By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
More than 9,000 Kentuckians have now died from Covid-19.
“Today . . . marks a difficult day in our fight against Covid,” Gov. Andy Beshear said at he reported the number at his weekly news conference. “That’s more than we’ve lost in any modern war, any two of them put together. It’s the largest loss of life over a period of time than any of us have ever lived through.”
The state reported 50 more Covid-19 deaths Thursday and Beshear said that four of them were in their 30s. That brings the death toll to 9,022. The state is averaging 36 deaths per day over the last seven days and nearly 40 per day over the last 14 days.
Beshear first encouraged Kentuckians to take time to deal with the loss and trauma from these deaths, but then asked them to do something about it. “The number one thing that we can do is to get vaccinated,” he said.
As of Oct. 7, an average of 14,466 doses of coronavirus vaccine were given daily in Kentucky over the last seven days, a 13% increase over the week before, according to The Washington Post, using CDC data.
Beshear particularly encouraged people under 60 to get the vaccination because of the protections it offers against severe illness and death. He then pointed to a graph that showed since July, 422, or 95%, of the 443 Covid-19 deaths in Kentuckians under the age of 60 have been in unvaccinated people. The remaining 21 deaths were among vaccinated people.
Children between 5 and 11 could soon qualify for a coronavirus vaccination. Pfizer and BioNTech asked the U.S Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization of their Covid-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11 on Thursday, and the agency is scheduled to discuss the request on Oct. 26. The New York Times reports that a ruling is expected between Halloween and Thanksgiving.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly 5.9 million Americans younger than 18 have been infected with the coronavirus. Of the roughly 500 Americans under 18 who have died, about 125 were children ages 5 to 11, reports the Times. In Kentucky, nearly 20% of cases have been in people under 20.
Hospital staffing: Beshear said hospitalizations have decreased 17% in the last seven days and that intensive care and ventilator use is also trending down, and that this has relieved some of the staffing pressures on the facilities.
He said 58 of the state’s 96 acute-care hospitals are reporting critical staffing shortages.
Asked about Senate President Robert Stiver’s request for a special session to address health-care staffing shortages that continue even as the pandemic wanes, Beshear said no-one has asked to meet with him about this issue and that he isn’t sure if they’ve even talked to the House about it.
“And we’ve always said, if we’re gonna have a special session at 60 something thousand dollars a day, you’ve got to have agreement with everybody,” he said. “So this is one of those instances where yeah, somebody is looking at a camera saying something, but they’re not doing any of the work to suggest they’re serious about it.”
He reiterated some of his concerns about using federal money to boost staffing in health-care facilities, including concerns that it will create a bidding war between hospitals and temporary staffing companies, which have been reported as paying upwards of $200 and hour.
He said he is instead recommending that the General Assembly use $400 million in federal relief funds for bonuses to “essential workers” who have stayed in their roles for at least tow full years after the start of the pandemic. Beshear said this plan will require a working group to work out the details, including who will get it and how much they would get.
Schools: Beshear encouraged school officials to be careful about dropping their mask requirements, noting that most schools in Kentucky have a lot of people in small spaces and generally have poor ventilation.
“What I think we’ll need to do is see a lot more yellow and green in our state, right, the spread of the virus decreasing,” he said.
On Thursday, only two counties were yellow, meaning they have between 1.1 and 10 daily cases per 100,000 people. They are Crittenden at 6.5 cases per 100,000 and Carlisle at 9 cases per 100,000.
Faith drives decisions: Responding to a question about how his faith in God guides him, Beshear said his faith and family drives everything he does, noting that faith allows a person to have the courage to make unpopular decisions, because it allows them to do what is right.
“We look at this pandemic, and it’s the lessons of our faith that are the answers. Right? Loving our neighbor as as ourselves, being our brother and sisters keeper, living for one another, even if you’ve never met that other person,” he said.
To celebrate the last couple of weeks of good news in Kentucky, Beshear has asked Kentuckians to post videos on social media that express why they are proud to be a Kentuckian and to include the “TeamKentucky” hashtag.