Plans made to increase pace of vaccinations and who’s next in line to get it; meanwhile, cases and positive-test rates increase

Revised version of chart presented by Gov. Andy Beshear during press conference Monday

By Melissa Patrick

Kentucky Health News
Gov. Andy Beshear and the state’s top doctor announced Monday that people 60 and older, all essential workers and those in the highest risk groups will be next in line to get the vaccine for the novel coronavirus.
Meanwhile, as Beshear announced the latest pandemic numbers, all of them high, he again said the reasons for the recent rise in daily new cases and positive-test rate remain uncertain.
In its vaccine guidance the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a broad list for people who are considered essential workers and conditions that are considered high risk. These groups will not be eligible for vaccination until those in the first two phases are complete.
Beshear said vaccinations for long-term care residents and staff and frontline health-care personnel are expected to be done by the end of January, and first responders, people 70 and older and K-12 school personnel are expected to start getting vaccinated in late January or early February.
After those 60 and older and essential workers are vaccinated, Kentucky will open them to those 40 and older, followed by 16 and older. The vaccines have not yet been approved for those under the age of 16.
Beshear and Health Commissioner Steven Stack expressed great disappointment in how slow the vaccinations are going, and offered a new plan to try to speed up the process.
Stack said the new goal is for vaccination providers to administer 90% of doses in their possession within a week of those doses arriving, even if they don’t go to the group that they are designated for.
“The goal is to not have vaccines sitting in a freezer,” said Stack, a physician. “The goal is to have vaccine administered to willing recipients who want to have the vaccine.”
He added later, “We’re still going to prioritize and start at the top of the pyramid every week. We’re going to ask every site to schedule your vaccine for people who are at the highest tiers. But the goal is not to have it wait and hang over till the next week, it’s to administer it and use it — and then when you get the next shipment, start over again with that process.”
Beshear said the state has received about 52,550 doses for long-term care facilities, but only 10,641 residents and staff, or 20.2%, have been reported vaccinated by Walgreens and CVS, which are doing the work under federal contracts.

The governor said there is a lag in reporting, but “I am not satisfied with the pace of vaccination here in Kentucky,” and said the state had offered National Guard assistance to help the companies speed up: “We’re going to push. I’ll let you know, when we get our response, how many teams that lets us add.”

Beshear also called for more urgency in the health-care personnel program, which has a reported completion rate of 41%: administration of 49,773 of the 122,100 doses allocated to it.
Former Gov. John Y. Brown Jr., who turned 87
Dec. 28, gave thumbs up as he was vaccinated.

Several former Kentucky governors and their spouses received the vaccine, along with 11 leaders of the General Assembly, five Republicans and six Democrats. Beshear said it was important for public leaders to be seen getting the vaccine because “there is no question that there is vaccine hesitancy out there” and it has been proven that it helps people to overcome their concerns about vaccination when they see people they trust get vaccinated.

“If we cannot reach the percentages we need of people vaccinated, we don’t get to immunity, we don’t defeat Covid,” he said. “So we can look at this cynically, if you want, or we can do what it’s actually going to take to get people vaccinated and defeat Covid-19.”
House Speaker David Osborne said on KET‘s “Kentucky Tonight” that he felt conflicted about getting a coronavirus vaccine just because of his public office, but “I had so many constituents who were expressing concern” about the vaccine that he thought he should provide an example.
Daily numbers: Beshear announced 2,319 new cases of the virus, the most ever reported on a Monday. That continued a steep increase in recent days and brought the seven-day rolling average for new cases up to 2,956, nearly what it was on Dec. 17.
The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days increased to the state’s highest rate yet since the state started widely testing for the virus in May: 11.18%.
State Department for Public Health graph; for a larger version, click on it.
A news release from Beshear’s office on Sunday that he would “provide a full explanation of the positivity rate” Monday, but he only offered possibilities. He said the rate could be high because fewer asymptomatic people have been tested in the past seven days due to the holidays, because many testing facilities have been closed, or a the result of increased social gatherings: “We think it is some of both.”
Hospitalizations from the virus are above 1,700 for the first time since Dec. 18, at 1,737. Of those, 456 are in intensive care, which is four short of the record set on Dec. 16, and 216 are on ventilators.
Beshear noted that three of the state’s 10 hospital-readiness regions have more than 80% of their ICU beds occupied and the northeast region has 84% of its hospital beds occupied. The easternmost region is at 83.1% ICU capacity, Barren River is at 83.3% and Lake Cumberland region is at 95.6%.

“This shouldn’t necessarily sound the alarm, but it should tell us that where we are continues to be fragile, that in just one week of not doing the things we need to do, we can give up gains that we’ve bought,” the governor said.

