State Dept. for Public Health map, adapted by Ky. Health News; to enlarge, click on it.
By Melissa Patrick and Al Cross
Kentucky Health News
Before announcing the new winners of the state’s second vaccine-incentive lottery, Gov. Any Beshear went over the findings of an internal federal health document that says the Delta variant of the coronavirus can spread as easily as chickenpox, appears to cause more severe illness, and can be spread among fully vaccinated people who get the virus.
“It is one of the most transmissible viruses that they have ever seen, significantly more so than the alpha variant,” the first one of significance, Beshear said at the vaccine event. “What this says is we can’t just be normal at the moment, and this thing will spread wider and faster than anything that we have seen to date.”
The slides say the Delta variant is more transmissible than MERS & SARS, Ebola, the common cold, the seasonal flu, the 1918 “Spanish” flu, and smallpox.
The documents, which were to be released Friday, cite data and research showing vaccinated people who are infected with the Delta variant may be able to transmit the virus as easily as those who are unvaccinated. Beshear said that’s what prompted the CDC to change its guidance to recommend that vaccinated people should also wear masks indoors in areas with high transmission rates, which includes almost all of Kentucky.
Fully vaccinated people are less likely to get the virus and less likely to suffer from serious harm or die from it, Beshear said, but “While you might be safe, you might end up harming somebody else” and that’s why it’s important for vaccinated folks to wear a mask too.
“If everybody was vaccinated, this thing wouldn’t be a problem,” he said. “We’ve got to understand that the guidance didn’t change, the virus changed.”
He also called on schools that are not enforcing universal masking to reconsider doing so, noting that an Atlanta school that has already started classes has had to quarantine more than 100 students in the first week.
“With this new information, I’m calling on school districts that have thus far said that they are not going to require masking to reconsider, because they will fail,” Beshear said. “And it’ll be the students that lose out on in-person learning.”
The good news is that vaccination rates are picking up in Kentucky, although slightly. “Vaccines plus masks equals the win,” Beshear said. “Let’s make sure we do it.”
The five Kentucky youth selected for full postscondary-education scholarships are Shelby Anderson of Louisville; Isabella Brozak of Crestwood; TJ Ponder of Owenton; Reese Johnson of Harrodsburg; and Julian Sandberg of Ft. Mitchell.