Kentucky to get 6% more vaccine doses next week; meanwhile, case numbers and positive-test rate continue to trend down

Ky. Health News graph; new-case numbers are initial, unadjusted reports; click it to enlarge.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health NewsGov. Andy Beshear praised Kentuckians for their efforts in thwarting the spread of the novel coronavirus, announcing that case numbers and the positive-test rate keep trending down, and the federal government is sending more vaccine.

“We are seeing really good compliance out there. Keep it up,” Beshear said. “Right now you’re showing that we can win. We can decrease cases just through our behavior, and this is at the same time that we’re vaccinating, so all that’s good.”Beshear announced 2,339 new cases of the virus, bringing the state’s seven-day rolling average to 2,032, which is 15 less than Monday.

The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days dropped again, to 7.66 percent. “This is a good thing,” he said.

Asked if the state’s case numbers are lower because fewer people are getting tested, Beshear said testing numbers are in a “generally good place.” In addition, he said the decline in the positivity rate supports the low case numbers. He said it’s too early for vaccines to have had an impact on case numbers.

While Kentucky’s case numbers have generally declined for a month, so have other states’, so the state ranks seventh in new cases in the last seven days.

Beshear said he had not heard of any more variants of the virus being reported, beyond the one today in Jefferson County.

He cautioned that the existence of these highly contagious variants doesn’t necessarily mean case numbers will go up because wearing a mask and social distancing and the other public health strategies are “still pretty effective.”

“The variants make everybody nervous,” he said, “but they don’t change the game plan and what it’s going to take to protect ourselves until we’re out of this and what we do to get out of it in terms of vaccinations.”

Kentucky Health News graph; click on it to enlarge.
Daily listings of deaths are made after cases are reviewed.

Beshear said the number of Covid-19 deaths is still “stubbornly high” after he announced 35 more, 16 from Louisville. That took the state’s death toll to 4,126. The 14-day death average is the same as yesterday, 45.1 per day.Also, all of the hospital numbers are up, with 1,204 Covid-19 patients in Kentucky hospitals (up 41 from yesterday); 282 in intensive care (up eight) and 148 of those on ventilators (up six). Beshear said these increases are within normal variations.

For the first time since the state started reporting hospital capacity on a regular basis, none of the hospital readiness regions reported ventilator use, ICU use or overall patient numbers above 80% capacity.

Schools: The state’s K-12 school dashboard shows that 182 schools have never reported their case or quarantine numbers, and last week 401 of them did not. Schools have been asked to self-report daily.

Asked about that, Beshear first commended schools that regularly report, saying they are “living their values of being transparent.” He voiced disappointment in the rest, “because what they do is they remove the real information . . . that they need” in deciding whether to send a child to school or not, especially as the state works toward getting every school open to in-person learning in some capacity.

“It’s highly disappointing that schools would not be reporting, and I would not feel safe with my children going to the ones that do not,” he said. “That would not give me confidence that those schools are doing everything it takes to battle Covid because they’re not doing everything it takes for public health and local health departments and others to know the situation in their schools.”

Asked what he is doing about it, he said the state is encouraging them to participate, and “that’s probably where it’s going to be.” He added, “I think we should all be disappointed that there are schools that claim they can keep our children safe, but won’t show us the data that backs it up.”

Last week, 1,295 students and 523 staff tested positive for the virus, resulting in 5,197 students and 738 staff being quarantined, according to the dashboard.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to issue guidance on school reopenings this week, CNN reports.

Click here for the Kentucky Department of Education‘s considerations for reopening Kentucky schools after vaccination.

Vaccines: Beshear announced that the federal government is increasing Kentucky’s vaccine supply for the third time in three weeks, this time by 6 percent. He said that means the state will get 71,675 doses next week, up 28% from the 56,175 three weeks ago. This week, the state received 68,475 doses.

“It’s not enough, but it’s great,” the governor said.

At least 452,532 Kentuckians have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the state’s daily vaccination report.

Beshear said the state’s larger vaccine sites will likely move to phase 1C, which includes people 60 and older, people with high-risk conditions and all essential workers, when they find that slots are not being filled up by those in the higher priority groups, which means that some of the regional centers may move to that phase earlier than others.

In anticipation of severe winter weather expected through Thursday night, Beshear said the regional vaccination sites at the Kentucky Horse Park, Bowling Green and Covington will be closed Thursday to ensure the safety of all staff, volunteers and vaccine recipients.

“If you have waited a long time to get this appointment, I am really sorry,” Beshear said. “But I also don’t want to put you out on the roads with thick amounts of ice. . . . We will get you vaccinated.” He said the appointments will be automatically rescheduled no later than the following week.

The University of Kentucky said it would keep its vaccination site inside Kroger Field open, despite the weather, and encouraged people to keep their appointments if possible. UK also encouraged them to dress warmly since they may stand outside for a few minutes before checking in.

Adam Mather, inspector general of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, gave an update on vaccinations in long-term-care facilities. Under a federal contract, CVS Health and Walgreens manage that for all states but West Virginia, and are scheduled to offer three vaccine clinics in each facility.

