Beshear says new vaccine is ‘game changer’ and the end of the pandemic is in sight, but masks and distancing are still needed

Margaret Brennan of CBS News interviewed Gov. Andy Beshear on “Face the Nation” Sunday.

By Al Cross

Kentucky Health News
As a new vaccine was released and the coronavirus and Covid-19 kept waning in Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said the end of the pandemic is visible and the third vaccine “is going to be a game-changer.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the one-shot, easily handled vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson could be given to anyone over 18, and shipments of it began moving out of the company’s distribution center in Bullitt County to locations around the country.
“Johnson and Johnson is going to be a game changer,” Beshear said on CBS‘s “Face the Nation” Sunday morning. “We can fully vaccinate everyone in just one shot . . . and we’re going to get tens of thousands of additional vaccines per week, per state. It’s just gonna get us to the finish line that much faster.”
In a video Sunday afternoon, Beshear said new cases of the virus in the state went down for the seventh consecutive week, with final numbers to come Monday, and vaccinations are going faster than ever. He said that in the current vaccination week, with two days to go, more than 91,191 first doses have been administered, the most yet in a week.
“We’re getting these vaccines out faster than the federal government can get ’em to us, and we’ll get them to you,” Beshear said. “Just make sure that you’re patient and don’t stop doing what is protecting us right now: Masking up, engaging in social distancing, reducing your contact. We can see the end; the light of the tunnel is getting brighter, and the directions that we’re headed are good but we can’t quit until we get the job done.”
Daily numbers: Beshear reported only 675 new cases of the virus, the lowest number on a Sunday in almost five months. Testing is down, but so is the percentage of people testing positive; in the last seven days, that figure was 5.02%, the lowest in more than four months.
The seven-day rolling average of new cases, generally the best indicator of the pandemic, fell to 1,094, the first time it has been under 1,100 since Oct. 19. Before the daily number was announced, the state remained 10th in new cases per population, according to a daily compilation by The New York Times.
Hospital numbers were down, except the number of Covid-19 patients on ventilators, which jumped to 118 after dropping to 87 the day before. Covid-19 hospitalizations in Kentucky hospitals totaled 732, down 33 from Saturday, with 187 in intensive-care units, down 22. An unusually large share of the ICU patients, 63 percent, were on ventilators.
The state added 12 more people to the list of people dying of Covid-19, bringing the toll to 4,637. Over the last 14 days, the number of people added to the list after review of cases has averaged 25.4 per day. The state does not issue detailed lists of Covid-19 deaths on weekends.
The state reported a new-case rate of 20.9 per 100,000 residents in the last seven days. Counties with rates more than twice that were Caldwell, 240; Taylor, 61; Lyon, 57.4; Clay, 46.7; and Russell, 42.2. The Caldwell and Lyon numbers appear to come mainly or partly from state prisons.
Counties with 10 or more new cases were Jefferson, 180; Fayette, 55; Pulaski, 31; Kenton, 24; Daviess, 16; Boone and Madison, 15; Bullitt, Jessamine and Scott,11; and Lincoln, 10.
National TV: The major premise for Beshear’s appearance on “Face the Nation” was his high priority for vaccinating teachers and other school personnel. “We’re about to be the first state to fully vaccinate all of our educators,” he said, omitting his usual caveat: That doesn’t include those who declined a shot.
“For us, this was a workforce issue,” Beshear said. “It was development for our children, scholastically, emotionally and socially; and it was about getting back to some form of normal while we were still very careful. We made this call early on, we stuck to it, and no matter what you decide during Covid, some are going to oppose it, but it’s about trying to do the right thing, the best thing for your people, and then let the consequences be what they’ll be.”
Host Margaret Brennan asked why Kentucky is “lagging” in vaccine rollout, at 29th in total vaccinations. Beshear replied, “We don’t think that we’re lagging,” because the state has prioritized first doses. “We believe that we have to be as fast as possible with the first dose, to give people some level of immunity, and as of last week we had used 98.5% of all the first doses provided,” he said. “We think differently on the second dose; that is meant for a very specific person, and so we made the decision that if it takes a little longer to get it to them, then we were gonna make sure it gets to them.”
Asked about the relief-and-stimulus bill moving through Congress, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s criticism of its money for state and local governments, Beshear said, “Every county judge-executive and every mayor across Kentucky, whether Democrat, Republican or independent, they’ll tell you they desperately need this assistance.”
He added, “This gives us the ability to make up for some of that harm. On the state level, this gives us an opportunity to stimulate our economy without having to borrow or go into debt.” It’s the federal government that will go further into debt to pay for the $1.9 trillion package.
Beshear said the nation has a decision to make; “Are we gonna be FDR or are we gonna be Herbert Hoover? Do we want to make the decisions to get us out of this recession more quickly, which benefits every family, Democrat or Republican? But you gotta be bold to do that, and you can’t worry about credit, whether it happens under a Democratic president or a Republican president. In the midst of a pandemic, can’t we put that aside for just a little but and help all our families out there? I hope so.”
Asked about the post-election remark by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., that “a radical part of the so-called left” scared off rural voters, Beshear said “Our party, like others, has lots of different people with lots of different views. . . . People are passionate about the views they have, but we also have to be respectful of one another, to make sure that what brings us together isn’t who we dislike but it’s what we stand for. So when those debates are occurring, if they’re actually on issues, then we’re moving in the right direction, even if there is disagreement on those issues. I’m highly concerned that what is bringing too many people together in our country is who they dislike and not what they actually stand for.”
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