State Representative Norma Kirk-McCormick
Government overreach prevents appropriate response to COVID
It is a cool Saturday night in a packed football stadium. You are nearing the end of the fourth quarter, a two minute drill and both teams are tied. You are the quarterback, accompanied by a stacked offense and facing a defense out for blood. You have two choices: throw a “Hail Mary,” or run the ball and hope for the best. You choose to throw the ball to your best, most experienced receiver and they glide through the end zone, delivering a victory. The crowd goes wild and the air is filled with fireworks.
We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic is not a game, but I think this is an analogy worthy of considering. Since we adjourned the 2021 extraordinary session, the Governor continues to politicize the issue, this time claiming that when faced with the circumstances, the legislature punted and fumbled the ball. However, I would like to present a different train of thought. The legislature took the ball and passed it to the best receiver on the team: local elected officials.
What makes a great receiver? Stamina, vision, intelligence, and the ability to make a plan while having the flexibility to change it depending on circumstances. Decisions on how to combat the COVID-19 pandemic are best left local leaders closest to the people they represent and far more accessible and accountable to those who elected them. After all, the COVID-19 scenario in Pikeville will not match the scenario in Louisville or Paducah. It is important that local officials have the ability to make decisions for their areas using the best information available to them.
The legislative process requires far more collaboration and review than the Governor’s unilateral approach. As you know, the legislature consists of 138 members from each corner of the state. Each bring a constituency, life experience and issue area unique to their district. Likewise, in the past year and a half, individual districts faced different issues in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. When we were called into special session, we were primed and ready, approving legislation that was mulled over for months. We were able to balance full transparency and debate while recognizing the need for expediency to respond to the latest surge.
The Governor claims that the future success of the state’s approach to the pandemic is in the legislature’s hands. By now, we are all familiar with Dr. Stack’s presentation of what happens in a case surge, the curve that appears during one and that it is nearly impossible to halt a surge. Just before the Supreme Court confirmed the legislature’s authority, cases fueled by the delta variant were surging across the Commonwealth. In the Governor’s words on August 18, “the Commonwealth is awash in the delta variant.”
During the 2021 special session, we renewed the call for Kentuckians to have a conversation with their healthcare provider about the COVID-19 vaccine. We directed $69.3 million dollars to fund COVID-19 testing, monoclonal antibody infusions, and “test and stay” programs at schools; all of which have been used successfully to treat this virus.
In this latest surge, monoclonal antibody infusions have been a game changer for Kentuckians at risk of severe complications due to COVID-19. In SB 3, we earmarked funding to go towards the expansion of infusion clinics, to be available across the state. Monoclonal antibodies are a treatment to target the spike protein, which the coronavirus uses to enter host cells. The treatment prevents the virus from infecting human cells by binding to the spike protein. Much like the vaccines, the infusion treatment has helped thousands of Kentuckians fight the COVID-19 virus. Previously, physicians had the ability to write a prescription qualifying a COVID-19 positive patient to receive the infusion. Unfortunately, just as with the initial vaccine deployment, doses are now being rationed by the state and federal government. We will be monitoring how the administration handles the allocation of these treatments, with an eye towards making sure that Kentuckians across the state have access.
I want to share again how seriously I take the privilege of serving this district. I hope you will not hesitate to reach out to me to share your thoughts on the issues coming before us in Frankfort. As always, I can be reached at home anytime or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. You can also contact me via e-mail at Norma.KirkMcCormick@lrc.ky.gov. You can also keep track of interim committee meetings and prefiled legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.legislature.ky.gov.