supreme Court.

“We’re still awaiting word if we have enough agreement to get that going as soon as we would hope,” the governor said. “I believe that it is certainly possible that we have a special session as early as Tuesday. We have to do a lot of negotiation here, then they have to go back to their caucus to see where things are.”

He says the talks have been constructive, including a several-hours-long meeting Wednesday on school-related issues.

“A lot of common ground and a lot of things to talk through about what we’re seeing on the ground and what other people are hearing.”

One thing he has been insisting on is, “Certainly, it’s got to be an extension of the state of emergency, that’s what all the legislation is about. And then approval of executive orders. There are some tools I believe we need that they’re going to have to decide if we get, and that includes masking. Whether that is the power to do it when necessary, or the power to do it in high-transmission areas.”

As for other potential topics in the special session, Beshear said he won’t add anything to the call on which they don’t have an agreement.

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