Mather said CVS has completed its second clinics in 88% of long-term-care facilities and 79% of assisted-living facilities. He said Walgreens is 28% into its third clinics in long-term care and 90% through second clinics in assisted living.
He added that the state is also vaccinating Supports for Community Living residents, a program that helps 3,524 people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. He said more than 1,110 have received a shot from Walgreens, local health departments or other providers.
Mather said the state is working on a program for health departments to vaccine seniors who live in lower-income congregate housing.

On Feb. 5, the Lexington Herald Leader reported that an estimated 45% of long-term-care employees have received the vaccine, compared to an estimated 73% of residents.

Marianne Lee Snowden was 29.

Memorial: Beshear honored Marianne Lee Snowden of Walton who died at age 29 on Jan. 14 at St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Florence from Covid-19 complications. Beshear said she was actively involved in NorthKey Community Care in Williamstown and also in the Special Olympics, where she loved cheerleading, running track, bowling and playing softball.“Marianne was sick for 11 days before she passed, begging to go home every day,” Beshear said, quoting her mother: “If you don’t think Covid is bad, it’s worse than you think. My daughter passed away from it. Gone almost four weeks and I don’t know what to do with myself. Send prayers, wear your masks and keep your distance.” Beshear said, “To the Snowdens, we are so sorry for your loss.”

In other coronavirus news Tuesday:

  • Today’s fatalities were two men from Barren County, 89 and 91; two men from Boone County, 88 and 92; a Boyle County woman, 97; a Breckinridge County man, 84; a Fayette County man, 57; a Graves County man, 72; two Hardin County women, 75 and 89; two Hardin County men, 67 and 70; a Hopkins County woman, 68; a Hopkins County man, 75; 10 Jefferson County women, 58, 65, 70, 74, 75, 76, 77, 87, 92 and 94; six Jefferson County men, 74, 75, 76, 77, 86 and 93; a Kenton County woman, 95; a Larue County woman, 76; a Nelson County man, 68; a Washington County woman, 102; and a Washington County man, 61.
  • Counties with 10 or more new cases were Jefferson, 396; Fayette, 116; Kenton, 115; Boone, 92; Madison, 82; Laurel and Warren, 66; Pulaski, 64; Hardin, 61; Daviess, 58; Campbell, 53; Nelson, 46; Pike, 45; Oldham, 42; Taylor, 38; McCreary, 33; Barren, 30; Bullitt, Russell and Scott, 28; Allen, 27; Grant and Knox, 25; Christian, 24; Henderson, 21; Caldwell, Hopkins, Jackson and Whitley, 20; Marshall and Shelby, 19; Clinton, Franklin and Marion, 18; Lawrence, 17; Mason, 16; Bell, 15; Boyd, Green and McCracken, 14; Clay and Grayson, 13; Jessamine, Livingston, Logan, Owen, Perry and Trigg, 12; Anderson, Graves and Wayne, 11; Floyd, Magoffin, Meade, Pendleton and Simpson, 10.
  • In long-term care, there are 14 new cases among residents and 15 among staff; 303 active resident cases, and 204 active staff cases. The state attributed 12 more long-term-care residents’ deaths to Covid-19, bringing that death toll to 2,205.
  • The British B117 variant of the virus has been identified in Jefferson County, WDRB reports. “Between that and Super Bowl and people tired of staying home, these numbers can change direction at any minute,” Dr. Sarah Moyer, Louisville’s chief health strategist, said at a news conference. She said the variant does not produce more severe outcomes, but is much more contagious, “so if before, if you would have infected one or two people if you had Covid, now it’s a greater number, like four or six.”
  • Five weeks into the high-school basketball season and five to go before playoffs, WKYT reports that 16% of games were cancelled in the first week, increasing to 24%, 35% and 37% in subsequent weeks. In week 5, it was back down to 29%. KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett told WKYT  that “It’s gone about as we expected” and that most cancellations were the result of quarantines following a positive test.
  • As teachers’ vaccinations begin to wrap up, new state guidance says Kentucky schools don’t have to offer virtual work if teachers refuse a shot, Valarie Honeycutt Spears reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. The requirement to offer accommodations extends until the eligible employee is at least seven calendar days past getting their final vaccine dose, and will be offered to those who refuse the vaccine for medical reasons, Honeycutt reports. A spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education told her that some schools may decide to let staff without medical exemptions who don’t get vaccinated continue to work remotely.
  • UK is looking for 200 adult volunteers for a trial to test the efficacy of getting two shots of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, instead of the currently recommended single dose.  Click here if you are interested in participating in the study.
  • Matt Mencarini reports for the Louisville Courier Journal on the challenges in Kentucky’s prisons and jails that have been hit hard by the coronavirus. Medical experts told the paper that the best tools for them would be to provide vaccinations and to reduce their populations. Early in the pandemic, Kentucky reduced its inmate population, but at this time, inmates are not included in any priority list for vaccines.
  • Corinne Boyer of Ohio Valley ReSource reports on the challenges of staying in addiction treatment while staying safe from Covid-19.
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