Nearly all metrics of the pandemic in Ky. are going the right way, with new single-dose vaccine likely to be approved this weekend

A flag is placed behind the Capitol for each Kentucky Covid-19 victim. (Photo by Melissa Patrick)

By Melissa Patrick

Kentucky Health News
The good news on a rainy Friday was that nearly all the metrics used to measure the pandemic in Kentucky are down, and the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine will likely be approved this weekend.

“We’re still not out of the woods with this horrible virus, but every week, we’re taking another step forward in our fight against it,” Gov. Andy Beshear said in a news release.

Beshear reported 1,180 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, bringing the seven-day average to 1,182 – more precisely, 1,181.7, just 1.7 more than the daily number. That could be an indicator of stability.
The percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days declined again, to 5.52% on Friday, down from 5.67% Thursday. The World Health Organization says the rate should be below 5% for two weeks before governments ease restrictions imposed to thwart spread of the virus.
The state reports a new-case rate in the last seven days of 23 per 100,000 people. Counties with double that rate are Laurel, 47 per 100,000; Owsley, 51.8; Taylor, 59.9; and Caldwell, 248.8. The New York Times ranks Kentucky eighth in new-case rate over the last seven days.
Beshear reported 30 new deaths of Kentuckians from Covid-19, all but one of them confirmed. The governor continues to add new flags in memoriam of each Kentuckian who has died from Covid-19. Friday’s additions brought that number to 4,600.
Hospital numbers remain steady, with 818 people hospitalized in Kentucky with Covid-19 (down 25 from yesterday); 218 of them in intensive care (down 2); and 105 of those on a ventilator (down 17).

Two of the state’s 10 hospital readiness regions are using at least 80% of their intensive care beds: the easternmost region, from Lee to Pike counties, 81.6%; and Lake Cumberland, 93.3%.

School openings: On Tuesday, Feb. 23, Beshear issued an executive order with recommendations for Kentucky school districts to offer or expand some in-person learning by March 1, or a week after school personnel have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The Kentucky School Board Association tweeted that as of Feb. 23, 166 of the 171 districts have returned to in-person schooling, and that by March 15, at least 65 plan to have all students in person four or five days a week; another 16 districts plan that for elementary students, with middle and high school students in person two to four days per week.
Valarie Honeycutt Spears reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader that at least three entire Fayette County school classes, as well as other students and staff, have been quarantined since students in kindergarten through second grade resumed in-person schooling Monday, Feb. 22.
Schools are asked to submit daily case and quarantine data to the state’s K-12 dashboard, but 623 of the state’s 1,477 public schools (42%, or three out of seven) did not report this week, and 181 (12%) have never reported. In the week ending Feb. 25, the dashboard shows 506 students and 86 staff have tested positive for the virus and 1,185 students and 129 staff were quarantined.
Vaccines: The daily vaccination report shows 655,275 Kentuckians have received one dose of either the Pfize-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.
And with only three more days in the state’s vaccine cycle, which runs Monday to Sunday, the state has only administered 39%, or 60,276 doses, of the 152,710 doses it received for first-dose distribution this week.
Beshear has said several times that this week will be a test run to see if the state’s vaccine system is up to the challenge of delivering more vaccines, since it ended up with more than double the amount it normally gets because of the severe weather.
And it looks like the supply is getting ready to stay up with approval expected to come as early as this weekend for the Johnson & Johnson single-dose coronavirus vaccine.
An independent Food and Drug Administration advisory panel has recommended that the single-dose Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine for emergency use. Politico reports that FDA authorization could come as early as this weekend.

“Johnson & Johnson has said that it will have 4 million doses available upon authorization, with 20 million doses delivered by the end of March. The company has promised the U.S. government a total of 100 million doses by late June,” Politico reports.

As part of a campaign to increase coronavirus vaccination rates among Black communities,  Beshear joined Louisville NAACP leaders on Friday to address vaccine hesitancy in this population. So far, 4.6% of Black Kentuckians have received one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, even though they make up 8.5% of the population.

Raoul Cunningham, president of the NAACP Louisville chapter, who welcomed the governor, said in a news release: “African-Americans are infected with COVID-19 at nearly three times the rate of white Americans and are twice as likely to die from the virus. The Louisville Branch NAACP encourages the entire community, especially our constituents, to get the vaccine.”

In other pandemic news Friday: 
  • Today’s 30 fatalities were a Carlisle County man, 79; two Clark County women, 65 and 87;a Daviess County woman, 84; three Daviess County men, 53, 76 and 83; a Floyd County man, 75; a Garrard County man, 73; six Jefferson County women, 53, 55, 63, 66, 67 and 86; five Jefferson County men, 60, 66, 70, 72 and 83; a Lincoln County man, 70; a McCreary County man, 74; two Mercer County women, 63 and 77; a Mercer County man, 74; a Perry County man, 72; two Pulaski County men, 66,71; a Rockcastle County man, 70; and a Rowan County man, 78.
  • Counties with 10 or more new cases were Jefferson, 216; Fayette, 80; Kenton, 74; Boone, 49; Warren, 36; Campbell, 29; Scott, 27; Pike and Taylor, 25; Carter, 22; Perry, 21; Adair, 20; Grant and Whitley, 20; Hardin and Madison, 19; Daviess, 17; McCracken and Oldham, 16; Knox, 15; Johnson, 14; Caldwell and Pulaski, 13; Bath, 12; Laurel and Shelby, 11; and Jessamine, Lawrence and Russell, 10.
  • In long-term care facilities, 167 residents and 162 staff have an active case of the coronavirus, with nine residents and 11 staff added to that list today.
  •  As Kentucky moves to the 1C category for coronavirus vaccinations on Monday, March 1, which includes essential workers, people 60 and older and those 16 and older with certain health conditions, Deborah Yetter of the Louisville Courier Journal reports that many 70 and older are still trying to get a shot. She writes, “Of the about 100,000 people in the [Louisville] metro area 70 or older, 44,853, or fewer than half, have been vaccinated, according to the local health department. Kentucky has about 500,000 people over 70 statewide, with about 278,000 vaccinated.” Yetter also expands on the many challenges people are finding to get vaccinated in a system that is not centralized.
  • Health departments in Eastern Kentucky provide Hazard’s WYMT-TV with a report that includes new coronavirus cases and related deaths for each of the departments or districts.
  • Click here for this week’s federal Coronavirus Task Force report.
  • The governor renewed his executive order requiring face coverings for another 30 days, says the release.
  • In September and November 2020, direct observation at six universities with mask mandates, including the University of Pikeville, found that 90% of those observed wore masks correctly, including covering the mouth, nose and chin, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. “Among 17,200 observed persons, 85.5% wore masks, with 89.7% of those persons wearing the mask correctly (overall correct mask use: 76.7%). Among persons observed indoors, 91.7% wore masks correctly. The proportion correctly wearing masks indoors varied by mask type, from 96.8% for N95-type masks and 92.2% for cloth masks to 78.9% for bandanas, scarves, and similar face coverings,” says the report.
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