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COVID victims honored as state surpasses 10,000 virus-related deaths

Published: Nov. 14, 2021 at 4:48 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - State leaders, religious leaders, health care workers, and others gathered at the capitol rotunda on Sunday afternoon for a memorial ceremony to honor the more than 10,000 Kentuckians who have died of COVID-19 during the pandemic.

“The number of Kentuckians lost to COVID is approaching the total number of our people we lost in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War combined,” said Gov. Beshear. “Right now, more than 10,000 of our neighbors are gone, and their loved ones are hurting, missing them, preparing for their first or second Thanksgiving with an empty seat at the table.

“Our war against COVID is different in many ways from the wars fought by our brave soldiers,” he continued. “But to achieve our ultimate victory, we must have the same urgency, unity, and dedication to one another.”

A Morehead doctor also spoke at the ceremony, as did Jacqueline Woodward, who lost her husband of 45 years, Gary, to the virus. She said the heartache, pain, and grief are beyond words.

“Today is a bittersweet day as we come together to honor the memory of all of those who lost their loved one to COVID-19. Ten thousand. How overwhelming a number and how devastating a time it has been for so many,” Woodward said. “I am here today not only for my family and me but also for all the families that have lost loved ones across the state of Kentucky. Those loved ones and I will forever have a bond that will connect us as we move on the new journey of life together – remembering the loved ones that meant so much to us and gave so much to Kentucky.”

As a family member of a lost loved one, Woodward worked on the COVID-19 Memorial Advisory Panel.

“Our loved ones are not just a number, they are people that meant so much to so many,” said Woodward. “I have endured the greatest tragedy of my lifetime.

Woodward’s story is a story shared by far too many Kentuckians

“10,000...how overwhelming a number,” Woodward said. “How devastating a time it has been for so many.”

Amid the moving speeches and prayers of the day, Gov. Beshear said it is important that Kentuckians keep their compassion for those who are grieving and don’t grow numb to the sacrifices people have made during this pandemic.

“Go back to that first person we lost,” said Gov. Beshear. “All of us throughout the state were hurting for that family. The last person we lost is just as important as the first.”

Woodward knows deeply what so many families across the Commonwealth are dealing with. She, her late husband and their kids all work in healthcare.

“We knew the risk that this pandemic brought to us, but we also knew that we were servants that had a job to be performed,” said Woodward.

Gary was a critical care nurse team leader.

“The unit he led is the unit that cared for him each and every day,” Woodward added.

At the ceremony, Gov. Beshear also announced that Amanda Matthews, an artist, and CEO of a Lexington-based company, has been commissioned to create the permanent Team Kentucky COVID-19 memorial, located on the capitol grounds.

Matthews said she feels deeply honored to be selected from the pool of applicants. She was chosen by a panel which comprised family members of lost loved ones, healthcare workers and first responders.

“I hope they feel the presence of their loved ones, of their family members, of other Kentuckians…and they feel a sense of belonging and unity,” said Matthews of those who will visit the monument upon its completion.

As the battle against COVID-19 continues, Gov. Beshear this week again encouraged those eligible to get booster shots to increase immunity. He also hopes those who watched today’s event reconsider if they aren’t yet vaccinated.

“Maybe this is the chance to watch those that have lost, to watch those who’ve sacrificed and say ‘You know, maybe I haven’t up until now - but now’s the right time,’” said Gov. Beshear.

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