Kentucky has been awarded a $1 million federal grant to help expand high-speed internet across the state, and we are delighted, but maybe not for the same reasons as others.

Gov. Andy Beshear noted the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of reliable high-speed internet access for education, businesses and health care. “Access to the internet is no longer a luxury,” Beshear said in a news release. “To build a better Kentucky, every home and business in our state should have access to affordable, adequate and reliable internet to participate fully in our economy, schools and society.”

The grant, provided by funding from the American Rescue Plan, is the latest step to expand high-speed internet in Kentucky. Last year, Beshear’s administration dedicated $8 million in federal pandemic relief funding to expand internet connectivity for elementary and secondary students and their families.

Expanding the internet to help cope with COVID-19 is just the beginning. It will help with future pandemics we are sure to face.

Scientists agree that more viruses capable of causing a global pandemic will emerge, says Amesh Adalja of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, who predicted respiratory RNA viruses were a particular threat a year before the emergence of COVID-19, which is a respiratory RNA virus. Virologists also have expressed concerns about other COVID viruses, more flu viruses and the Nipah virus of Asian fruit bats, which is deadly. Scientists predict there are other viruses we haven’t yet encountered.

Harvard’s school of public health website states climate change, which we know is happening, can have an effect on the spread of disease.

“Many of the root causes of climate change also increase the risk of pandemics. Deforestation, which occurs mostly for agricultural purposes, is the largest cause of habitat loss worldwide. Loss of habitat forces animals to migrate and potentially contact other animals or people and share germs. Large livestock farms can also serve as a source for spillover of infections from animals to people. Less demand for animal meat and more sustainable animal husbandry could decrease emerging infectious disease risk and lower greenhouse gas emissions,” the website states. “We have many reasons to take climate action to improve our health and reducing risks for infectious disease emergence is one of them.”

With predictions of such a future, we must continue to connect via internet so society can go on, unfortunately, in isolation, if need be.

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