Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul had a stark message Tuesday afternoon for members of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce: Namely, that the state needs to reopen its businesses and come out of its coronavirus lockdown, because the federal government is not coming to states’ financial aid.
Paul, a Bowling Green Republican, held an afternoon conference call with chamber of commerce members, where he took a handful of questions from members and none from the media.
Paul’s comments about the economy were interlaced with attacks on Gov. Andy Beshear, who Paul called a “czar” and “dictator,” whom Paul said had created a “draconian situation” by ordering much of the state closed due to the pandemic.
“In Kentucky, the (coronavirus) has not been worse than a usual flu season,” Paul said, adding “there’s no reason we shouldn’t be going full bore” on reopening businesses.
Tuesday afternoon, Beshear announced 6,853 people statewide had been confirmed to have contracted COVID-19. Beshear also announced there had been 10 more COVID-19 deaths, bringing the state’s total to 321.
By comparison, according to statistics from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, as of May 2, there had been 27,408 confirmed cases of influenza in Kentucky with 150 deaths during the 2019-20 flu season in Kentucky, which runs from October to May.
Beshear’s office has a reopening plan, and some businesses were allowed to resume operations on Monday. The plan has several stages stretched over several weeks, and is based on the calculation that new cases of COVID-19 have plateaued in Kentucky and will begin to decline.
Of Beshear’s actions to prevent the spread of the virus, Paul said, “I think Kentucky did well not because of government policy, but because we are a rural state.”
Paul also argued that schools need to open in the fall. Local school officials haven’t announced any changes to their fall schedules.
“If the schools don’t open, people aren’t going to go to work,” Paul said. The state, he said, had gone “too far” in its lockdown.
Paul’s comments were somewhat at odds with testimony Paul had heard earlier in the day, during a hearing, via teleconference, with disease experts who have advised the White House during the crisis.
According to the Washington Post, Dr. Anthony Fauci, an infectious disease specialist, told members of a U.S. Senate panel that there would be “suffering and death that could be avoided” if states disregarded federal guidelines and opened before new coronavirus cases are in decline, the Post reported.
Paul said the federal government won’t assist states, who have seen a loss of tax revenues while making extra expenditures to cope with the pandemic.
The federal government has sent $3 trillion in aid to businesses and private citizens.
“That comes from borrowing,” Paul said.
On funding to states, Paul pointed at New York state, claiming the state was already spending money before the pandemic.
“If we give a bunch of money to New York, do they make better decisions or worse decisions?” Paul said. “I think it’s a big mistake to bail out states” like New York.
On aid to Kentucky, Paul said, “the governor needs to be told there is no federal bailout coming.”
Paul urged people on the call to contact Beshear’s office and say, “ ‘you’re moving too slow’ ” to reopen the economy.
Paul said “there is common sense we have to use,” such as not letting school-age children visit nursing homes where they could spread the virus. But Paul said schools must open, “at the very least, it has to be in the fall,” he said, addubg he wants “young people to get out there and work.”
“We can’t wait for a perfect time when no one dies again,” Paul said.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @JamesMayse