State Dept. for Public Health table shows coronavirus vaccination rates decline with age.
By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
Gov. Andy Beshear announced he will lift the curfew on restaurants and bars and allow at-the-bar seating on May 28, the same day businesses serving fewer than 1,000 people can expand their capacity to 75%.
“Be reasonable. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” Beshear said at a news conference. “Look at your own facilities, look at the ability for air to move in and out, look at what your vaccination rates are in your county and what your incidence rates are and try to make good decisions.”
After the news conference, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced
it had expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech
coronavirus vaccine to include children 12 to 15 years old.
“Today’s action allows for a younger population to be protected from Covid-19, bringing us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic,” acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said a news release. “Parents and guardians can rest assured that the agency undertook a rigorous and thorough review of all available data, as we have with all of our Covid-19 vaccine emergency use authorizations.”
In anticipation of that announcement, state Health Commissioner Steven Stack said a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention committee will meet Wednesday to adopt the FDA’s recommendations.
Beshear said once the Pfizer vaccine can be given to children 12-15, the state will be able to set a timeline for ending capacity limits on events, venues and businesses with fewer than 1,000 people.
“What we want to do is give time for this age group to get vaccinated because they are certainly out and about in those types of activities,” he said.
Stack encouraged parents to get their children vaccinated, noting that the side effects have been similar to those seen in adults, mainly some soreness at the injection site and some aches and fatigue.
“They have found the Pfizer [vaccine] to be incredibly safe and very well tolerated,” Stack said. “Additionally, they have found that it has been, at least in the initial studies, 100 percent protected from serious illness. So that’s been very good to see as well.”
He added that the state is working with local health departments and Wild Health
to offer the vaccines at schools. “We’d like to make this as easy as possible for everybody,” he said.
Kentucky is now using the CDC’s vaccines.gov website
to help Kentuckians to find a vaccination site near them. The site also allows users to look for sites with the vaccine they would like to take.
So far, 1,875,554 people have received at least one dose of a vaccine in Kentucky, an increase of 8,517 from Sunday’s report.
Beshear said 80% of Kentuckians 65 and older had received at least one dose of a vaccine; with each younger age group, the percentage is less; 53% of Kentuckians 16 and older have received at least one dose.
The state has identified 540 cases with coronavirus “variants of concern;” 486 were the B.1.1.7. variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom and is now the dominant strain of the virus in the U.S.
Beshear’s daily news release said 852 out of 856, or 99.42%, of the Kentuckians who died of Covid-19 since Feb. 1 were not vaccinated.
“Folks, we need people to keep getting vaccinated,” he said. “It’s proven to be incredibly safe. The vaccines have been incredibly effective.”
Stack said likewise: “I encourage you all to please get vaccinated as quick as you can. The governor’s already said we’re going to lift more restrictions, and the safest way for us to do that is for everyone to be protected through the vaccine.”
Asked the import of the CDC’s new guidance that the virus is spread by aerosolization, Beshear and Stack said that this has been suspected for a while and is why mask and ventilation efforts have been so important.
“There is a responsibility for any business owner, school, et cetera, that’s poorly ventilated to really look at what is possible and what is safe,” said Beshear.
Stack said ventilation is the “single biggest distinction” between indoor and outdoor spaces and it’s important to continue to do activities outdoors to the fullest extent possible and to increase ventilation indoors.
“It’s very important until people are all vaccinated that we continue to exercise caution, particularly in interior spaces and around people who are vulnerable or not vaccinated,” he said. He added later, “Now remember, Covid is a bad disease. It does bad things to people and it’s caused a lot of harm, not only death, but disability in Covid long-hauler problems. . . . Covid is not good and vaccinations are a way to help us get out of this and get back fully to life.”
Daily numbers: Gov. Andy Beshear announced 167 new cases on Monday, lowering the seven-day rolling average to 526 per day, about where it was two weeks ago before a slight increase in cases.
The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days is 3.25%. The figure has declined for five straight days, from a recent high of 3.57%.
The weekly number of cases and positive-test rate also dropped slightly this week, showing Kentucky continues to be on plateaus for both measures.
|State Dept. for Public Health graph, relabeled by Ky. Health News; for a larger version, click on it.
The state’s daily rate of new cases over the last seven days is 10.26 per 100,000 residents. Counties with more than double that rate were Powell, 61.3; Montgomery, 47.7; Lewis, 25.8; Bath, 25.1; Grayson, 23.2; Rockcastle, 23.1; Simpson, 23.1; Estill, 22.3; Mason, 21.8; Henderson, 21.2; Fleming, 20.6; and Taylor, 20.5.
The New York Times ranks
Kentucky’s new-case rate 22nd among the states, with a 5% rate of increase over the last 14 days. The Times says five states had a higher rate of increase: Mississippi, 9%; Hawaii, 10%; Arkansas and Wyoming, 12%; and New Mexico, 18%. Indiana also had a 5% increase.
In addition to the new-case rates, the state’s desktop dashboard
now provides a county-level positive-test rate, which businesses and institutions can use to help gauge the level of risk in their communities. Stack said, “I think the incidence rate is still the single best metric for you to use in general to see how common the disease is in your area.”
Hospital numbers also remain on a plateau. Kentucky hospitals reported 404 Covid-10 patients, down eight from Sunday; 109 of them in intensive care, down five; and 51 of those on a ventilator, unchanged. The Lake Cumberland hospital readiness region remains the only one of 10 that is using at least 80% of its intensive care unit capacity, at 87%.
The state reported 11 more Covid-19 deaths, nine of them from regular health-department reports and two from an ongoing audit of death certificates. The death toll in Kentucky from the virus is 6,597.
The regularly reported fatalities were a Ballard County woman, 83; a Fayette County man, 68; a Floyd County woman, 92; a Gallatin County woman, 79; a Gallatin County man, 85; a Grayson County woman, 53; an Owsley County man, 67; a Pendleton County man, 86; and a Russell County woman, 79. The audit deaths, both in December, were a Fayette County woman, 89; and a Muhlenberg County woman, 84.
In other pandemic news Monday:
- Counties with five or more new cases were Jefferson, 28; Warren, 11; Daviess, 10; Laurel, 8; Boone and McCracken, 7; Greenup and Henderson, 6; and Kenton, 5.
- Beshear reported one more resident and seven more staff in long-term care facilities had tested positive for the virus, bringing active case numbers to 66 residents and 104 staff. He said two more deaths in the facilities can be attributed to Covid-19, for a total of 2,231.
- The Kentucky Lottery is offering an incentive program to encourage Kentucky adults to get a coronavirus vaccine, Jack Brammer reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Those 18 or older who get a first or second vaccination at more than 170 Kroger and Walmart locations will receive a coupon for a free Cash Ball 225 ticket. Each ticket usually costs $1 and the top prize in the nightly Cash Ball 225 game is $225,000. The offer is good through next Friday, May 21, or until the 225,000 tickets run out.
- The University of Kentucky is looking to enroll students from any postsecondary institution between 18 and 26 for a study that will see whether people can pass on the virus to others after being vaccinated with Moderna, Sarah Ladd reports for the Louisville Courier Journal. Students who are interested in the study can fill out prescreening questions at http://stopcovidky.com/. After that, eligible people will be contacted regarding next steps. “The goal of the study is to determine whether vaccines like Moderna halt the spread of COVID-19 in addition to providing protection for a vaccinated person,” Ladd reports.
- The World Health Organization has declared a coronavirus variant first identified in India as a global “variant of concern,” The Wall Street Journal reports. This is the fourth “variant of concern” classified by the WHO.