In only his fourth formal address since taking office last December, Gov. Andy Beshear encouraged Kentuckians not to give up on the state's game plan for fighting COVID-19 - despite another record week of cases in the commonwealth.
In brief remarks Thursday night, the governor again revisited the steps the state and his administration have taken during the pandemic, from a statewide mask mandate to an expansion of unemployment benefits.
"All of these steps have generated criticism, but all of them are working," the governor announced.
But that message came balanced with a more sobering forecast, placing the pandemic alongside other historic losses the state has suffered.
"We now know that we will lose more Kentuckians to COVID-19 than we lost in the Korean or Vietnam wars," Beshear declared. "Both of those conflicts raged on for years and required deep sacrifice. We're still only six months into fighting this battle, but it's clear this is the fight of our lifetimes."
The address capped off a day of observances, including a wreath-laying ceremony in the Capitol and the lowering of flags to half staff, as the state honored the more than 1,000 residents lost to the virus.
Against that backdrop, a debate about coronavirus data continued in Frankfort as lawmakers questioned the state's top health official on how the numbers are collected and presented to the public.
Kentuckians have become accustomed to Gov. Andy Beshear's regular COVID-19 reports, which outline new case numbers, the state's positivity rate, and other metrics. But one Paducah lawmaker said the reports are more than just data points for many in his district.
"There is a stress that's put on our people as a result of these numbers," Republican Sen. Danny Carroll said during the hearing.
With the staggered nature of data collection and an incomplete count of smaller makeshift labs and their tests, Carroll argued the administration is painting too simple a picture.
"Yet the governor on a daily basis throws this number out and says decision being made on that, that we have to get to this level before we can do this and that," the lawmaker said. "We know for a fact, even at 3.8 percent (the state-calculated positivity rate), that number is probably closer down to a 2 or 3... because we don't even know how many pop-up labs there are."
Democratic senator and physician Karen Berg strongly defended the state's data gathering and methods, including using rolling averages over a number of days, saying it's impossible to get a perfect snapshot of where the commonwealth stands.
"I'm going to the hospital and fighting this disease every day, and somebody cares whether our positivity rate is 3.8 or maybe it should be 3.7 if we included this pop-up lab that we didn't know about?" she asked. "We're not that good. If we were that good, we would be God."
In making the case for the numbers and the state response, Beshear has commonly cited White House data and guidance showing similar conclusions.