Beshear reported 26 more deaths from Covid-19, about the average for the past week, bringing the total to 2,749.
In long-term care, there are 1,370 active resident cases and 737 active staff cases, with 105 new resident cases and 126 new staff cases reported today. Beshear attributed 37 more deaths of long-term care residents to Covid-19, bringing the total up to 1,858, or 67.6% of the state’s total pandemic deaths.

“Folks, the only way that we can stop this now is to stop the community spread,” said Beshear. “It’s what we are doing in our communities or what we’re not doing. It’s not following the rules and regulations enough, not wearing a mask, not engaging in social distancing, not being careful that ultimately costs the lives of individuals in these facilities. Please, these are real people. . . . We just need to do better.”

In other coronavirus news Monday:

  • Today’s fatalties were a 79-year-old woman and an 81-year-old man from Boone County; a 54-year-old woman from Boyle County; three women, ages 73, 84 and 92, and a 72-year-old man from Campbell County; a 92-year-old man from Franklin County; a 70-year-old woman from Gallatin County; two men, ages 40 and 70, from Grant County; a 95-year-old woman and three men, ages 72, 78 and 92, from Jefferson County; four women, ages 66, 74, 99 and 102, and three men, ages 86, 88 and 90, from Kenton County; an 82-year-old woman from Lewis County; a 65-year-old man from Marshall County; and an 89-year-old woman and a 64-year-old man from Simpson County.
  • Counties with more than 10 new cases were: Jefferson, 429; Fayette, 170; Boyd, 102; Kenton, 80; Warren, 76; Pulaski, 71; Boone, 66; Bullitt and Henderson, 59; Pike, 57; Oldham, 52; Logan, 51; Campbell, 47; Madison, 41; Daviess, 40; Greenup, 36; Harlan, 35; Marshall, 32; Crittenden and Muhlenberg, 30; Graves, 27; Boyle and Whitley, 26; Scott and Shelby, 25; McCracken and Taylor, 22; Jessamine and Simpson, 19; Anderson and Clinton, 18; Hopkins, 17; Harrison, Perry and Webster, 16; Floyd and Knox, 15; Leslie, Letcher and Ohio, 14; Clark, Hardin, Johnson, Knott and Union, 12; and Carter, Cumberland and Rockcastle, 11.
  • Louisville has opened its first drive-thru coronavirus vaccination site at Broadbent Arena, with the expectation of administering about a thousand doses of the Moderna vaccine to health care workers who fall in the phase 1A group, Ryan Van Velzer reports for WFPL. 
  • Lexington reported 534 new coronavirus cases Monday, including 265 on Saturday and 269 on Sunday, Jeremy Chisenhall reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. “It’s likely a combination of things,” health department spokesman Kevin Hall said. “New cases at [the Federal Medical Center], case backlogs and cases from December gatherings.” The federal prison on Leestown Road, has experienced an outbreak recently, with 329 active infections as of Thursday, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, Chisenhall reports.
  • Five University of Louisville health workers who were the first people in Kentucky to be vaccinated against the coronavirus have received their final dose of the Pfizer vaccine, the Louisville Courier Journal reports. 
  • Around 70% of Jefferson County Public Schools‘ more than 18,000 employees have signed up to be vaccinated against the coronavirus during Phase 1B of vaccinations, which means more than 5,400 of them either declined the vaccine or did not respond to the vaccination survey, Jess Clark reports for WFPL.
  • The General Assembly will require legislators to wear masks when on the floor and when in public spaces dealing with staff, its top leaders said on “Kentucky Tonight.” And what if they don’t? “We will see,” Osborne said. Senate President Robert Stivers said he hopes all members will comply because some members are at higher-than-normal risk from Covid-19, “but we can’t un-elect a person.” House Minority Leader Joni Jenkins, D-Shively said she was “very, very heartened” to hear that masks would be required, not just encouraged, as leaders of the Republican-controlled House had initially planned.
  • The New York Times reports on President Trump: “Throughout late summer and fall, in the heat of a re-election campaign that he would go on to lose, and in the face of mounting evidence of a surge in infections and deaths far worse than in the spring, Mr. Trump’s management of the crisis — unsteady, unscientific and colored by politics all year — was in effect reduced to a single question: What would it mean for him? The result, according to interviews with more than two dozen current and former administration officials and others in contact with the White House, was a lose-lose situation. Mr. Trump not only ended up soundly defeated by Joseph R. Biden Jr., but missed his chance to show that he could rise to the moment in the final chapter of his presidency and meet the defining challenge of his tenure.”


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