WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden said on Monday he would travel to Kentucky on Wednesday to see the damage caused by last week’s devastating tornadoes that killed dozens of people and displaced thousands more.

Biden announced the upcoming trip following a briefing with homeland security and disaster response officials in the Oval Office to discuss what more the federal government can do to support those affected by the natural disaster. The White House said it would travel to Fort Campbell, Ky., For a briefing on response operations, and then to hard-hit Mayfield and Dawson Springs to assess the damage.

Biden said he was developing the route in consultation with local authorities to ensure his presence does not distract from the ongoing emergency response.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that Biden is not expected to give a speech during his visit to Kentucky, but will instead focus on meeting with local officials and “trying to be a source. of comfort to those who have gone through a devastating couple of days in their communities.

“This visit is really about asking him to receive an update on the work being done on the ground, to hear directly from leaders on what they need more from the federal government, if any, and he will be very responsive to that, ”she said.

Biden, who has already signed emergency declarations for Kentucky, said he was prepared to do the same for Illinois. He added that he had ordered his administration to make all resources available to local and state officials in Kentucky and other storm-affected states.

The president said his message to governors was that the federal government would help them get “whatever they need, when they need it.”

“We’re going to get there,” Biden added. “We’re going to be there as long as it takes to help.

Speaking in the Senate, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, from Kentucky, said, “This is the worst storm to hit Kentucky in my life.” McConnell said he would return “at the end of the week” to Kentucky – an indication that he would not be joining Biden’s trip on Wednesday.

Earlier Monday, McConnell thanked Biden in a tweet for his pro-state actions.

“Thank you @POTUS for your early approval of the Kentucky Major Disaster Declaration,” he said. “Our entire congressional delegation has come together to support @GovAndyBeshear’s request. I appreciate the administration’s quick work to expedite resources to help deal with this crisis. “

Biden said he was worried, beyond the lives lost, of the emotional toll the disaster is taking on everyone affected.

“I am very frankly concerned about the mental health of these people,” he said. He said his administration strives to help people gain “peace of mind” so that they can “actually put their heads on a pillow, lie down and be able to know their children are going. Good”.

AP writers Lisa Mascaro and Alexandra Jaffe contributed.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.