Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

McConnell: 'We Need To End This Pandemic As Rapidly As Possible'

Jolene Almendarez
Senator Mitch McConnell visited St. Elizabeth's Training and Education Center in Erlanger Wednesday morning to commend workers for their efforts distributing the COVID-19 vaccine and helping put a stopper on the pandemic.

It's been 105 days since St. Elizabeth Healthcare offered 96 vaccines the first day they were available. Now, it can provide 1,400 per day. Senator Mitch McConnell visited St. Elizabeth's Training and Education Center in Erlanger Wednesday morning to commend workers for their efforts distributing the COVID-19 vaccine and helping put a stopper on the pandemic.

"I was a polio victim when I was a youngster," he said. "I followed, as I got older, the effort to get a vaccine. It took decades — decades to finally get a vaccine that put polio in the rearview mirror. This is done in less than a year. So it was a spectacular accomplishment by the American pharmaceutical industry, in partnership with the government funding that we allowed them to have to make that occur."

Over 1.3 million people in Kentucky have been vaccinated and herd immunity is possible in the coming months. McConnell encouraged people to get the vaccine, in particular Republican men, who he says are hesitant to get their dose.

"As a Republican man, I want you to know I took the vaccine as soon as I was eligible and certainly would urge all the rest to do it because we need to reach this herd immunity level in order to truly get this behind us," he said.

McConnell touted the bi-partisan COVID-19 relief bills passed since 2020 and defended his position to not vote in favor of the recent $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed by lawmakers earlier this month.

"I am concerned about the level of our national debt," he said. "We've reached a critical point here and I hope we're not beginning to engage in the habit of anytime we want to do something, call it a national emergency and run up the national debt $27 trillion…"

His concern about the national debt also extends toPresident Joe Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure plan that includes repairs to 10 major bridges in the country. Whether the Brent Spence Bridge will see any of that money remains in question.

WVXU has reported the I-71/75 bridge carries 160,000-plus vehicles and more than $1 billion worth of freight each day, or more than $400 billion in freight annually.

While structurally sound, the bridge was closed for six weeks last year after a fiery crash. It is partially closed again now for unrelated routine maintenance. For decades, lawmakers have struggled to find money for a replacement bridge.

But McConnell says he may not support a bill that provides money for those purposes.

"I can't imagine that somewhere in a multitrillion dollar bill there wouldn't be money for the Brent Spence Bridge," he said. "Whether that's part of an overall package I can support, I can tell you if it's going to have massive tax increases and trillions more added to the national debt, not likely." 

McConnell reiterated his focus is on reopening the economy and easing COVID-19 restrictions, like the eviction moratorium, which prohibits landlords from evicting tenants in some cases.

"It's a dilemma and, in fact, they're asking every landlord in America to continue to bleed red ink. It's a heck of a problem. What we need to do is end this pandemic as rapidly as possible — and that's what these people are doing by getting the shots and in arms — and begin to terminate these emergency provisions."

President Biden is expected toannounce more details about rebuilding the economy during a stop in Pittsburgh Wednesday.

Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.