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Photo: Jon Cherry via Getty Images

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday that the record-high surge in COVID-19 cases would have led to a statewide mask mandate if that authority still lay with him.

Why it matters: Kentucky's Supreme Court recently transferred authority over pandemic-related decisions, including masking, to the GOP-controlled state legislature, according to the Democratic governor.

What he's saying: Kentucky is in "uncharted" territory as COVID infections overwhelm hospitalizations and ICU units, Beshear said at a news conference Thursday.

  • He later announced 5,401 newly reported cases — the second-highest report since the pandemic began — and 27 new deaths. The state's positivity rate has increased to 13.24%, he noted.
  • "Every other time we’ve been this high, we’ve done that and it’s worked. It has decreased the number of cases," he said.
  • "I can’t do that now, and I get that," he added. "And I’ll provide all the information that I can to the General Assembly and hopefully they will make the best choice that they can."

What to watch: Beshear has met with legislative leaders and is considering convening a special session to address COVID-related issues, AP reports.

  • Republican Senate President Robert Stivers said this week that a blanket mask mandate would have a "very limited chance" of passing, per AP.

The big picture: More than 10,000 COVID infections have been recorded statewide in the last two days, according to Beshear, and 4,600 children have tested positive in the last three days.

Go deeper

20 hours ago - Axios on HBO

Rand Paul claims vindication in battle with Anthony Fauci

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told Mike Allen in an interview for "Axios on HBO" that President Biden should fire Anthony Fauci "just for lack of judgment, if nothing else."

The big picture: Paul claims vindication in his dispute with Fauci, played out at heated Senate hearings, over the level of risk of U.S.-funded research in Wuhan, where COVID began.

2 hours ago - Sports

Unvaccinated athletes face 21-day quarantine at Beijing Olympics

Logos for the 2022 Winter Olympics at Yanqing Ice Festival in February 2021 in Beijing. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Athletes, staff members and journalists at the 2022 Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus will be required to quarantine for three weeks, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) outlined in its newly-published "playbooks."

Why it matters: The quarantine period is longer than the Games themselves, meaning vaccinations or an earlier arrival date will be required to participate in or cover the Games.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
4 hours ago - Economy & Business

FTX CEO predicts more U.S. crypto flight

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

FTX doesn't look much like a company valued at $25 billion. Its new headquarters, located in a sleepy part of The Bahamas, is so nondescript as to not even have a sign. But it does expect to soon have neighbors.

Driving the news: Founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried tells "Axios on HBO" to expect "more and more crypto flight from the states" if the U.S. doesn't soon create a regulatory regime for cryptocurrencies.

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