Health

Kentucky’s governor paid tribute Friday to the more than 3,300 Kentuckians who have died from coronavirus.

Flags to represent each one of those individuals were placed on the lawn outside the State Capitol Building in Frankfort. 

Stephanie Wolf | wfpl.org

More than 3,000 American flags are placed outside the State Capitol Building in Frankfort on Jan. 22, 2021 to represent the Kentuckians who have died from COVID-19.

Gov. Andy Beshear, along with First Lady Britainy Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman placed the final three flags during the ceremony, making for 3,301 in total.

Rev. Tonya Kenner of First United Methodist Church opened the ceremony with a prayer.

“And as we think of these lives, God, we realize that these flags also flow across our nation [for other COVID victims] and… across the world, as the pandemic has affected so many people,” Kenner said. “So we ask that you help us get that glimmer of hope, that hope that this vaccine will make a difference.”

Beshear spoke about March 6, when Kentucky had its first confirmed case of coronavirus. 

“Few of us could imagine what a staggering and heartbreaking loss we would experience,” Beshear said.

Stephanie Wolf | wfpl.org

Gov. Andy Beshear places a flag into the lawn outside the State Capitol Building to honor health care workers.

The flag that he placed into the ground was in honor of Dr. Rebecca Shadowen, a physician and infectious disease specialist in Bowling Green, who died from the virus last September at 62. 

The memorial also honors the state’s other frontline health care workers, “who haven’t just shown up everyday to fight this virus, but actually sacrifice their lives for us, sacrifice their lives to take care of other people.”

“[This] most noble type of sacrifice cannot be forgotten,” Beshear said. 

Coleman said the flag she placed was in honor of the education community and the sacrifices they’ve made during the pandemic. She mentioned Simone Parker, a science teacher at Trigg County High School for nearly two decades, who died two weeks ago.

“In a state as tight-knit as ours, one loss is too many,” Coleman said.

Stephanie Wolf | wfpl.org

First Lady Britainy Beshear and Gov. Andy Beshear walk through a “sea” of more than 3,000 flags on the State Capitol Building grounds Jan. 22, 2021. Each flag represents a Kentuckian who died from COVID-19.

First Lady Beshear dedicated her flag to Rev. Robert “Bob” Duggan, a Presbyterian and United Methodist minister. He died from coronavirus at the age of 81.

Beshear said he thought many more months would pass between the time they marked the grim milestone of 2,000 COVID-19 deaths in early December and now. 

Yet, after a morning visit to the mass vaccination site at the Broadbent Arena in Louisville, where Jefferson County educators and staff were getting vaccinated, he said he was feeling hopeful.

Late Friday afternoon, the governor reported 2,756 new cases of COVID-19 and another 36 deaths on top of the 3,301 whose lives were memorialized in flags at the State Capitol just hours earlier.

Stephanie Wolf | wfpl.org

Keith Dean performs the Gospel hymn “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” during a memorial ceremony at the State Capitol for Kentuckians lost to COVID-19 on Jan. 22, 2021.

 

Stephanie Wolf is WFPL's Arts Reporter.