Congressman Says Warren County, Bowling Green Schools Are Opening Safely, We Need To Get Back To Life
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Darren Doyle, story and photo:
U.S. Congressman Brett Guthrie spoke with the Edmonson Voice today on a number of topics that impact the people of the second district, which includes Edmonson County, today in a telephone interview.
One of the first subjects discussed was the handling of COVID-19 in Kentucky.
"I don't know how to compare to other states because I can't speak on what other states are doing," he said. "But when we first got to the shut down, the idea was to slow the spread so we wouldn't overwhelm our hospital capacities, but now we're 6 months into this and we gotta get back to life. Businesses are really struggling, so we have to mitigate it--it is serious, it is stronger than the flu in some people, but in some people--the younger you are, the less effective it is. If you're older it's more serious, and that's where we're seeing our deaths come from. We know that it's going to be around until we get a vaccine, but we have to get back to life and mitigate it: wash our hands, wear a mask, but we can't keep everything shut down forever. Currently, there's not an overrun of ICU beds, ventilators are available, and hospitals have personal protective equipment...so if we're just going to measure it by how many people come up positive on a test and say that's the standard, even though they don't even have symptoms, then we're never going to open anything up again until we get a vaccine."
Rep. Guthrie said a vaccine was key in helping control COVID-19, and science has been working on coronavirus vaccines for years; however, the process must be completed efficiently, but most of all safely. He said that politicians won't have control of when the vaccine is readily made to the public, rather, science will do that and it won't happen until FDA approval. He said Americans could see a vaccine by October, but more likely by the first of 2021.
"This is based on about a decade of research on the coronavirus, so it's not new," he said. "The COVID-19 strain of the virus is new, so from January to about May, they were taking decades of research and honing it on on COVID-19."
He said phase 2 trials began in May in small groups of people, then five to six thousand in phase 3, which is the final phase. He said there were currently three vaccines in phase 3. He said it simply takes time.
"It will be safe and effective or it won't be approved. Politicians won't make that decision, the scientists will," he said.
He said vaccines will likely be given to front line workers first, then those with pre-existing conditions.
"The President is coordinating this. He's not getting much credit for it, but he's coordinating it. We could have 50 million vaccines available by the first of the year. There are 330 million Americans, right? So not everyone is going to take it, but if we can inoculate first line workers, people working in nursing homes, people working in hospitals, people in nursing homes and people with pre-existing conditions first, then the risk from people dying from this drops dramatically. The risk isn't zero to a sixth grader...but it's close to zero for any serious problems to happen. The risk is when the sixth grader kisses their grandma or grandad. If we can inoculate grandma or grandad in that first batch, then people can get back to their lives."
We asked Rep Guthrie is he felt like it was safe for Kentucky students to go back to in-person classes.
"Bowling Green and Warren County appear to be doing it safely," he said. "I know they've only been doing it for a couple weeks, but I think Hart County is doing it safely. Can you do it safely? Anytime you have people together there is some level of risk. Some schools aren't going back until September 28th, but I don't believe it will be any safer then that it was two weeks ago. If you said it wasn't safe two weeks ago, it's not going to be safe September 28th. If people say, 'I'm not going to have school until there's zero risk of people getting sick,' then they just need to stop until after the vaccine is here. I think schools can safely open. Bowling Green and Warren County is showing that. The Governor keeps pointing out that Warren County has one of the highest rates of testing and he can't believe they're having school...I think if you look at our schools, they're doing it successfully. So if a county like Warren County, who has high rates of testing are opening schools, then I think other counties can, too."
We also asked the Congressman when could Kentuckians expect another stimulus package, and what would it look like? Guthrie said he felt like too many extras were being added into the most recent bill that didn't bring immediate relief to Americans; a package that was over three trillion dollars (3,000,000,000,000).
"I did not support the current bill. It was a three trillion dollar bill," he said. "Very little of it had to do directly with coronavirus...Speaker Pelosi said it was a bill that must pass, so we're going to put all these things on it--alot of it is Green New Deal, all these other issues. Senator McConnell went through it methodically and looked for things to keep our businesses going."
Guthrie said that McConnell wants to focus on helping small businesses, unemployment, and help those directly affected by coronavirus, which was a much lesser bill--around the tune of a trillion dollars, but the House still wants a two trillion dollar package.
"Two trillion is a trillion dollars that is not COVID-related, or indirectly related that we don't have to have, and therefore, we're not going to take another trillion dollars in debt and put that on our children and grandchildren."
Guthrie also shared his frustrations with how COVID-19 data was interpreted by state officials, specifically on push back out of Frankfort on vaccines.
"If the CDC says shut things down, then they're really quick to shut things down, but if CDC says get ready for a vaccine then they push back against it. What's frustrating to me-- because I'm right in the middle of it since I'm on the oversight committee, is seeing people take the same sources of data, and if it helps their argument they use it, but if it doesn't help their argument, they don't use it. Either it's real or it's not."
Guthrie finished the interview by coming back to COVID-19 in Kentucky.
"Dr. Fauci always said we have to slow the spread, he didn't say we're going to go to zero. He said we can't have our hospital systems overrun. If we fill our hospitals up with COVID patients, one--it not only affects those that catch COVID-19, but it also affects the normal hospital day--those that have heart attacks or strokes--they can't get a bed in a hospital. But now we've slowed that spread, most hospital beds in Kentucky were empty. We're not back to where we were, but we need to manage our hospital capacity, not just a number of cases. Some people will argue 'well, we have hospital availability but our cases are still going up, so in two weeks our hospitals are going to be full,' and that just has not come to fruition--at least in the second district. The coronavirus is serious. It makes people sick, it can kill people. You gotta respect it, mitigate it, but we also gotta get our lives moving again. And we can do that, I think, safely. Not without risk, but as I said, what risk is going to be different on September 28th that on September 7th?"
You can contact Representative Guthrie via his website by clicking here.